Emmerson Marshall-Critchley is the founder of Emmerson Critchley Ltd, a specialist, traditional building firm. He was a finalist in the Sage Ambition competition, which had a prize of a business advice meeting with entrepreneur Peter Jones. Here, he talks about his business and shares advice on challenges he’s overcome and how his ambition has kept him going.
My primary business is Emmerson Critchley Ltd, which I launched in 2014. It offers traditional building services for listed buildings, period homes, timber frame and heritage properties throughout East Anglia and London.
The firm also constructs new-build properties using traditional methods and materials as well as carrying out conversions on period buildings to create multiple living accommodations.
I am also a co-founder of EC Access, which offers bespoke scaffolding solutions. This was a logical progression in terms of my business interests and also delivers the best value for Emmerson Critchley Ltd clients.
I’ve also invested in and taken up a co-directorship in new menswear shop Taisce, which will be opening in Woodbridge, Suffolk, later in 2018 and will offer a carefully selected capsule collection of menswear predominantly made in the UK.
7 tips to overcome your business challenges
1. Be passionate
I think it’s important to be passionate about what you do. Growing a business takes utter commitment, so it’s vital it fulfils you. When challenges arise, it’s this passion that will see you through the tougher days.
2. Keep learning about running a business
I think business is all about learning, so take every opportunity to learn about every aspect of running and growing a business – continually develop your own professional skills and always ask questions, particularly when in the company of entrepreneurs.
3. Be true to what the business stands for
A potential challenge Emmerson Critchley Ltd faces is that traditional materials and techniques are not always the cheapest option. Nevertheless, the craftsmen and skilled trade specialists who make up the team (myself included) firmly believe in the results and longevity they provide.
So while not always offering the cheapest option could have posed a potential challenge, it’s important to be true to what the firm wholeheartedly stands for.
Although it’s sometimes been challenging, commitment to our approach has been worthwhile and the greatest challenge we’ve faced since the firm’s inception has been keeping up with ever-growing demand.
4. Hire the right people
Developing a business can be tricky and at times, I’ve had to work very long hours and go without holidays in order to keep up as the company has grown. Nevertheless, what’s really helped has been appointing the right people.
I feel fortunate to have created a close team of like-minded professionals, all of whom I respect as experts in their respective fields and I know I can count on them. And this allows me to focus on the overarching aim of growing the business.
5. Trust people and delegate
Being able to delegate is crucial and part of achieving this is trusting the people you work with. It enables them to grow within your business too so everyone wins. Constant evaluation is also a really important concept for me. There are lessons to be learned from every project and it’s worthwhile to take stock on a regular basis in the spirit of continuous improvement.
6. Reinvest in your business
One of the ways I have successfully grown Emmerson Critchley Ltd is by taking every opportunity to reinvest back into the firm. Sometimes this has meant personally taking much less than I could have but it’s been by far the best move in terms of the longevity and health of the business.
One example is where I’ve reinvested by purchasing (and then storing) materials that we use on an ongoing basis. This has proved effective because the cost of those materials can change over time (owing to supply and demand).
But by being opportunistic, I can invest when the cost of those materials is low and also make savings owing to gaining a better economy of scale as I tend to buy in bulk. So I’m a real believer in reinvesting in a business and carefully nurturing it in this way.
7. Get out of your comfort zone
Finally – and sometimes this is challenging – push yourself beyond your comfort zone. I recall the first time I had to deliver a talk about looking after period properties to a packed-out lecture hall – it was a pretty daunting experience. But as a result, I developed new skills and my firm gained excellent exposure from it, so be brave even when the task seems challenging – you can do it.
What would Emmerson have asked Peter Jones?
As a finalist in the Sage Ambition competition, Emmerson didn’t get the opportunity to have a business meeting with Peter Jones. However, if he had, here’s what he would have asked him:
“Perhaps the biggest challenge I face is how to further grow my business interests. I feel exceptionally ambitious on this front and my firm, Emmerson Critchley Ltd, has developed really well, but I want to take it further – as far as possible. So I’d welcome some insights from about how to successfully grow a business to its full potential.”
“What is the best business decision you’ve ever made? Do you have any pivotal ones that stand out?”
“Making investments in other businesses is also a way forward that really interests me and I’ve taken my first steps by recently investing in two new businesses. I’d be fascinated to know what you think are the key ingredients for making a good investment.”
Help from our Sage Business Experts
We’ve asked our Sage Business Experts, who have business and entrepreneurial expertise across a wealth of areas, to answer those questions. Want to find out their answers, which could be beneficial to you and your business too? Download the Ambition in Action e-book to get them – along with more details on Emmerson’s business story and advice that will inspire you.
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.