Who will be the next Tesco or Trailfinders? These two organisations set-up by armed forces veterans have undoubtedly scaled in the respective 100+ and 50+ years of trading. Small businesses scaling up are essential for future economic growth. Who are the potential household brands of the future? We have three people running three very different businesses who are all in the running!
This award honours an individual or group of individuals linked with the Armed Forces Community who have started a successful new business venture more than two years ago (before January 1st, 2020) and who still retain a minimum of 50% interest in the venture.
This award is generously sponsored by The London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG).
Martin Wing, Chairman of X-Forces Enterprise, commented:
“We are thrilled to have London Stock Exchange Foundation once again sponsoring the Business Scale-Up Award, supporting the talents and achievements of entrepreneurs within the armed forces community. All of our finalists are growing their businesses by innovating and evolving, and in so doing, are creating jobs – congratulations to them all. I wonder if we will see any of them listed on the exchange in years to come!”
The Finalists for the Business Scale-Up Award are:
Lance Bombardier Lee Harris-Harmer’s story is one of triumph over adversity. Lee joined the Royal Artillery In 2008, aged 17, but suffered a devastating back injury that cut short his Army career. He was medically discharged in 2016.
Living in Thirsk, Lee saw an opportunity to become a self-employed carpet cleaner. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity supported him with funding for cleaning courses and the purchase of specialist cleaning equipment. After a few months, Lee expanded his business to offer general cleaning and became the Managing Director of White Horse Cleaning Services. Then, in 2017, he was offered a contract to clean a factory. It was a massive jump for a fledgling business, but Lee’s Army career had taught him to take risks. He signed the contract, employed staff and was helped with a business expansion loan by X-Forces Enterprise.
“Lee wanted a company where employees would feel valued and benefit from clear career progression. Lee recognised that this would contribute to a positive working culture and improve business turnover.”
The company thrived, and in 2019 Lee made his business more sustainable and financially secure by focusing on commercial contract cleaning rather than domestic clients. Today, he has 42 employees and aims to become the number one specialist commercial cleaning contractor in Yorkshire. His eclectic customer base includes a castle, food and steel manufacturers, crematoriums and local government contracts. In 2021, White Horse Cleaning Services gained Silver accreditation in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme, a great achievement!
“Lee has a very strong belief in developing an environment where all staff are supported and valued, adopting the military team approach; they are ‘family’.”
Celtic International Freight Ltd (CIFL) is a company established by Veteran Lee Jones, who formerly served with 7 Para RHA. On leaving the army, Lee was unable to settle in a job due to searching for military qualities that he found didn’t exist in civilian life. So, in time, he launched his own road haulage business.
Many Veterans are naturally suited to driving trucks as their army background gives them the perfect skills to excel in this work. At present, CIFL employs seven Veterans, a fact Lee is extremely proud of, and he aims to employ even more.
“Lee’s perseverance, resilience and work ethic stem from his military background and he ensures that every driver adheres to these military standards.”
Since launching, the pandemic has been the business’ major challenge. Whilst some drivers chose to work for bigger companies during this time, CIFL relied on its reputation to successfully recruit the extra staff needed. These employees worked 24/7 with no days off, and fortunately, none of the staff needed to self-isolate at the peak of Covid. The company is so proud of the full team’s dedication.
It takes a huge amount of commitment to keep the business going, and the hard work has paid off with the business becoming the only Amazon Freight Partner in Wales. The team prides itself on very high standards and the way its staff enable Amazon to fulfil their customer promises.
“CIFL has been growing from strength to strength providing a quality service to all its clients. It has received no financial help and grown through sheer hard work, determination to succeed and resilience to keep moving forward.”
Seven years after Craig Warren left the military on medical grounds he began working for a cleaning company. Noticing a gap in the market, he decided to start his own business. Setting up with only £1,000 Craig secured a business loan via X-Forces Enterprise and received mentorship from within the Armed Forces community to help grow his company.
The firm specialises in various aspects of cleaning, including windows, gutters, jet washing and bulk waste removal. Many clients prefer having one contractor to cover all of their cleaning needs due to easier customer communication and a more cost effective service.
Despite having three operations on his knees and a spell in hospital with Covid, Craig has managed to continuously grow the business. In such a competitive market, his military connection has helped the business to stand out, and working with other military companies has assisted him in achieving his goals.
“Looking to the future, Rex Cleaning aims to give ex-service personnel a place to work and help other military-run businesses to grow.”
The company continued growing through lockdown by implementing strategies to ensure that staff and clients remained safe. The firm increased its social media presence and created a high-quality brochure which allowed potential clients to gauge the quality of its work. The team also improved the firm’s profile during the pandemic by helping the local community and the council with litter-picking and tidying local recycling points.
“Craig now employs six members in his team and his turnover has rocketed from £6000 in his first year to £150,000. This growth has largely been the result of customer trust and a first class standard of work.”