News Column

Sister's faith in Kevan put his business on road to success

February 18, 2014

KEVAN Jefferson is cofounder of a successful cladding business - but the hard-working Teesside boss is unequivocal about who put him there.

He recalls some humble beginnings with KELLEY PRICE.

MIDAS Cladding Services has just recorded its highest turnover with an "absolutely jam-packed order book", employs 45 people from its Riverside Park premises in Middlesbrough - and has just celebrated 20 successful years.

But it was a loan from boss Kevan's sister, Yvonne Hancock, that started the ball rolling.

"We had nothing - no savings, and no wealthy family around us," he says.

"Yvonne gave us a few thousand pounds. We didn't realise quite how important it was."

Kevan, with company co-founder and lifelong friend Peter Hancock, had a few doors closed in their faces in those early days.

"The banks weren't interested at all, we'd put a lot of effort into a business plan and go to meetings all suited and booted only for the bank manager to not even listen to us."

Kevan also remembers buying the company's first works van.

"We emulsioned it inside and out with white paint. It was so scratched, dented and rusty, we knew we had to tidy it up.

"When I think back to it, I always laugh."

The next step was a 'Start Right in Business' course.

"It was two hours on an evening - hardly an intensive training, but it was the basic principles of what you needed to do and what they said has stuck with us. The course must have paid off - now the company has a Pounds 3m turnover.

Kevan, a steel erector by trade, and Peter both learned about the cladding business when their employers at the time started taking on more work in that field.

"I asked Peter one day if he fancied setting up on our own. We knew each other's strengths, both extremely well-disciplined and determined people."

They still had full-time jobs when they set up their own business, but quickly realised it had to be "all or nothing" - and handed their notice in.

"It was a big risk," says Kevan, "we had mortgages and families and were about to walk away from a very secure job.

"We put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves, but we got through it. Some in the family thought it was a mistake, while others said 'go for it' - but overall we got massive backing, particularly from our wives." For a long time the pair, who were working 16 hour days, could afford to pay their staff but not themselves.

Their first big order was a turning point.

"It was an Pounds 8,000 job for a shed in a company's scrapyard, but it was absolutely massive for us at the time. KP Foods also came on board very early. We get major contracts now.

"Another highlight was reaching our first Pounds 1m turnover - although we were told turnover is vanity and profit is sanity." Space was so tight at the company's first premises at South Bank Business Centre, they had to sit clients on top of stock.

"If we had any cladding left from jobs, we would be forced to keep it in the office and have desks and chairs on top.

"When our heads were touching the ceiling, we knew it was time to move," he laughed.

The company has also just gained the Investors in People Gold award.

Turnover has increased every year since 1994, apart from a "bit of a lull" during the recession.

Midas counts SSI, formerly British Steel and Corus, among its longeststanding clients.

And as the company celebrates its 20th anniversary, two members of staff - Richard Dan and Martin Gilbey - have been handed directorships as Kevan and Peter prepare to take a step back.

"I came from a council house background and didn't have a qualification to my name. Some of our new guys have lots of fresh ideas.

"We are all just like a family, from the office staff to the guys who go out in hail and rain." Factfile >>NAME: Kevan Jefferson JOB: Founder and co-director, Midas Cladding Services LIVES: Leven Bank, Yarm FAMILY: Wife Patricia, and two grown-up children HOBBIES: Cycles hundreds of miles a week and does charity races. Helped to raise Pounds 20,000 for BLESMA, a charity for people that have lost limbs BUSINESS MANTRA: "Discipline - we were always first in and last to leave, seven days a week. That made the difference Failure just wasn't an option, I was frightened of it; it made me panic. We would have done anything to make it work. It wasn't an effort - we were running on adrenalin, the work just had to be done "If you go into business, it has to be 100% commitment in today's market. Anything less, and the business will fail. I've also realised the importance in bringing in the right people to work around you. I think we've done that "Midas is also massively focused on safety, from day one. We never try to make money or save money at the cost of safety. After that comes quality, they're the two main things we focus on "Cashflow is king in a business. We took our eye off the ball a few years ago, got a couple of bad debts. We've built up trust and good relationships with clients We talk to each other, if a payment's going to be late, they're upfront about it"

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Source: Evening Gazette (UK)

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