What does it take to secure investment to grow as a small business in the North East? What’s the process and how do you find the right funder?
Maven caught up with CEO, Ean Parsons, of regional fund investee, Parson Containers, a multi-site shipping container operator and leading self-storage service provider to discuss how the £850,000 investment from Maven’s regional funds has supported the company’s growth plans.
1. Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself – what does your business do and what’s your role?
The Parsons Containers Group of companies trades in shipping containers. We are a container trader which means we import new shipping containers from China, buy used containers out of shipping and sell them to the UK domestic market by wholesale and retail.
We are also one of the largest container self-storage companies in the UK with 1200 stores on 10 sites. Our third business division converts shipping containers into a multitude of uses. In my role as CEO, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the business and lead the planning and execution of our growth strategy.
2. How did your search for funding lead you to Maven and what attracted you to Maven as a funding partner?
I was attracted to Maven because they are interested in business - and therefore especially the businesses they invest in. I believe Maven would only invest in a business they feel is worth their investment which is a great validation of Parsons and the management team.
It is also good for us and gratifying that the funds used to invest in Parsons as a County Durham, North East-based business are the Finance Durham Fund and the North East Development Capital Fund.
I’d been down the investment route before with another investor for six years and I found it a great way to grow the business. Among other things a partner like Maven brings the support and advice which puts in place the disciplines required for a well-run, growing enterprise.
3. How did you find the process from applying for finance right up to receiving the investment?
Painful and stressful! I did know that these things take time, but it took more than twice as long as I expected. It wasn’t Maven’s fault, there were factors specific to our business set-up that resulted in tedious delays. The important thing was to keep focused on the fact that we were doing the right thing and that it would happen eventually. It is important to remember though that the process distracts from the day-to-day running of the business and is no small undertaking.
4. How has the investment impacted your business?
The investment impacted on our business right from day one. In fact, it impacted before we received the funding because we started to do things and line up initiatives that we knew would be important for the future – such as researching a new marketing strategy.
I’d had the benefit of the experience of an earlier investor and I knew what to expect, so we hit the ground running. As examples, I took on an FD to change the finance function, progressed the market strategy, and took on new staff to support growth. We also formulated board meetings and improved reporting.
5. What would you say to a business that is put off by taking on investment and would prefer to grow their business organically?
Investment of this sort isn’t for everyone and it isn’t for the faint-hearted. Having said that, in my view, if you have a vision that your business can grow substantially then the quickest way to achieve that for most businesses is to bring in investment of this sort. Do it with your eyes open and keep a firm grip. The strengths that have helped your business to grow and got you in front of an investor in the first place are the same ones that will make you succeed with that investment. There are also massive benefits apart from the capital that comes in, such as support, advice, expertise and more.
6. What are the long-term goals for your business and how will the funding you secured through Maven help you to achieve them?
The overriding long-term aim is to create a sustainable stable legacy business which is fundamentally a good, well-run, respected firm with reputable national brands. I also hope to create quality employment in the local economy while generating wealth.
The Maven investment will accelerate the business towards its goals, creating a level of growth that would not be achievable by organic growth. It will give us the insights, skills and knowledge to be able to direct, manage and drive the business and put in place a management team for the long-term.