Hailing from a practical family of electricians, painters and decorators, handyman Stewart Simpson believes he has inherited the DIY gene.
“My hobby has always been practical things – gardening and serious DIY,” he says.
Stewart can turn his hand to anything and mend most things – even cars. When he opted for redundancy after 30 years in banking, he turned to the skills he had perfected throughout his life by setting up his own handyman service.
He started doing jobs for family and friends, but as word of his quality workmanship spread, the recommendations started flooding in, prompting him to set up Simpson Tiling Services.
“I’d done a little bit of wall and floor tiling and found it very therapeutic – there is something lasting. It’s like a builder building a house; you know it will be there for years,” says Stewart.
He went on a tiling course with the Yorkshire Tiling Academy in Bradford, compiled a portfolio of his work and devised a business plan.
A grant from the enterprise support programme, Bradford Kickstart, funded sign-writing for his van and other marketing material, and in April – at the height of the worst recession in Britain in living memory – Stewart was ready to launch.
He will tackle most jobs, although tiling is his speciality. He has tiled floors, kitchens, bathrooms, a porch and a conservatory. Being a Topps Tiles approved fitter has helped to bring in extra trade.
Preparation is the key to perfect tiling, according to Stewart, who says patience is also imperative for the job.
“You need a lot of common-sense and problem-solving skills,” he says.
Stewart went into banking after leaving school, working his way up from making the tea to serving at the counter.
For eight years he worked as an internal auditor, the equivalent of an area manager, until taking redundancy in 2007.
Stewart’s passion for property prompted him to re-train as a domestic energy assessor, providing information for the homebuying HIP packs.
“I’d always been interested in houses and thought it was a type of auditing role and it would be good, and it was,” he says.
But a delay in the implementation of HIP packs led to the closure of the company Stewart was working for, and he was once again seeking work.
“I did some decorating for family and friends and it spiralled into various odd jobs,” says Stewart.
He admits it was daunting setting up in a recession, but hasn’t regretted becoming self-employed and says the job is less pressurised than the banking industry.
“You make your own pressure when you are self-employed. You need to get the job done in a certain time,” says Stewart.
Customer satisfaction is his greatest reward.
“I like to see the nice big smile on customers’ faces when I’ve finished,” Stewart adds.
His advice to anyone wanting to set up their own business is to ensure they have a business plan and cashflow forecast, and not to take on any debt.
Bradford College runs business studies courses. For more information, call (01274) 433333.