Over the last two years, the growth has slowed in percentage terms, but Nirvana has continued to generate new business and seen big numbers added to the turnover. Where the real difference has been experienced, however, is in the profitability and business efficiencies that they have enjoyed.


Nirvana Maintenance

As family businesses success stories go, this one has all the right ingredients, even if not necessarily in the traditional order. Most modern stories of businesses with a shared surname at their core start with the parents or grandparents opening a small shop or following a beloved trade. From there, the children learn the ropes, take over the reins and often modernise or move it in a new direction.

Nirvana Maintenance Limited, a residential service and maintenance company based in Kent, is a slightly different kind of family business. Founded in 2011, the business is relatively new and has been run as a son and parents team from day one. Darren Waitson, and his dad, Steve, are both electricians by trade, and their practical skill was the foundation of the business. Mum, Denise, is the numbers guru who looks after the company’s finances; and Darren’s wife, Stephanie, has made the General Manager role her own – keeping everyone else in check.

So, this business story is more of a hand-in-hand venture than a handed-down legacy: and in so many ways, it is the stronger for it. This is a family full of passion, drive and laser clear vision.

Mum, Dad and Darren

The business initially operated out of a shed in Steve and Denise’s garden, in Petts Wood, Bromley. From there they won contracts with and started to look after their first 2-3 clients. By the end of its second year, with a total of 12 residential housing developments across London and the South East, Nirvana’s reputation as a company that delivers on its promises and high standards was already gathering pace.

So, having doubled its turnover twice in two years, the decision was made to move from back garden to bigger office early in 2014. This was a daunting prospect, as the new property, in Bromley North, had 6 desks to fill – and they were still just Mum, Dad and Darren.

One day, while reading a reply to an email that Darren had sent to a client, he noticed that the email addresses that had been copied into the original simply said Mum and Dad. The realisation that for two and a half years every email he had sent (at least those which needed to be copied to the Finance or Operations Directors) had also been a bit family-cosy sent a shiver down his back. With all their efforts at delivering professionalism, maybe it was time to start communicating the same way.

From that day onwards the co-directors of the business became known as Steve and Denise, and when Darren wanted to spend some money, he would occasionally revert to Mrs Waitson.

Double, trouble and bursting the bubble

For the next four years, the company continued to double it’s turnover year-on-year: and the profits kept on a steady keel too – everything was going great. But if there is one thing that every entrepreneur (or entrepreneurial family) learns eventually, it is that good headlines often hide underlying issues.

A contact of Darren’s had recommended him to apply for entry to a Goldman Sachs sponsored small business programme. Run at Oxford and Leeds Universities, this four-month course goes into every area of running a business and gives invaluable insights to business owners. So, after sitting some seriously daunting interviews, this young sparky from Bromley found himself being selected from quite a wide pool of applicants to attend the programme.

Along with gaining a great wealth of business management knowledge, wisdom and practical support, Darren quickly realised that his dodgy accountant needed to go. Interestingly, at least 50% of the people on the course (representing a wide range of business types) were similarly inspired to sack their accountants and find competent ones instead.

After searching online for ‘high growth business accountancy firms,’ Darren found Meades Group. Nirvana was in Kent and Meades in Hertfordshire, but that is a small price to pay for outstanding accounting support.

After the first face-to-face meeting together, it was evident that Meades was the right fit for the vision that the family had for their rapidly growing venture. The difference was fast and impactful from day one and could be summed up in two words: control and clarity. From that day to this, there have been big wins; such as the thousands that the business was able to claim back on R&D tax relief, and lots of small changes through the regular, monthly communication to ensure targets and visibility remain on track.

The overall effect of the Goldman Sachs course and finding Meades has been liberating for the team. Darren has been able to focus his efforts almost entirely on growing the business: sales, customer service and business development. Denise can keep in total control of the company’s finances and targets, supported by Catherine, her Meades Client Manager. Steve has continued to do what he does best: set an unrivalled, old school standard of graft and accountability as a working electrician. And Stephanie is flourishing in her role as the General Manager

Recent history and clarity of vision

Over the last two years, the growth has slowed in percentage terms, but Nirvana has continued to generate new business and seen big numbers added to the turnover. Where the real difference has been experienced, however, is in the profitability and business efficiencies that they have enjoyed.

The whole family has found that clarity and control, from the top and bottom-line numbers through to being able to make informed operational decisions, has given them renewed confidence to plan for growth.

Today the company looks after over 50 clients, encompassing around 900 residential developments in the South, across London and up to Milton Keynes. With a healthy success story behind it and a new decade ahead, the Waitson family team are not just settling for the win. They have big plans to grow and diversify the business into commercial and retail property management services. And they plan to do it in the same way they have operated over the last four years: with clarity, control and a clear vision.

Darren and Stephanie have even continued to plan the next generation of family business excellence; with the arrival of two more sons in the last three years to add to the one they already had.

For more details see: www.nirvana-maintenance.co.uk

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