The impact was instant and Paul’s involvement in board meetings, giving clarity to the numbers and steering the business, was exactly what he wanted.
Chalmor is one of those wonderful businesses that delivers a very modern solution, but has a decades-old and highly eclectic history hidden beneath the surface.
The company was founded in 1952 by Charles Henry, who is still a shareholder in the business today. Originally a publishing firm (and just one of many ventures that the serial entrepreneur launched over the years), its most famous periodical was the overseas visitor magazine, This is London. Although long since acquired by another publisher, this magazine innovated the idea, now commonplace, of being made available free to readers. Chalmor was subsequently put into sleep mode while Charles’s focus switched to other things.
Many more Chals …
Charles’s other commercial forays included Chalwest, which operated all types of coinoperated amusement and gaming machines (eventually purchased by Ladbrokes); Chaltan, a property company; and his current interest, Chalrey, which owns aircraft for flight training and self-fly hire. There were many more adventures along the way, mostly under the Chal-something name, but that is a different story – back to Chalmor …
Breathing new life and heat into the business
After sitting dormant for many years, Chalmor Limited reopened in 1980 under the ownership of Steven Henry (Charles’s son). The new business was very far removed from publishing, as it emerged with phoenix-like fire in its wings, selling magical heating potions and products.
After finishing his management sciences degree at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Steven was all set for stardom in an accountancy career with Arthur Andersen LLP (one of the “big five” accountancy firms, before their fall from grace in 2002). He deferred their offer for a year to take a bit of time out and found himself working for Chalbar, a local heating company in Radlett. As one of their sales people, his portfolio included heating controls for boilers, and specialist liquids that stopped diesel fuel freezing in the winter.
Eventually the entrepreneurial gene emerged in Steven and he started buying the heating control units himself and developing them into EMUs (energy management units) to sell on under the Chalmor brand. The business grew and the thought of a city career in the cut and thrust world of accounting never got another mention.
Springing into the light with award-winning innovation
In 1987, Steven’s brother-in-law (who had previously been selling matches), joined the firm and introduced a lighting division, which fitted nicely under the “energy” umbrella. The lighting side of the business grew, even as the market changed through its various fluorescent guises (T12, T8 and T5) and more recently and dramatically into LED. This latest light revolution has brightened up the whole industry and created significant energy and performance benefits. Together with its heating control expertise, Chalmor’s headline message was now firmly established as the energy saving experts.
In 2006, the company achieved innovative acclaim with the development of its patented eTRV (electronic thermostatic radiator valve) which won that year’s Shell Springboard Award. This clever little gadget enabled heating control and energy-saving automation by sensor, long before today’s apps had even been imagined. In most instances a saving of 30% could be achieved, and the company continues to generate similar results today.
A timely and telling tale of too many accountants …
It is a well-known fact that one of the most consistent elements in any small business is their accountant. Most simply do not change; come what may, a small business accountant is an accountant for life. For Steven, the man who almost walked through the door to big city accountancy himself, however, things are different. Unless they are adding value, they have to go! So, with six previous accountants (across a 35-year history) behind him, Steven set about finding the seventh. This time he was determined to locate his accountant for life and that meant careful selection.
The first criterion was that they had to be an AVN registered firm: that fact alone would mean an intelligent rather than simple number-crunching approach. The next, and perhaps even more crucial match was someone who would offer insight, honest assessments, frank observations, modern thinking and get involved in making the business work.
Steven was given a copy of Paul Meades’ first book (How to Make Your Company Fly) in 2015 and met him later that year, before making the seventh switch to Meades & Co. The impact was instant and Paul’s involvement in board meetings, giving clarity to the numbers and steering the business, was exactly what he wanted. Then came Xero …
From Xero to hero!
When Louise first turned up from Meades & Co to talk to Chalmor’s staff about Xero, the world’s leading cloud accounting solution, it caused a bit of a stir. In fact, her enthusiasm for the timesaving and efficiency-giving benefits led one of Chalmor’s most loyal and best-performing staff (the office manager) to quit – fearing for her job. After a conversation with her mum (often the wisest person in any situation) she soon returned and was accepted back with open arms, keen to help implement and make use of all Xero’s magical genius.
For Chalmor, the reduced manual effort and faster processing that Xero brings is important, but it is the extra accuracy and insight that has made all the difference. Duplication has been eradicated, the real-time reporting empowers their decisions, and the access to information has opened the door to new possibilities. Combined with Paul and Louise working on the business with them, this new chapter has given Steven and Chalmor a strong foundation on which to continue growing, controlling and developing their future.
Going green with Chalmor
As an accredited Carbon Trust supplier, Chalmor are advocates of the Green Business Fund, which entitles small and medium-sized businesses to 30% capital contribution towards energy-saving projects. In one instance a business in Welwyn Garden City came to view the new lighting recently installed at Meades & Co, as an example of Chalmor’s work, before embarking on their own project. Impressed with what they saw and with a £9k Green Business Fund rebate in hand, the return on their investment was reduced from five years to just three years.
If you would like any help with an energy-saving project (lighting, heating controls, retrofit solutions or eTRV) get in touch with Steven or check out the website at: www.chalmor.co.uk.