I had a chance to catch up with Colin Cockram, founder of Cockram Surveyors, who started his surveying business from home, and within three years have built him self a brand locally and online.
I would also like to mention, when I first met Colin Cockram, he didn’t know much about Computers and Internet, all this was extremely new to him, but now his whole business is more or less online based, with his websites, CRM systems, and is building a strong brand.
Cockrams Surveyors has grown from strength to strength over the past three years, please tell us how you got involved into business?
I was made redundant in April 2008. The only job that was on offer in the surveying industry at the time was just a little over the minimum wage so I thought why not start my own business so I did it with just £200.
What inspired you to start Cockrams Surveyors?
At what stage did you realize that the company was going to become more than you just working from home?
I started being referred by one or two top end estate agents so I needed a premier address.
When we first met you, you were just offering Building and Homebuyer Surveys, You now have a wide portfolio of services on offer: what was your approach to launching new services?
It has been a mix of demand led and speculation. I believe that companies must have a broad service mix to survive in the current market.
What’s your average day like now, compared to 2008 when you first started?
My days are still long but now I find that I am spending much more time developing business and generally sorting things out on a day to day basis.
You work very closely with your suppliers, how important is it in business to keep a good relationship with your suppliers?
I think that it is very important in key areas and in my case this is IT. I need to be able to get things done or started at any time of the day or night including weekends.
Besides your website, how are you promoting your business locally?
I use automatic quotation websites such as reallymoving.com and localsurveyorsdirect.co.uk but now my SEO is also working so I do get some direct enquiries from my website. I also have sign written vans and my office has signage in the windows.
What was the most challenging part of setting up your business, and if you had a chance what would you do differently?
Staff and employment agencies. I no longer rely on one agency to make sure that I get offered the best candidates by competition. I then make sure that I undertake regular reviews of employees and this have now enabled me to build an excellent work force.
I also never buy any form of advertising over the phone and investigate companies before I use them. I still get done over occasionally but those companies and people or other organizations associated with them will never have any of my business again.
How did you see your business developing in the next 5 years?
I would hope to employ four surveyors and one further full time admin person within the next three to five years. I would also like to develop an Architecture and planning side of my businesses which I have already started to do.
What advice or resources would you recommend to a new start up business?
Present your business well with a good website and use SEO along with social networking sites. Avoid committing to outgoings without knowing for certain that your business model will work.