Inside the Ambition is a series that tells the stories of business owners, going from how and why they started their businesses to where they are now. I spoke to Simon Lamb, the founder of plumbing and heating company Sylvadale.
Simon was one of the Sage Ambition competition finalists, which had a prize of a business advice meeting with entrepreneur and Sage Ambition Ambassador Peter Jones. Here, he talks about how his business is helping both his customers and his employees, and how his love of running helps him to focus and solve problems.
You can listen to a podcast of the interview or read about what he had to say below.
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Tell us about you and your company
I run Sylvadale, a plumbing and heating company in the UK, on the south coast, we cover the area of Hampshire.
We specialise in two particular products, one being liquid petroleum gas, which covers some of the holiday parks in the area – being there on the coast we get quite a few holiday parks to look after.
And the other one that helps and covers a lot of the work we do is disability adapting for people with different disabilities and who are different ages.
We adapt their bathrooms so they can have their privacy and lifestyle back to what it was before they became disabled.
What is the ambition that drives you to do what you do?
It’s a tough one to ask, that. Ever since I was 12 when I started my very first business – I used to run a little egg farm and sell eggs to my neighbours – I’ve always been driven to achieve different things.
It’s definitely not money, it’s a lifestyle and a challenge that I like to go out and give myself something new every day to achieve, and just go and achieve it really.
And how does what you do with plumbing and heating fulfil that?
I started off working for somebody else and that didn’t float my boat, I got bored quite easily, so I set up my own business and now it’s developing that business and building it into something that’s recognisable by the people.
And I can give satisfaction and employees and different people, I can improve their lives and help them grow. And it’s all about the growth and help to develop, I suppose.
You’re running a lot of marathons and have signed up for your seventh continent, is that right?
Yes that’s correct, I’m doing Antarctica.
And how does running those marathons help you in your business life?
When I pop off and go training, the longer distance runs give me time to relax and mull my day over, make decisions, make plans, just think things when I’m running.
I can listen to a few podcasts and different bits. I can pick up information and just absorb that while I’m running away and just relaxing and taking it in while I’m out of the house for a bit.
Do you tend to run in the morning or the evenings?
I switch it up a bit. Today was a beautiful morning, so I went out and enjoyed the sunrise, and did very little apart from a nice steady job.
But a lot of the times, it is evenings at the end of my day, when it just helps me unwind a little.
Does it help you with decision making to be able to mull those things and think about those things a little more deeply during that time?
Yes. I can get to a point when I’m running and I can go ‘OK’ I can stop thinking about it when I’m running, think about something else, then think about it before I get to the end of the run. And just go “that’s a good decision or bad decision”.
It does give me plenty of time to develop those decisions.
Is that something you plan or do you just let it flow depending on the day?
I just open my eyes, put my trainers on and hit the roads and that’s it. Whatever pops in my head.
Obviously, there’s semi-conscious of the business I run – if something’s niggling at me, I’ll run and it will work its way into the front of my mind and I’ll just work on that as I run. Think about it. Keep thinking about it.
And if I need to shelve it, I’ll think about it another day. It just gives me that time.
Who is a hero of yours that personifies ambition?
To be honest, I couldn’t give you an answer to that. Top of my head. I don’t have many heroes.
Who is someone that you greatly admire?
Business wise, it’s got to be (entrepreneur and The Apprentice presenter) Alan Sugar. He’s got a lot of drive and he’s achieved quite a bit over the years. I like his approach.
Other than that, it’s the explorers around the world, it’s what they achieve and what they discover. No one in particular. But it’s the explorers that go out and do that little thing, that little bit different, and come up with something new.
Ambition In Action
Want to grow your business but struggling to do so? Download this free e-book for advice from Peter Jones and the winner and finalists of the Sage Ambition competition who faced challenges and overcame them using their business ambition.