Not so Blind Ambition

PUBLISHED: 12:08 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013

sue Ellis, Envesca

sue Ellis, Envesca

You can almost start a business by accident, says Nicky Godding, but it won't grow without strategy, confidence and ambition.

You know how it is: Perhaps you've been made redundant or become jaded in your career and want to do something new, or perhaps you have time on your hands and a business idea.

Whatever it is, you start the business in your spare room, work hard, become inspired and six months later you lift your head above the paperwork and discover, hey presto, that you've not only got a business, but it's also making a bit of money.

So what do you do? Lots of people pat themselves on the back, sink back behind the paperwork and carry on, thinking the business will continue to do OK. It'll pay the mortgage, the bills and perhaps the odd holiday and, hey it's great being your own boss, after all, you don't mind doing your accounts at 9pm on a Sunday night do you?

But Philip Timson, director at Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services, says: "Nothing will change if you don't change the way you work. Whilst it's never easy starting a business, at least at the beginning you're doing what you know how to do. Growing a business, or even just maintaining your business, requires widening your skills and learning how to think bigger. After all, you won't always be selling what you sell now, and customers and clients come and go, so you'll need a strategy for gaining new ones, whether you want to stay as a one-man-band, employ people or have ambitions to go global.

Twelve years ago Simon and Sue Ellis worked in the hospitality industry. Simon as area manager to a chain of cafes and coffee shops, Sue worked her way up from head receptionist to Sales and Marketing Manager at Hatton Court Hotel in Gloucester.

Then Simon was made redundant. "He looked at his skills and decided that as he'd trained staff in food and hygiene as part of his job, perhaps he could offer that service to other businesses," said Sue.

It helped that Simon had become an accredited trainer in his job so he had all the qualifications needed.

The couple set up Envesca in Gloucester, which now runs a wide range of food hygiene and health and safety courses.

It took a year for Simon to establish the business and Sue left her job in 1998 to help support him. For eight years they ran the business from home, not quite believing they had identified a niche market in the area and were providing an essential service which their customers couldn't find easily elsewhere.

Turnover was increasing on an average of 10% per year, there were four people in their offices at home and it was all getting rather crowded, especially when they decided they needed to take on a part-timer. They knew they needed help and contacted Philip Timson at Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services for advice.

"We really value his impartial advice," said Sue. "Working together as a married couple it can be difficult to keep a perspective on the business, so a trusted and qualified outside opinion is very useful."

Whilst Simon and Sue recognised the value of their business, they were also nervous about making radical changes.

"Philip encouraged us to look at the business afresh, particularly our pricing strategy," said Sue. "We hadn't wanted to upset our clients by increasing our prices, but Philip explained to us that our services had grown which gave us the right and the opportunity to increase our fees. We did, and were relieved and a little surprised to discover that our clients were happy to pay. We had also wanted to implement a customer support system and Philip helped us to do this too."

Now Simon and Sue invite Philip in every six weeks to help them plan and set targets, and last year they finally moved into offices on Stroud Road in Gloucester.

"Thanks to Philip, we've been able to see for ourselves the opportunities in our business," said Sue. "We have ambitions for it and want it to stand on its own feet, which it couldn't really do whilst we were running it from home.

"Without Philip's help, we would probably still just be talking about moving into new offices, setting up a customer support scheme and worrying about whether we could increase our prices.

"Now we have a successful business which could run independently without us." 01452 502113.

For more information this and related topics visit the GEBS website on, or call 01242 864200 and speak to a member of the GEBS team.

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