Whirlwind Year for Firm Which Is Playing It Safe; Business PROFILE Company Director Mike Davies Tells David Jones What Winning a Top Business Award Has Meant to Him

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Byline: David Jones

MIKE Davies was already running one successful business when he spotted what he thought was an opportunity in another marketplace and decided to go for it. His hunch proved correct and the new venture,Deetronic Safety Systems, launched with the support of fellow directors, is currently doing business at the rate of about pounds 1m a year. The icing on the cake came in November when the Flint-headquartered company won a top North Wales business award.

Davies had been running a business specialising in the management of building portfolios for nursing care home groups and drink and drug rehabilitation clinics.

He noticed that the main contractor in the field was charging about pounds 50 an hour and was taking between 36 and 48 hours to answer calls from clients needing repairs to apparatus for people with disabilities.

While Davies felt that contractor was doing a good job,he thought he could undercut its prices and provide a better call-out time.

``I felt my clients were not getting what they deserved. I looked around and realised that there was no viable alternative -it meant there was a niche in the market,''he says.

``The current provider had a pounds 10m turnover and I felt there was an opportunity to set up a business in that area of work.

``I had a word with my business partner,Jane Wynne Williams,and approached two other businessmen, Peter Meredith and Gordon Pirie, who run a fire alarm maintenance company, and together the four of us set up Deetronic Safety Systems which started trading in 2003. As directors, we have equal shares in the business.''

The company, which maintains and repairs patient lifting and handling equipment, specialist bathing products, nursing beds and other equipment in hospitals,nursing homes and the local community,achieved a first year turnover of between pounds 600,000 and pounds 700,000, says Davies, securing as clients some of the biggest health care groups in the UK.

It now has engineers based in Glasgow,Chester,Eastbourne, Stevenage and Gloucester on call to respond to clients' needs.

``With that spread of engineers on the road we can provide a 24-hour response,'' says Davies.

Start- up funding for Deetronic was provided primarily by the four partners,although there was public sector support,including mentoring and consultancy from the Welsh Development Agency's Growth Programme and an Assembly Investment Grant funding of pounds 32,000 initially, rising to pounds 50,000 if expansion occurs and more jobs are created.

Davies is confident that will happen this year.

The company currently has office staff based in Saltney,Chester,and its accounting and marketing sections located on Flint's Acorn Business Park. But operations will be centralised shortly when the company moves to a second unit on Acorn Business Park.

That will also see a step up in marketing activities to bring more customers on board.

``The first three months were tough,'' admits Davies.``We had to recruit engineers and train them. None of the directors has taken a salary out of the business yet. We are all funded by our own separate businesses. But I was always confident that the new venture would be a success.

``There were times along the way when we felt we were treading water but then we would win another contract and it was a real boost.

``We don't have any projections for growth in employment in the company -but that's only because it has been such a whirlwind year and we are still trying to get the paperwork straight. …