Investing in people pays dividends
Over 15 years, Shield Safety Group has become one of the UK’s top providers of food, fire and health & safety software as a service (SaaS) and services. The company supports some of the biggest brands across the hospitality and retail sectors, including Malmaison, PizzaExpress and Tesco with a clear purpose: “We believe in making safety simple.”
Shield Safety has a 98% customer retention rate and even has a waiting list of people applying for jobs.
Founder and CEO Mark Flanagan attributes the company’s success to the investment in extensive staff training, support and leadership development opportunities. “We’ve adopted the European Foundation for Quality Management excellence model, administered by the British Quality Foundation,” he says.
Flanagan put the framework in place and followed it from day one. It was not, he stresses, “a retrospective approach – we fully adopted it from the beginning”.
We’ve adopted the European Foundation for Quality Management excellence model, administered by the British Quality Foundation.
Mark Flanagan, Shield Safety Group
A clear sense of purpose
What’s key is that people understand why they want to work for Shield Safety, as they make the best employees. “Recently, three of our new recruits told me how our culture and business was a million times better than their previous workplace,” adds Flanagan.
Such frameworks are more commonly used by large businesses. This approach is quite unusual for a scaling business like Shield Safety, which has a headcount of 160. But for Flanagan it is one of the reasons his company has been able to grow so quickly – achieving 50% revenue growth for the last three years.
Securing local capital support
To help the company grow further, the Greater Manchester Loan Fund, managed by Maven Capital Partners, has backed Shield Safety Group to the tune of £750,000. The funding will help the company create 70 jobs in the local Manchester area.
However, raising funding can be challenging. “It’s not easy to get the right amounts,” he says. “As a scaling business invested in growth, your profits can be low but your revenues high, so it makes it difficult to go to a traditional lender,” he explains.
Shield Safety has applied for an Innovate UK grant and both times “narrowly missed out”. He cites the difficulty in appealing to the strict marking criteria and the limited supply of grants for the number of applicants.
Pacing the growth rate
Before its recent Greater Manchester Loan Fund loan, Shield Safety’s scaling rate meant that all its cashflow primarily went back into working capital. “The bigger we get, the bigger contracts we attract along with the risk of late payments,” he explains. “So we have to release working capital.”
Using cashflow for working capital left the company with less available for research and development (R&D) than they would like. Flanagan predicts that without adequate funding it would have taken another two or three years “to be able to get enough money to invest in our planned R&D”. This crucial funding will enable them to roll out the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) product.
For now Flanagan is looking at controlling the growth of the business so it can become even more profitable in the eyes of business lenders. Shield Safety’s next mission is expanding its offering to the manufacturing sector, which is the largest in the UK.