Aspen Waite CEO talks ahead of South West Expo

By Gill Harris on 25 June, 2019

The South West Expo is just over a week away, but there’s still time to book tickets.

The event at Swindon’s Steam Museum has a packed schedule of workshops, networking opportunities and talks by key industry figures.

Among them is Paul Waite, CEO and founder of Aspen Waite, an accountancy and business advisory firm specialising in helping SMEs to grow. We caught up with him for a chat…

Can you give us a taster of what you’ll be discussing in your Keynote Speech?

I will talk about how I rose from losing my “mojo” at a time of adversity by rebranding Aspen Waite as a professional services company at Phase One and then founding the Complete Business Growth Service at Phase Two. Trusting in what I believed in and having the confidence to open up in public and preach my message that basically all businesses deserve to be well advised. Staying true to one’s principles, daring to believe in something and embracing collaboration.

And how are things at Aspen Waite?

We have opened an office in Wantage as a result of a merger at the beginning of June and also set up a new office in Deal in the early spring, the latter being a result of an organic development.

Having expanded into a number of other non-professional services business as well, there are not enough hours in the day. With growth of around 80%, literally something new or exciting happens every single day.

What sets Aspen Waite apart?

Having worked for two of the Big Four firms and then a Top 20 firm, I am as well placed as anyone to assess the market and where the gaps are. The likes of PWC, Deloittes and Ernst & Young are full of talent and some great brains but there is all too often disconnect between those fine brains and the client. This has created an opportunity for someone like me who genuinely cares about all businesses.

Our proud boast is “Any Business, Any Size, Any Sector, Any Where”. The boast is sincere and genuine so we literally have clients with next to no turnover all the way up to hundreds of millions of pounds.

We are true friends and are comfortable working with distressed businesses.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

If I had to name just one it would be simply surviving after injudicious practise acquisitions and borrowing too much money at a time when the market changed or, rather, bank attitudes did. Keeping yourself going when you are dispirited and worried is hard. I remember one day telling my bank manager that unless he lent me some money I was going to wind up the business. Fortunately he did!

This experience, which lasted a number of years, has shaped me, kept me humble and allowed me to empathise with our clients.

You say you believe “The Answer is Yes, What’s the Question?”. Tell us more about this approach…

I have been labelled as the “Ultimate Can Do Man” and also “a man who does not know what “no” means”. In any business which has customers who require solutions that has to use technology and faces competition then I refuse to believe that there could be no R&D activity. So I am always looking into a business to see how the answer can be “yes”.

Last year we saved a company that was being forced into liquidation by HMRC, putting considerable fees at risk as we put saving the client first, not asking for money when the client was already down.  Suffice to say we saved the client and ultimately got paid.

You say you’ve ‘made every mistake a businessman can make’ – tell us more!

I often lead off a talk by stating this.  It’s not what people are expecting and it sets the scene. This is also what inspired me to write a book about my experiences in the first place.

Here is a summary of the key mistakes:-

  • Not hiring people of the right quality, i.e. trying to save money – in fact, this approach costs you.
  • Being too soft leading to a poor bad debt record.
  • Initially acting like people I worked with had to be my friends.
  • Injudicious acquisitions – not doing my homework properly.
  • Trusting people I should not have. This has affected me in multiple different areas.

Through mistakes and failure comes enlightenment and understanding. It has helped shape me and make me who I am today.

You can book your free tickets for the South West Expo on July 4 at eventbrite.co.uk or call 0843 289 4634.