Phil Wong, finance director at High Access Maintenance Limited, gives his views on the year ahead
What have been the biggest challenges for your business over the past year, and what role did finance play in addressing them?
The business has continued the growth trajectory it has embarked on since incorporation in 2005 and 2016 has been no different. It has been a milestone year because of the investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF). Demonstrating our financial stability, profitability and process efficiency was key to this investment. The biggest challenges have been changes to our infrastructure with the introduction of a new depot in Slough, opening a head office in Hale, Cheshire and increasing our headcount by circa 40%. From a finance point of view, this has required extensive cost planning and working capital management.
What are the key political and economic risks/opportunities you face in the year ahead?
In many ways the business is ring-fenced from the macroeconomic climate. Our core revenue stream, reactive and cleaning maintenance, is a must for commercial property owners who need to maintain the standards of their properties throughout the year to satisfy tenant needs and to protect their own investments. It remains to be seen whether the changes in the political landscape will impact on the maintenance project work but, at this point in time, we are continuing to experience growth in this area and foresee no reason why this will change.
Which capex projects will you be focusing on in 2017, and how will these be financed?
We maintain a modern, green friendly fleet on a lease basis and continually look to upgrade when new vehicles with greener specifications come onto the market. We tend to invest only in heavy duty specialist equipment such as cherry pickers which are fundamental to the type of work we undertake. We utilise a dynamic end-to-end CRM system and regularly invest in system enhancements. In the coming year we will invest in new android devices for our direct labour force to maximise the efficiency and functionality of the CRM system consistently throughout the business.
How do you expect the balance of your role to change in the coming year; between compliance and forward-looking/strategic? And why?
With the changes in stakeholders at board level, compliance is obviously at the forefront but in this business it always has been. Compliance and strategic planning are equally important for the coming year. We have plans for more regional depots to service our growing client base and are actively seeking an acquisition to accelerate our growth plans.
Advice for other FDs for the coming year?
Surround yourself with the best people. The business has the privilege of having a dynamic, diligent management team which is supported wholeheartedly by the BGF. Collective decision making and idea generation are fundamental to our success. Profitability and working capital is the responsibility of everyone in the firm and that togetherness is driving the business forward.