IN this week’s SME Focus we hear from a man who has spent 13 years running his own businesses in challenging sectors without borrowing a penny.

Name:

Andrew Scott.

Loading article content

Age:

42 (I tell people 35 plus VAT).

What is your businesses called?

Heaven Scent, ScottVend and Victus Consultancy.

Where is it based?

Milnathort in Perthshire.

What services does it offer?

I run several hospitality businesses under the Heaven Scent brand, including an artisan coffee shop of that name in Milnathort, outside catering and events operations and a meeting space and restaurant at the Knockhill racing circuit.

I also run ScottVend, which stocks vending machines across Scotland.

In 2014 capitalising on my hands-on experience, I launched Victus Consultancy to help new and established hospitality businesses across the UK to grow and improve and ultimately to succeed. I help with everything from support with compliance (allergens, licensing, health and safety etc) to motivational speaking, training and food and beverage procurement.

To whom does it sell?

My catering businesses sell direct to the public and we have a wonderful range of customers from those organising a children’s birthday party to people celebrating a special occasion. Dealing with such a diverse group of people, each with their own story to tell, is one of the reasons I love working in hospitality.

My other firms are business to business organisations. At Victus, I’ve worked with hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants across the UK, both new and established organisations.

What is its turnover?

£675,000 across the three businesses.

How many employees?

I employ 35 people through my catering businesses. I work with other specialist consultants at Victus on a freelance basis where their particular skillset is required. I’ve just launched a partnership with an allergen expert, for example.

Why did you take the plunge?

I’ve worked in the hospitality industry since I was 13 (I was tall for my age!) in a really wide variety of tourism businesses. In 2003, I decided to put all my own experiences into practice by starting up my own coffee shop. This kept evolving as I developed it – growing to include an outside catering organisation, contracts for running other restaurants and an events space.

I know what it’s like to be an employee as well as the challenges of running your own business so it was a natural decision to be able to help others with my experience though Victus.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was working very hard running a group of small independent hotels but realised that I’d rather be working very hard to grow my own business.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I have been fortunate that I have never borrowed as much as a penny. I had a little equity in a property, which I used for the deposit on my first coffee shop. After 13 years, this combined with long hours, sweat and a good support network means that we are still going strong. With Victus, the main issue was not the funding but rearranging my business to free up time to allow me to focus on my consultancy work.

What was your biggest break?

In 2012 I was named the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland’s Entrepreneurial Caterer of the Year and earlier this year was recognised at the Scottish Hospitality Awards for my Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Hospitality. I’ve recently been named as a regional finalist for Central, Fife and Tayside in the Scottish Thistle Awards for the Tourism and Hospitality Hero category.

What was your worst moment?

In 2014 I had to close Vita Bar & Grill, a busy restaurant in the centre of Perth that was failing. I had never failed at anything and very quickly I could see that the formula was wrong and it was losing money quickly. Although the return on investment was good, the process took a full year to tidy up. It takes a while to bounce back from defeat. Having said that, it was from the ashes of this experience that Victus was born. Stepping back from the thick of things makes you understand what makes a business succeed or fail.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I’ve always loved the diversity of hospitality. One day I could be working with a small boutique hotel in the Highlands of Scotland working on their sales and marketing and in the same week, in a city restaurant doing motivational speaking and coaching with food and beverage training thrown in.

What do you least enjoy?

To start your own business takes a certain kind of person and it is definitely not for the majority out there. People assume that you have great wealth and disposable income but have no idea the sacrifices that are made, special days missed, invitations declined and large periods of time with little to no pay.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

That Victus Consultancy in time becomes Britain’s largest hospitality and catering consultancy firm, whilst watching Heaven Scent continue to enjoy the growth it’s experiencing at present.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Small independent catering and retail businesses are, in my opinion, super exposed and so often end up being swallowed by the national chains. Most town centres really are starting to look the same and more needs to be done to halt this. Government could increase the amount of support for these SME’s to encourage growth and help foster an entrepreneurial spirit. Education is key. The small operators do not have the buying power of larger units and therefore can seem expensive to the consumer so more access to expert business advice would be really useful.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Look after the team and in turn they look after our customers. It’s all about employing passion and maintaining training to help people build their careers within your business.

How do you relax?

I am lucky in that a lot of my work is sociable so I can mix (within reason) business with pleasure. Time away from the businesses is hugely important and I enjoy spending it with family and friends as they are after all, the ones that keep us grounded.