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Harvey Fremlin's 2021 Business Growth & Plans
Today we're sharing the thoughts of Harvey Fremlin who is managing director of The National Self Build & Renovation Centre which is the UK’s only visitor centre for people who are building, or improving, their own homes. It's based off J16, M4 at Lydiard Fields, Great Western Way, Swindon, SN5 8UB.
It's April - how does this month fit into the ebb & flow of your year?
April is always an important month for us, at it marks the first month of our financial year, and therefore provides us the opportunity to both review the year that has just passed, and allows us to set new objectives and goals for the year ahead.
Our priorities this month have been a successful re-opening, engaging with our exhibiting partners to ensure they are happy and able to communicate to our visitors successfully and beginning work on our brand new website!
Are you in a business which is either opening up this month – or preparing to open up?
Never has April been so eagerly anticipated! after a long period of closure (since 4th January), we re-opened our doors on Monday 12th April.
I have been so proud of how we have adapted during the last twelve months.
Since April 2020 we have delivered over 200 hours of online educational courses, workshops and events as well as offering brand new out-bound calling and ‘virtual enquiry’ services to provide value for both our visitors and exhibitors.
These activities proved very successful and showed that we could be agile and adapt in the most challenging of circumstances. That said, our true passion is meeting people face to face, and helping them build better homes by giving them great advice and show-casing the very best building products and services in our unique centre, so we can’t wait to getting back to what we do best!
What are you most looking forward to as the country tries to ‘open up’?
We are close knit-team of employee-owners and I feel lockdown has made us appreciate the relationships that we enjoy, both with our customers and suppliers and with our team-mates, more than ever.
We are essentially a big market hall, bringing buyers and sellers together, and we’re looking forward to feeling the ‘buzz’ that only live events can give, and getting a sense of satisfaction when you see people learning and doing business together within our unique setting.
We are also really looking forward to the day when the whole team can sit around one table and enjoy a meal, and drinks, together!
It’s also Stress Awareness Month, what measures have you taken in your business to reduce the stress on yourself & your team?
We’ve taken particular care to be in regular communication with all our staff. Some of the team have spent several months on ‘furlough’ so it’s been vital to keep them in the loop with updates, and provide a time-line (as best as we could) on when we’d be back.
Our number one goal throughout the last 12 months was to not lose any of our team and I’m pleased to say we’ve achieved this through careful planning and government support such as the job retention scheme.
We provided a mix of business updates and fun quizzes and games using Zoom. We also took advantage of our large theatre to show films, when we were allowed, in our very own socially-distanced cinema which was really nice, as the team brought their children along and it allowed them to share the experience.
We are a small team (about 17 staff) and we have a genuine ‘family feel’, which means that we all tend to look out for each-other and there is always someone to talk to and discuss any anxieties with.
What do you do personally to support your health and wellbeing?
I have never walked so much in all my life – doing up to five miles most days. I’ve found this so helpful for my own mental wellbeing, as it takes you away from the news, and various screens, and has actually allowed me to come out of the latest lockdown weighing less than a year ago!
During the first lockdown in 2020 I ran a half marathon inside the NSBRC for the charity, Threshold, which was quite a strange, but positive, experience!
I have been fortunate enough to have the company of my ten year son half the time (he shares his time between myself and his mum) and we have had lots of mini-adventures, including bike rides, playing on our pool table and one particularly cold night camping in my parents garden! We did actually get away for a couple of weekends last year, when restrictions eased, and are looking forward to doing so again this year.
A small number of the team have continued to work at the NSBRC for parts of the three lockdowns, and we have all said that this helped us feel connected, and was preferable to purely working from home.
Do you see your product/service as one which supports the health and wellbeing of others such as your clients?
With so many people spending far more time at home over the last year, we have all been re-assessing how we interact with our homes. It is clear that home working is going to play a much bigger part in our lives as we move forward from the pandemic, and so we are hearing from more and more people who are exploring how they can create more space in their homes, either by extending, converting the loft space or building a garden office.
Equally, ‘self-builders’ who are building their own homes will be ensuring they accommodate these needs in their designs with home offices becoming a common requirement.
Alongside the need for more space is the realisation that we are more reliant on broadband coverage than ever before and people are discovering how ‘smart home’ technology can help us control the many systems in the home, including heating, lighting and entertainment devices – as well as help us all become more sustainable by consuming less energy.
As the year goes on, will you take health and wellbeing more seriously going forward?
As an employee-owned company the health and wellbeing of the team has always been important to us. We tend to share more information (including financial) about the business and seek genuine input from all colleagues, that allows everyone to feel closer to the business than they might do in a more conventionally run company of a similar size, which in turn helps develop confidence and self-esteem.
Part of our set up allows us to distribute a proportion of our profits with all the team. We are also an accredited payer of the living wage – a voluntary commitment to ensure our team (and contractors working within the NSBRC) receive a fair rate of pay.
We encourage everyone to develop and follow interests that can help them grow individually, as well as our business grow. For example one colleague has just completed an Open University course, and another is undertaking training with the Chartered Institutre of Marketing – both fully funded by the business. The entire team is also undertaking a training programme, designed to give everyone a better understanding of how all businesses are run, and encourage them to challenge management and offer new ideas.
Have you got any Spring services or special offers you’d like to mention?
On Saturday 1st May we are holding a special ‘Ask An Expert’ Open Day. This is a relatively low-key day, as we still need to ensure we’re fully complying with the current guidance and rules, so we won’t be offering any presentations or live demonstrations as we’d usually like to.
However, a number of our exhibitors will be in attendance and will be able to engage with our visitors to discuss, and help them progress, their homebuilding projects.
This spring really does feel like a new beginning after a long and difficult year. While we have had many stressful moments in our business, we recognise that some people have had a more difficult time than others. All the team at the NSBRC would like to take this opportunity to pass our sincere thanks, and admiration, on to everyone working in the NHS, in key-worker roles and those providing essential services, often putting themselves at risk to protect and care for others.
We can learn many lessons from the pandemic, with some mistakes having been made alongside some wonderful success stories, such as the vaccine roll-out and the fundraising efforts of so many inspiring figures such as Captain Tom. We can all, I believe, look at each-other with a new-found respect and knowledge that as a nation we have shown a great collective resilience.
For more information visit nsbrc.co.uk