We are proud to announce we have recently joined the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Northern Ireland. Here, is our case study featured as part of their #MemberMondays.
Some background details on Lloyd Moulding & Astora Risk…
Astora Risk Ltd is owned by Lloyd Moulding (pictured), previously the Head of Health and Safety and Fire Safety for The O2 Arena, SSE Arena Wembley and Eventim Apollo, and has experience operating at the top level of health and safety across multiple sectors. Also, a consultant with the company is Lloyd’s partner Gillian Kelly, originally from Co. Down.
Astora Risk Ltd was born from our ambition to take complicated subjects like fire, health and safety and ISO’s and make them easy to understand and easy to implement for organisations of all shapes, sizes and industries. We work with our clients to cut out the waffle from health and safety and make businesses more resilient, effective and better protected from the risk’s companies face in the modern workplace. It’s about transparency, delivering a more tailored service than existing consultancies have, and being there when your clients need you most.
Our company was formed in London, however after some soul searching during Covid and looking for a better quality of life we decided to make the move to Belfast in August 2020. We have found a gap for affordable consultancy services for the SME market, and our goal is to make our services accessible to all, regardless of size or sector.
Why did you join FSB?
Since relocating to Belfast it has really been like starting our business from scratch all over again. We want to be able to network with other businesses, gain a better understanding of the NI market, and look for opportunities for support and areas where we can offer our services. We actually heard about the FSB from an online networking session we attended. From what we’ve seen so far there are so many benefits to joining the FSB, from guidance in HR and legal matters; to support from other business owners who’ve been in your shoes. It’s a win-win – and we all like a win don’t we? Ultimately communication and consistent learning resources are available with the FSB, and being part of a group that understands the challenges of day to day businesses for small enterprises helps.
Have you used FSB Services so far, how has it helped your business?
We only just joined before Christmas so haven’t had to chance to fully experience everything there is on offer. However we have booked in to attend some webinars and the next Virtual Networking Session which we are really looking forward to attending. We have also been really impressed with the e-bulletins so far, there is so much support out there, you just have to know where to look – thankfully the FSB does a great job of this on everyone’s behalf! The updates on the ever-changing Covid restrictions have also been really appreciated, and thankfully in an easy to digest format which is truly welcomed with so much conflicting information out there.
How did Covid-19 impact your business?
Covid-19 has indeed impacted our business. We’re fortunate to be the chosen service provider to several companies operating in the events and events services sector in London, alongside some innovative retail companies and as we’ve seen COVID-19 has all but closed the events and retail sector. However we’ve been there to support our clients and worked on some really exciting projects including reopening plans under various scenarios for COVID-19 in the future with 1500 plus capacity entertainment venues. We’ve also helped clients with understanding their legal duties with COVID-19 in the workplace.
Covid-19 has given us time to reflect and think about our future. This led to us deciding to make the move to Belfast. It has also given us time to think more about our services and offering and I’m pleased to say we have been working on some innovative technological solutions as we develop an app to make safety even more accessible to businesses (more info on that in the future!).
What is single greatest challenge for any SME at the minute?
Raising awareness of our business and the uncertainty across, more or less, all sectors is a challenge with COVID-19 and ultimately people are more cautious when it comes to spending. I’d be inclined to say that small and medium enterprises with property should bear in mind that regular risk and legal requirements still exist and it’s still vital to keep an eye on the wellbeing of your organisation, not just from COVID-19 but also for other human and property elements, such as mental health wellbeing for employees or fire risks from unoccupied properties. In my experience from chatting with other businesses, each business has it’s own story, but the driving force behind those businesses success are the ones who don’t give up. Keeping an eye on your own and your businesses wellbeing in an environment prone to sudden changes that impact the marketplace – that’s the biggest challenge for anyone when there’s this existing level of uncertainty economically.
What are the opportunities and positives for SMEs at the minute and how are you embracing recovery?
Taking the opportunity and the time to look critically at your own business and find opportunities to grow from decisions you have made can set you out from the competition. There’s never been a better time to get your compliance in order and really hone in on the risks that your business has, not just from COVID-19, but from all aspects of your business. We’ve been fortunate that we have expanded our business operations and brought in additional team members with skill-set’s we identified as missing and I’m thrilled to say that we’ve made the right decision on expanding our team and it’s been better for our brand and our quality of services. We’ve diversified our products and services from internal reviews while still keeping our business personable and in touch with our clients. My best advice would be if you think there’s something your business could do better, or a new service or product market you want to break into, now might be a good time to give it a chance.
Of FSB’s key campaign issues at the minute. Which is most important to you and your business at present and why?
It is a fast-moving world economically and politically at present. To us the most important thing is keeping abreast of all things Covid related. The new vaccine has brought a slight glimmer of hope, however we are seeing a lot of talk of projects being pushed back completely until 2022. We need to be able to plan for when our existing event clients will be able to reopen, alongside bringing on more new clients to support us through the next few months. We are taking this time to develop the skills of our employees, get our name out there, network, talk, support and share opportunities – everyone could do with a helping hand right now.
Have you any words of advice to anyone starting a small business?
For anyone starting off I would say do your research. Read articles and blogs online from other business owners for tips on the do’s and don’ts. Get yourself a few good books from someone in the industry you’re setting up in to see what their journey has been. Reading other peoples stories can be scary as some of those who write about their experiences can be very honest about the many times they fell down or lost their way on their journey. However they will also talk about how they picked themselves up, who supported them, how they looked for the positives and came through. There is a lot of support out there in the form of networking groups or business investment programmes. Speak to whoever is willing to listen, you will find more people are interested in what you are trying to build than you think. Lastly, get yourself a good accountant from the off!
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a UK business organisation representing small and medium-sized businesses. At the start of 2020 there were 5.94 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees), 99.3% of the total business. SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population (6.0 million businesses). To find out more visit www.fsb.org.uk.