Dan Martin is CEO of Elmtronics, the UK’s leading independent Electric Vehicle (EV) charging specialist, helping companies and organisations throughout the UK to plan and build fantastic EV charging infrastructures which power future electric fleets.
Dan engaged with the Scaleup North East programme in March after the company experienced a period of rapid growth. He has since been working with Scaleup Partner Tony Brooks, who has assisted through introducing Dan to new contacts and company infrastructure. Tony said:
“Following our first meeting with Elmtronics, we invited them to join the Scaleup North East programme. They were experiencing a high level of growth and wanted to meet with a Scaleup Partner who had been through a similar experience.
Elmtronics expect the workforce to expand considerably this year and then to continue growing for the foreseeable future, so one of the key things we looked at is their organisational chart. Dan and his board expressed a strong desire to bring in a chairman to help with these exciting and challenging times and I have been able to introduce them to a very experienced chair through my network.”
We asked Dan to elaborate on the experience of working with Scaleup North East and let us know more about the business.
Tell us about the background of the company and your journey to date.
With two electricians we started the company back in 2014 from a laptop and a van. We originally started by fitting electric vehicle charge points to homes throughout the North East before progressing to more commercial equipment and eventually fitting equipment for organisations throughout the UK. We currently employ 16 full time members of staff and are currently recruiting, with the aim of doubling the size of our team over the next 12 months.
Who are your customers and what/how do you sell?
We work for some of the UK’s largest companies including INTU, Eon Energy, EDF Energy, FedEX and National Grid. On the Public sector-side we work with 40 different NHS trusts including Northumbria NHS, Lancashire NHS, Manchester NHS, North East Ambulance Service and London Ambulance Service as well as Manchester Fire and Rescue, West Midlands Fire and Rescue and a number of police forces and local authorities.
We use an educational, consultative approach to help our clients with their needs. Rather than an aggressive sales approach we try to give good, honest and expert advice, if someone doesn’t need something then we tell them because we are focusing on long-term relationships rather than quick wins at our customers expense.
How has the company changed over the years?
The company has developed from a domestic company to the UK expert company and choice for anyone who is serious about building a strong and reliable EV charging infrastructure. We have always been ambitious and know that we are in a very scalable industry. We have focused on building and maintain a great reputation and that is the core of our company.
As we have scaled, we have built a board of directors and thought more strategically about how we can craft our future. When we started, we tried to do almost everything and for the lowest cost – but this has now changed. What has become evident over time is having a particular lean (in our case its fleet charging) and having confidence in your prices is vital. We are not the cheapest, but we are the best and people are prepared to pay for quality.
What are your strengths, what do you do well?
Fundamentally we care, we care about our staff, we care about our customers and with this foundation you can build a great culture that becomes the life blood of the company.
We concentrate on service, really ensuring we over serve the customer. Strategically 99% of our customers are at the start of their journey, and it’s possible that this industry will become dominated by giant energy companies competing at crazy price levels. If we nurture our customers now, make it so easy to work with us, a pleasure in fact, the majority will stick with us.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Everything you can imagine but mainly cashflow, not many companies will admit cashflow can be tight but as you scale a company and you’re constantly reinvesting, cash will become tighter and the pressure
increases to hit the sales required to tick over. A good Financial Director or someone on the team great at forecasting is essential, without this, you will run out of cash at the worst possible time.
What are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome on your way to establishing a successful business in the North East?
Establishing a company in the North East has been relatively easy, as there is some good grant support out there and if you go out and look for it you can find plenty of people and programs that want to help you succeed.
The biggest challenge about being based in the North East as we have grown our client base around the UK is the perception that we are a company tucked away up in the north and that we could struggle to serve our customers properly. Even though we have opened several offices around the UK and have a team spread throughout there is still this stigma. On the flip side everyone likes a Geordie and with a bit of charm you can melt the toughest of Southerners.
What made you apply to Scaleup North East?
Scaleup approached us to tell us about the programme. I was told it was free help by someone who had been there and successfully completed the cycle, so I thought why not!
I was paired with Scaleup Partner Tony Brooks who built and sold a very similar company to mine, Tony understood our challenges and was genuinely interested and excited by our progress and traction within the market.
Is there a particular contact your Scaleup Partner has recommended who has had an impact on your business?
Tony has introduced me to a super experienced individual and one of his previous mentors who is likely to become our new chairman. The credible introduction to such a perfect match is fantastic and something that would have been far harder to facilitate alone.
What’s been the best bit of advice your Scaleup Partner has given you?
The best advice is that there is help out there and if you build the right network of people around you, they will extend their network to help you.
What advice would you give to others in the North East looking to scale their own businesses?
Be tenacious, be persistent, pick up the phone and ask, whether that be for help, custom or advice. There is a wealth of people out there who will help and there is NOTHING you are going through that hasn’t been experienced by others already.
Shout about your success, don’t be too humble, people (and customers) gravitate towards successful people like a magnet. Also don’t worry about the negatives, there will always be someone ready to knock you down a peg or two, and often that is the people closest to you, so be aware.
Build a company you would take a wage cut to work for, enjoy what you are doing, have fun, have a laugh and don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember the journey is the prize, not the destination.
What are your plans for the future?
We are going to build the best EV charging company in the UK.
Scaleup North East is delivered by RTC North in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Scaleup North East forms an integral part of the North East Growth Hub and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Local Growth Fund (LGF). The programme is aimed at supporting businesses that can demonstrate both the hunger and the potential to achieve high levels of growth.
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