How data disposal firm Shredbank beat the recession
The start of a recession doesn't seem the best time to start a business. But it didn't deter entrepreneur Philip Bain. Along with his business partner James Carson, Philip launched the data security company ShredBank in October 2007, just as the world economy went into massive decline.
"On the face of it, it doesn't seem like good timing, but it turned out to be the right time for this type of business," he said.
"The media was full of stories about major data breaches in the form of discarded security files and health service records ending up dumped on the roadside or in landfill. People were outraged that this had happened and many organisations realised that they had to find secure solutions for dealing with confidential paperwork."
Eight years later, ShredBank is the largest locally-owned document shredding company, with 20 employees and four specially-designed trucks on the road. The vehicles can hold 6.5 tonnes of shredded material which is then shipped to recycling mills in England, before being processed into toilet paper and kitchen roll.
The firm travels around Northern Ireland, providing on-site disposal of confidential paperwork. Solicitors and insurance companies were among the obvious early clients, but ShredBank works across most sectors.
"Some clients are very small, a two-man operation, right up to large multi-national inward investors employing thousands," said Philip.
"Despite predictions, we're not seeing the advent of the paperless office. The Data Protection Act, health and safety legislation, bureaucracy and business red tape means that records and paperwork still dominate the office environment, and companies are increasingly concerned about how they deal with confidential data."
Launching, steering and growing a company through dark and challenging times has been a major learning process for Philip, who's chair of the Chartered Management Institute in Northern Ireland and a visiting professor in business at Ulster University. He's been sharing his experiences in a series of seminars at local universities and enterprise centres, donating his fees to The Prince's Trust. He's raised £40,000 for the charity since 2011.
Now, he's published an entrepreneur's handbook, Start To Grow, containing advice and guidance for people who want to start their own business.
"People kept asking me for notes from my seminars, so I decided to write it all down during a family holiday to Cork," said Mr Bain. "I'm sharing my past business experience, lessons I've learned and other topics - like leaders who've inspired me, and marketing tips."
Direct sales of the book have so far raised nearly £10,000 for The Prince's Trust. Ulster University, local councils and enterprise centres have bought copies in bulk, and it's also being sold commercially online through Amazon. The book reveals Philip's business inspiration: his late father, Ronnie Bain. He was a director of the Emerald Group which owned a chain of hotels, including the Europa, in the Eighties. After the group collapsed, Mr Bain Snr was diagnosed with leukaemia, but recovered and set up the first Pizza Hut restaurants in Northern Ireland in the early Nineties.
Philip said: "I was at my father's side, watching how he worked, and by the time he died in 1993, I knew that my future lay in business. Dad was all about creating, building and bringing people along with him. That's been a very strong influence on me and how I run my business."
Philip Bain will be sharing his tips for business success in a series of articles, starting in next week's Business Telegraph
How data disposal firm beat the recession