BQ caught up with Hilton Smyth’s MD Gareth Smyth to chat about his business, his career so far, and his plans for the future.
What is it the company does?
Hilton Smythe helps buyers and sellers of small businesses throughout the UK. We have arranged the sale of all sorts of businesses from high street staples such as cafes and newsagents to engineering and manufacturing.
We support business owners in the selling of their businesses, to help them to retire, change career or make more time for family commitments. We build a relationship with our clients to make sure we are as transparent as possible, and we keep them updated so they are confident about what is happening during the time their business is on the market.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to set the direction for our business and ensure that we remain on plan. I work closely with the other Directors and the team to give guidance as to how the business should run, and set goals for the future to help the business grow.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After leaving school, I got my first role as a sales negotiator for a national business broker. Having progressed through the business, it went bust in 2009. I decided to go back to school and completed a Law degree in 2011. Shortly after, we started Hilton Smythe in a small rented office, that we got rent-free for six months. The business began with myself and Craig Graham, our Group Operations Director funding the firm through student loans and overdrafts. We now employ over 40 staff in our own town centre office building, which we own.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Leading by example, foremost, and being true to your word. A leader needs to have integrity, and if your staff don’t see you doing what you expect them to do, and adhering to the company values, they won’t put any stock in what you have to say. If you have a reputation for being dishonest, you will soon find people don’t want to work for you.
Having a clear vision and focus is also essential, and you must get everyone to buy into the vision to enable its delivery. Again, if you are not genuine, and the staff can’t believe in you, it will be impossible to get their buy in.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Starting a business on a student overdraft was no easy ride, let me tell you! Trying to get the money together to launch a business just after the financial crisis, when the prospect of a double-dip recession was on the horizon, was incredibly difficult.
The lessons I learned from the experience have given me an empathetic perspective when we’re dealing with our customers, some of whom are coming to the end of their life in business and some who are just beginning. It helps me to understand their individual positions, and to help the team when they need to give them guidance.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I am fortunate enough not to get stressed about things. I’m a very level-headed person and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. You can only do your best and what will be will be. There’s no point worrying about the things you can’t change.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an Airline Pilot. It’s still one of my goals to get my Personal Pilots Licence, although I haven’t had time so far.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Laziness! I can’t stand people that don’t put the effort in. I’m afraid to say, if people aren’t right for your business, they need to be liberated so they can find something more suitable for them.
You can’t afford to carry anyone in business. In our industry, the roles are very challenging. There are a lot of businesses for sale that need to be valued, photographed, managed, and the clients need to be updated and worked with closely. Anyone taking a job here needs to be willing to roll their sleeves up and put in the time, otherwise they won’t be successful.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
In five years, we will be the market leader for small to medium business sales. We plan to dominate the market and deliver results for our clients.
We would also like to have made a positive impact on the reputation of the business broker industry, leading by example with a best practice approach that makes things easier for clients to understand the progress of the sale of their business.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Just get on with it. You’ll regret the opportunities that passed you by, not the ones you took. Another piece of advice I would offer is don’t see mistakes as failure, see them as a chance to learn. Everyone messes up from time to time, the important thing is how you use what you learn from the mistake to move forward.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
The importance of having the right advisors. They are your front line and the people who represent you to your customers. If you get your customer facing team right, you will be on the road to success from the word go.
You will also need to make sure you get the right accountant who can help you grow the business. Most accountants are happy filing your accounts and doing your tax returns, but as a growing business, that won’t cut it.
Build the right team to help you on your journey, and never be afraid to fire them if you make the wrong choice.
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