White van man generally gets a bit of a bad press. But with the economy on the up, largely down to the hard work, dedication and 'have a go' attitude of Britain's small and medium sized businesses, we think it's about time we laid this bad rep to rest.
In a series of interviews with our customers, we'll take a look at how today's tradespeople are helping Britain boom again and take a closer look at the story behind the man in the van.
One man and his van
Meet Lee Wright of www.walltowallservices.co.uk, who recently traded up from a 7 year old Transit with high mileage to a brand new Ford Transit Custom TDCi and says, after having his van professionally signwritten, the good future of his business is written in the stars!
Name: Lee Wright
Company name: Wall to Wall Services Limited
Main business: Protective House Coatings
Why did you choose the van you're driving now?
Used vans were letting me down. I needed something reliable to get to my jobs on time, every time!
Tell us about your business.
I run a small company which provides protective house coatings to homeowners' walls and roofs. Whether they need to protect against damp, or just want to improve the appearance of their house with a new look.
How long have you been trading?
I've been in the business for over twenty years now, but took the plunge six years ago to go solo and haven't looked back. There are a lot of charlatans out there who charge people too much and don't live up to their promises. By running my own business I can be in total control of the job from quote to completion and make sure my customers are satisfied.
Where do you trade?
I don't like to limit myself geographically, but mainly around the South East.
Were you trading during the recession? If so, how did you cope and how do you see things going in the future?
It's true, lots of people were strapped for cash when I started up, but us Brits are a proud nation. People still want to look after their property and keep up with the Jones'. My business benefitted from the old adage 'if you can't move, improve'. So, despite the recession and perhaps because of it, my business continues to grow from a standing start six years ago. I don't see any reason why this should change in the future.
How do you feel about the economy at the moment?
I think it's on the up. House prices are rising and things are getting built. People are either moving or improving which is great for my business.
Where do you feel your business will be in five years' time?
My aim is to have another van with an extra crew, so I can get two jobs done at once.
Are you a member of a Trade Organisation?
I belong to the Guild of Master Craftsmen.
Where do you get your business from?
I've been around long enough now to get a lot via word of mouth. I get a few leads from The Guild of Master Craftsmen, but I probably get the majority of fresh leads from CheckaTrade ; the annual membership soon pays for itself in business won. I can use their logo on my van and importantly, the way their listings work means that I am coming up at the top of the search engine for my trade in my area. Between this and my own website, the business soon comes flooding in!
What made you lease a new van? Has it made a difference to your business?
Three reasons really. I believe that first impressions count. Turning up to quote in a shonky motor wasn't doing me any favours in winning business. Secondly, once you win that business it's important not to let the customer down; my old van was letting me down on a regular basis - you can't get to site when it's in for repair. Finally, I wanted to keep my capital in my business and leasing let me do that.
Now all I have to do is pay £60 a week for my brand new van on finance lease which I know will get me to work.
Have you had your van signwritten? If so,do you think the signwriting is actually winning you trade?
I know that for a fact. By having the van signwritten I've got a great big advert for my business on site wherever I am working. I was doing a job in Welwyn Garden City the other week with the van parked out the front. By the end of the job three of my customers' neighbours, who had seen the van and the work I was doing, came and asked me to quote. The result? An extra £10k plus worth of business! That never happened when I was driving my old van.
So would you recommend leasing a van? How about getting it signwritten?
It's the best thing I've ever done. One person I was quoting even commented that they saw I had a brand new van and knew I must be good. Of course, you've got to do a great job too, but having the van with the phone number parked outside prompts people to call you for a quote. It's like a mobile billboard.
Have you had any feedback on the look of the van?
Yeah. A lot of my mates at the pub are in the building trade and I've had a few jealous glances at my new wheels! They couldn't believe I got a top range van for the price I'm paying. With the extra business I've got since I've got the van signwritten a few of them are seriously thinking about getting theirs done too.
Also, the Mrs refused to get into my last van. The story is different with this one. With the heated seats and top notch cabin, she doesn't mind being seen in it!
Tell us a bit more about yourself:
Favourite Radio Station?
Heart or Capital (both sound great on digital in my new van).
Lager or Bitter
I'm a lager man.
Are you a footy fan?
Chelsea. Come on you blues!
Steak and chips - but not running off the plate please!
If you won the lottery, what's the first thing you would do?
I love travelling so a world cruise would be number one on my list.
If you were Prime Minister for the day, what's the first rule you would change?
Toughen up the laws on immigration (am I allowed to say that?!).
Who do you consider as a role model?
Alan Sugar. He came from nothing and look at him now. What an inspirational man.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The power to move objects with my mind. Then I could just sit in my new van and 'think' the work done!!
Bentley Continental GT - I might buy one soon if business carries on like this, but will only be looking through the used ads for this...
How do you spend your downtime?
Family time. Dog walking and golf. Oh, and a bit more golf!
We hope that you've enjoyed reading about how Lee's business is going and the role his trusty van is playing in making Wall To Wall the success it is today.