Vanarama – the ups and downs

Vanarama is a car and van leasing company that prides itself on its wide offering and quick and easy service. SME caught up with them to find out more…

What have been your biggest challenges? How did you overcome them?

By far the biggest challenge that we’ve faced was the credit crunch of 2008. With banks going bust and the economy in freefall we had no choice but to downsize from twelve people to six. It was a horrible experience and not one I’d like to repeat. However, it made us more aware of risk and the need to have a plan and manage cash flow. We now have a yearly risk matrix session where all managers in the business are encouraged to look at the various threats the business is facing and ensure we have a plan. We’re an agile business because of this and I always have a keen eye on the numbers.

What have been your greatest successes?

Our brand strategy has delivered in spades for the business and has enabled us to outperform our sector year after year. We’ve been very successful in being able to show year on year growth in profits while also investing heavily in our marketing. We made the decision that we would re-invest profits from our franchise rollout directly into marketing starting with our first TV advertisement in 2013. We then had a successful foray into sports sponsorship that saw us take the naming rights to the then Football Conference (now the National League). Of course, none of this would’ve have been possible without our team and I take great pleasure in seeing so many grow with the business. Many that started as trainees or junior members of staff now hold management roles in the business.

What are your top tips for SMEs?
Know your numbers. It sounds obvious but the numbers of businesses that fail and business plans that fail to attract funding because the owner didn’t know their numbers is staggering. Be prepared to take risks, know the upside but also know the downside. Look after your staff as they delivering your strategy and represent your brand. Finally, invest in customer service as you would do marketing, they’re not mutually exclusive but they should be seen and treated as one.