The Big Ask with Len Jones

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The Big Ask with Len Jones

This week’s podcast from The Big Ask is a three-way discussion between host Annette Kramer, Nigel Hastilow, ICAEW Director of Enterprise, and guest Len Jones from Practical Car & Van Rental.

Asked to describe the business, Len Jones says it ‘passes the tin test because it does exactly what it says it does’ – the business sells a franchise package to independents across the country, and at the time of the podcast has ‘160 locations nationwide’.

Len himself joined Practical in 2000, though the business started back in 1984, based on a North American model. Len Jones, as well as being a chartered accountant, has fulfilled a range of roles – ‘been in a lot of the nuts and bolts of the business’.

Credibility in a crowded market

So, over to Annette’s difficult question. For Len Jones it’s How do you develop credibility in a crowded market?

Len Jones’ interesting overall answer seems to be: attend to your relationships – especially with your key lender – and be prepared to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

Looking back, he describes a relatively stable business and economic climate when he joined, that has since suffered the turbulence of ‘the Credit Crunch’, ‘followed by the Liquidity Crisis, and then latterly we’ve had the Brexit debate and the uncertainty that’s put into the economy’.

All these things are challenging, of course, and he describes two occasions when the rug was pulled from under them by retreating insurers or investors.

Over one weekend, for instance, he says ‘£4m worth of credit lines got taken away from us – and that was a challenge but’ – critically, by his argument – ‘that was a challenge that we had identified as a key risk.’

Think ahead and prepare yourselves, seems to be his argument.

‘You’ve got an ever vicious or virtuous circle of what’s the economy doing, how can we respond, and what are our risks, and how does that affect our strategic thinking?’

Your best friend

What it boils down to, he expands, when Nigel asks for his hypothetical advice to a smaller business facing similar conditions, is ‘classic stakeholder management’.

Your best friend is your bank manager.

These podcasts were jointly produced by the ICAEW Business Advice Service, Vonage and Activate.

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