Meet Phil Birley – Co-Owner of Sentinel Scaffolding
Member Stories: Phil Birley
When you’re working in commercial and residential scaffolding like Phil Birley and Tim Solomons, you have a big responsibility for public health and safety. By helping Sentinel Scaffolding manage their accounts, JSA gives Phil and Tim the headspace to ensure they’re keeping people safe throughout their operations.
Many people have concerns before starting their own company, worrying that it may be a lot of admin and hassle before they can even start trading. For Phil Birley and his business partner, Tim Solomons, setting up Sentinel Scaffolding at the end of 2017 was “simple and easy”.
“I’d been in the scaffolding trade for a while and Tim is qualified in advanced scaffolding. Our joint business interests meant it just made sense for us to start a company together. Initially, we had to juggle getting the company up and running with other work – we couldn’t go all-in straight away. But we quickly built up our network and have since been able to build the business with it now taking our full-time focus.”
“We both had a good network of contacts in the industry so this helped create a pipeline of clients at the outset.”
“We used to find it difficult to find consistently good work that would pay well. But over time we’ve learnt to ask the right questions so we properly qualify clients and only agree to work that will be worthwhile.”
“In this trade you have to be proactive with marketing so I do a lot of emailing to people I think we can help. I’ve secured a lot of commissions through persistent emailing – you can’t be afraid to pursue business and be tenacious.”
Plans for Expansion
“At the moment it’s just me and Tim and we bring in other people when we need extra hands for specific jobs, but we’re growing nicely and steadily acquiring a great customer base. We’re moving away from residential and into more commercial work and with the construction industry booming at the moment, things are going really well for us.”
Sometimes people are put off opening a limited company due to financial responsibilities, but Phil and Tim didn’t let this get in their way. “It takes discipline to keep on top of your income and outgoings, but it is really important to keep detailed records or it can cause you a massive headache further down the line. Over the past couple of years, we’ve got into the habit of setting aside time regularly to keep track of our invoices, expenses, and payments so that it all remains organised and we can easily track what we’re earning.”
“JSA has been great with helping us keep on top of the financial side of the business. I’ve had accountants in the past where I’ve had to nag them or put a lot of time into it – to the point where I’ve felt like I’m doing their job as well as my own! JSA are the opposite. They don’t ask silly questions and they genuinely know what they’re talking about. They just get on and do their job, giving me advice when I need it.”
“My advice to anyone thinking of starting a limited company is to go for it. Don’t be shy, just get started, work hard and don’t be afraid to ask people for work!”