Chairman’s spotlight: from “man and van” to £7m turnover

Martin Port
October 26, 2023

“It was just me in a van in the beginning,” Antony Grace tells me. “I’d gone bankrupt during the recession, and I was starting again from scratch.”

Antony says that losing his last business was “harrowing” but was also a fantastic learning experience. “It honed my business skills and taught me valuable lessons about debt and cashflow.”

From a standing start in 2016, Antony rebuilt his electrical company from the ground up. He began teaming up with other companies that offered mechanical services to complete contracts. “I realised that there was a gap in the market for an integrated mechanical and electrical contractor,” he says. “Customers were sick of having contractors tell them, ‘It’s not my job that’.”

In 2019, he formed ASH Integrated Services with Sean and Howard Jackson. “They brought the mechanical knowhow,” he says. “We have more than 100 years of experience between us.”

Today, ASH is an award-winning integrated contractor, undertaking maintenance and projects for public and private sector clients across the country. The company maintains 390 properties on behalf of Lancashire County Council, the largest council in the UK. This coming financial year, ASH will turn over more than £7m.

“When we won the Lancashire contract, that’s when we turned to BigChange,” Antony says. “If we were still using paper processes, there’s no way we could have coped with the workload. But, with BigChange, we get alerts to ensure we are on top of all the statutory compliance. We can see jobs happening in real-time, and we know where all our engineers are and can send the right person with the right skills to each job.”

“BigChange has given us the support we need behind the scenes so that we can focus on growing the business and doing great work.”

Antony, Howard, and Sean have drawn on all their combined experience to get ASH to where it is today. “We have all lost money before, so we purposefully grew this business in a controlled way,” Antony explains. “We have no debt in the business, and we are careful to stay on top of cashflow.”

His experiences during the 2008 recession have helped Antony to be far savvier when it comes to choosing which companies to work with. “I have a sixth sense now,” he says. “I can smell it when a company is in trouble, and I won’t touch that work.”

What really inspires me about Antony is that he is also keen to pass on his learnings about how to manage mental health during tough times. “I can spot the signs when someone is struggling because I have been there,” he says. “I’ve reached out to a couple of people to offer support over the years, and I’m glad I did because they needed help.”

For me, Antony’s story is one of resilience, determination, and staggering success. In business, as in life, things won’t always go our way but it’s what we learn from those experiences, and how we move forward in our lives that really matters.

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