Cast your mind back to 2020. Or maybe don’t. In the UK pandemic measures were in place, the country was in lockdown, and times were even tougher than usual for small businesses and employees.
For Jack and Harry Findlay, who had worked in the flooring industry for many years, the time had come to make a choice: wait and hope temporary furlough would end soon, or take a bold leap into the unknown by following their grandfather’s footsteps to start their own business.
This is how Robert George Flooring was born. We spoke to Jack and Harry about launching their business, the challenges of being taken seriously as young founders, and how Xero helped them lay the foundation for success.
Finding their feet
Looking back, Jack describes his fear of not returning to his job while on furlough. Harry, however, sensed this tough time could spark a change: “Opening the business was always on my mind. I don’t want to say it was a no brainer, but with Jack being furloughed, the opportunity was there.”
The business was Robert George Flooring, which sees the brothers work with their team of tradespeople to install everything from luxury vinyl tiles to carpet tiling, resin flooring, and entrance matting. But the road to success was not straightforward.
Jack explains, “People don’t always take you seriously when you’re younger. The challenge came when we had to approach new clients – sometimes after years in the business, they don’t want to take advice from a 21 or 22-year-old.”
The brothers let the work speak for itself. Jack adds, “Those who know us know what we’re capable of. And when new clients see what we can do, we win them over. We’ve learned a lot along the way.”
Overcoming cash flow challenges
Jack and Harry’s clients range from large commercial operations to smaller residential builds. The brothers have a clear sense of their roles, with Harry spending most of his time on-site, while Jack manages the business finances and oversees project- and client-management.
But challenges remain. Most pressing is managing cash flow – something a huge number of small businesses struggle with. Our recent research found nearly a quarter of UK small businesses experienced more than six months of negative cash flow in 2021.
According to Jack, “Overcoming the cash flow issue is one of the hardest challenges for a construction business. You find yourself waiting for payment for a long time and having to pay your workers, your overheads, and pay your subcontractors within two weeks to a month.”
Late payments are devastating to small businesses – costing those in the UK an estimated £684m each year. While the government needs to do more to address this issue, Jack and Harry needed more immediate help.
Making a difference
Thankfully, Harry and Jack’s accountant, Carly from Clarative Accounting, is always on hand to offer advice. She recommended the brothers turn to Xero.
“We use Xero for our bookkeeping, which is brilliant,” Harry says. “It offers us a live feed of what we’re spending, and everything’s automatic and easy to use.”
Jack explains how Xero’s functionality is helping with cash flow, with features like invoicing on-the-go, and the auto-reminder feature for chasing invoices which helps them get paid quicker.
He continues, “We know how much money we’re making and spending. Also, as a construction business we’re always on-site, and rarely in front of a desktop. Having Xero on an app is really useful because we can see exactly what’s happening in the company at any time, wherever we are.”
Xero is also helping Robert George Flooring comply with government legislation Making Tax Digital (MTD). Jack tells us, “MTD is massive for us, and once we’ve uploaded our receipts to Xero, it makes everything so much easier.”
A bright future
Built during a time of unprecedented disruption, Robert George Flooring can look ahead with optimism. Even if Harry admits that while he always wanted his own business, he didn’t realise it’d move as quickly as it has.
“When you’re younger and you have these dreams, you picture yourself owning a Lamborghini or something like that. But now I want to be successful so I can help others around me,” he reflects.
Jack laughs, “We don’t have the Lamborghini yet! But it’s so important to make a goal and stick to it, otherwise you never stop chasing.”
Find out more about why Xero is a great choice for tradespeople at xero.com/trade.