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Long-term residents prove the benefits of staying small

Long-term residents prove the benefits of staying small
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Long-term residents prove the benefits of staying small
Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

We tend to take it as read that growth is a sign of business success, but sometimes canny operators realise bigger isn’t always better. Chelmsford-based Faretrade, a discount wholesale company, believes for a variety of reasons that small is beautiful.

Faretrade was founded in 2002 but, only a year later, the company had outgrown its initial base and was ready to move out. “Our first office was within a warehousing unit and we quickly realised we needed a more professional setting for our meetings,” recalls director Christian Bray.  And so, while both were still in their infancy, the partnership between Faretrade and Capital Space’s Waterhouse Business Centre, Chelmsford, began. “We moved in at the same time as Waterhouse opened – you could still smell the paint!” recalls Christian. “What initially attracted us were the ‘easy in, easy out’ terms, but we ended up needing to use them a lot sooner than we expected: we had pre-ordered brand-new office furniture that turned up and wouldn’t fit into the space we’d reserved – so we went down to the reception team, and said ‘You know we said in future we would want to expand?  Well, we want to expand now!’”

Subsequently, Faretrade moved into a downstairs unit and have been here ever since: “It’s been a fantastic decision to stay here. We’re definitely in it for the long-term.”

Small and manageable

With seventeen years of business under its belt, Faretrade is clearly doing something very right. Yet both Christian and Paul are keen to keep the business at the same, manageable size. “We made a decision a long time ago to not build a beast,” says Paul. “We wanted family life, we wanted holidays and to see our kids, and we’ve maintained the business at a level that enables us to do that. We’ve both worked for big companies and have seen what it can do to an individual’s stress levels. If we wanted to step things up and employ more people, we could do, but, quite simply, we don’t want to.”

Christian agrees: “It’s not just about our own work-life balance; the fact that we are small makes us different. Bigger firms become less flexible, they have their own way of operating so often it’s the case that suppliers and customers have to work around them. We’re efficient, offer our clients a much more personal service and can tailor our offering to their needs.”

Adds Paul: “Our business ethic is very simple: we buy stock, we pay on time, we agree to conditions of the contract and we stick to them.”

Adapting to change

Flexibility and adaptability are watchwords for Faretrade. “Our business has changed a lot over the years, particularly in terms of technology,” reflects Paul. “In the beginning, we were phone and fax based – now we’re mainly email based, and we continue to utilise technology to become ever-more efficient.”

Though clearly built on solid foundations, Paul admits there are concerns about the future: “The current lack of clarity around Brexit is making trade difficult. A lot of international companies are reluctant to trade and would rather stockpile their wares for the Tescos, Sainsburys and Asdas of this world. In the short term, we are still caught in the Brexit stranglehold, and that’s our biggest battle – we know Brexit will have a massive effect on everyone in our industry. Communication with our suppliers and our customers, coupled with flexibility, has never been more important.”

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