IN this week's SME Focus a former world pool champion explains how the experience he gained on the international circuit helped him in business in the UK.


Kevin Treanor.



What is your business called?

CORGI HomePlan. We licence the CORGI name from the body that used to act as the registrar of gas installers in the UK.

Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

We offer service and breakdown cover for domestic boilers and central heating systems, home plumbing and electrics.

Who does it sell to?

Our market is homeowners in the UK, so we have plenty of people to target.

What is its turnover?

Approaching £30 million and rising rapidly.

How many employees?

75 in our Dunfermline offices. We also support 5,000 independent engineers in our network across the whole of the UK.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

I knew from the age of 16, when I got an apprenticeship straight from school at DM Blyth in Kirkcaldy, that I wanted my own business. You try learning a trade in the 80s with the moaning (but lovely) old tradesmen who had wonky knees and arthritic fingers and wished they had started their own business earlier or moved to Australia. It was enough to get anyone motivated to set up on their own.

It was also a challenge to me to create a better environment for myself. So at the age of 22, I left to set up my own company, H2o Heating.

In 1994, we were voted the Scottish Small Business of the Year. For the first two years, it was just me and through hard work, I built a reputation for doing a good job at a fair price.

My next business was Nationwide Gas Care and I franchised that across the country, before it was sold in a management buyout in 2012.

By this time, I had met Mark Leslie and we were keen to work together so it was a case of being in the right place at the right time when we spotted the CORGI opportunity.

Myself and Mark were first introduced to the people at CORGI when we developed a VAT Saver product that we licensed to them. It was very successful and is still used today.

We spotted a huge gap in the home maintenance market and due to our relationship with CORGI this was an obvious opportunity.

By harnessing the CORGI heritage of trust within the gas industry and bringing our own vision and processes in to the mix, it has created what we feel is a very successful formula.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Before starting CORGI HomePlan, but not before becoming an entrepreneur, I also played the sport of pool at the highest level and was world champion in 1997.

There are marked similarities between succeeding in sport and in business. Starting on the bottom rung of the ladder and having to learn your trade is key. As is patiently gaining experience and always learning, reflecting and improving.

Then, when a bit of success appears, you must be able to access good advice and have people to help implement a strategy for further improvement that will bring further success.

When you are fully competent and further up the ladder, that's when you need to carefully assess the competition with a view to overtaking them and maintaining and refining your strategy for success.

That's how I learned my 'trade' as a heating engineer and a pool player. I'd played all over Europe for 14 years by the time I was having real success at the sport. The hardest part was the travelling and being away from my business at a time when I should have been dedicated to it full time to help it grow.

Pool's a tough sport and it has given me a mental toughness and dogged determination to succeed. It's also helped me think clearly under pressure.

Being a heating engineer, any mistake you make could be dangerous to human life, so I was used to learning and following procedures. My sporting experience definitely helped in dealing with pressure and when things don't go right, to think of a solution.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Mark Leslie and myself invested our own money as we had complete faith that we were able to plug the gap we had spotted in the market.

What was your biggest break?

The apprenticeship with DM Blyth 25 years ago that got me into this industry in the first place.

Jim Blyth, my first boss, was first in to work and last out, even when he was in his 80s.

He was always moving the business on; looking for the next opportunity. He got things done, which is a quality I greatly admire.

What was your worst moment?

Missing last year's growth target by one per cent.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Business is a fight - and I love a fight. I'm spurred on by competitor reactions.

I believe in continuous improvement. It doesn't matter what you are doing today as long as you're doing better tomorrow.

I work in a tight team, we like to peek round corners and see where it's going next. This helps us think tactically and strategically plan ahead.

What is your biggest bugbear?

Bureaucracy. We have very competent people in the business to handle this, so I don't have to.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

The challenge is always to do the right thing. The public's trust in the CORGI name goes back decades and means that we must continue to offer and maintain the highest service levels.

You have to be sharper and quicker in order to stay competitive. The British Gas of 20 years ago isn't the same beast as we are dealing with today, with the services they offer to their customers and the way that they market and promote themselves.

We have weekly meetings where our staff can contribute ideas and give us feedback on the way we are doing things. This has been enormously beneficial and has let us see that there are more opportunities for us. It's given us the confidence to know that there are other areas we can spread into within this industry.

What are your top priorities?

We only have one priority - looking after our customers. It's a cliché, but if we keep our customers happy our business will be just fine.

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

I think this country runs well - you should try France! I have a holiday home in Provence, and compared to what goes on over there in terms of business laws, labour laws and the state of public services, the UK and Scotland has nothing to worry about.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Never try to complicate things. The words that were drilled into me as an apprentice still apply today - work hard, keep your eyes open and see what works.

How do you relax?

I greatly enjoy pool and still play it - not quite so competitively - with my son now.