Founder of Business Cost Consultants on growing the company
A realisation that most companies pay too much for their utility bills led Donald Maclean to give up his role at the Peter Cox Group and strike out on his own. Business Cost Consultants was founded 16 years ago and now has a range of clients from across the country including Rangers and Celtic. Here Maclean tells about the company.
What do you do?
We provide independent advice and manage energy and utility services for our clients. We focus on saving clients’ time and money by helping them reduce their gas, electricity, water, landline and mobile telecom costs. Perhaps the biggest benefit to new clients is that they can relax, knowing that we are only paid fees if we achieve savings for them.
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
I relied on savings as I started to build the business. It was tough because my wife and I had two children and little income coming in initially. After three years we were through the worst. We have also had great support from our customers, many of whom have been with us for years and recommended us to other organisations.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
We managed to secure a contract with Morris Furniture in 1999 and saved them about £96,000 in the first year. Although he was initially sceptical that we could make many savings for his company, Robert Morris was very appreciative of the results we achieved for him. As a result, he referred us to many other business contacts. That included Celtic FC, who in turn referred us to Rangers FC.
How does the company use technology and IT?
We use social media to keep our audience updated on our thoughts and opinions of industry news, provide good utility related advice and keep people updated on our own company news. Our social media strategy is in its early days but we are aiming to ingrain it in company culture and try to be at the forefront of new technological developments.
We are also always on the look out for new technologies that may help our clients reduce energy and water consumption. We were one of the first companies to suggest the use of smart meters (devices which can provide real-time data on consumption of gas, electricity and water) to our clients as a way to monitor energy and water consumption.
Who are your key customers/what are your key markets?
We work with many organisations of different sizes in both the private and public sectors. Some of our better known clients include Aegon, Apex Hotels, Walkers Shortbread, Celtic, Rangers, Cala Homes and Shelter. We also do a lot of work with the not-for-profit sector.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
We did have some set-backs in 2009 with some of our clients going into administration. The biggest loss was when the McKever Group of hotels went down in June 2009, owing us about £44,000. However, we managed to turn a setback into a victory. We approached the administrators and after a few months, convinced them that we could make significant savings for them on their utility costs. The results were spectacular savings for the client and fees which more than wiped out our losses.
What will the next 12 months hold?
I’m hoping to continue to grow the company substantially and create more jobs within Glasgow. There is huge potential for growth in our fields of expertise. That includes energy and water conservation, carbon emissions, sustainable energy, new telecoms technology as well as reducing energy costs. After years of pressure from our clients we have at last introduced a totally independent source of information for home energy users who want to reduce their costs. We established the website www.switchmyenergy.co.uk in 2010. There you can seek prices from all the energy suppliers in the UK and compare all their currently available tariffs in your area. On average users save about £200 per annum on their gas and electricity costs.
If you were given £1 million to invest in the company how would you use it?
I would expand our team and look to invest money in marketing as not enough people know that they pay too much for utilities and that there are companies out there like us that can help reduce overheads without charging fees.
What's the best part of running a business?
I like the flexibility of running my own business. Having worked for several years within large companies, I didn’t enjoy the company politics. I decided that I wasn’t suited to having a boss and much preferred taking responsibility and all the consequences that go with running your own business. Now I’m at the stage where I have a very good team of managers and experts around me. That takes the pressure off me and gives me some time to spend on non-work activities.
What has been the single biggest investment?
We moved into larger offices last year to accommodate our growing staff numbers. I think that has to be our biggest single investment to-date.
What is the business plan and how does the company intend to grow?
We plan to continue our growth rate of at least 25 per cent per annum.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
In 10 years we plan to be up there with the largest in our industry.