Friday, 19 August 2022

Let's get down to business... with Steepal's Paul Bradley

Let's get down to business... with Steepal's Paul Bradley

PAUL BRADLEY (pictured) and his business partner Steve Sampeys are the proprietors of Steepal, the kitchen and bathroom showroom in Reading Road, Henley. They became friends in their twenties when they lived in the same road. Paul lives in Bracknell with his wife Maggie and they have two grown-up children, Lisa and Lee, and five grandchildren. Lisa works in the business.

Describe your business

We are in the kitchen and bathroom business and do everything from an initial survey and design, utilising the latest computer software, through to supply. We provide a complete installation service using our own experienced craftsmen. We focus on the domestic market but also work with local housebuilders and contractors on new builds and renovation projects.

How many people does it employ?

At the moment there are five.

What did you do previously?

I was the manager of a distribution warehouse for 15 years but this was poorly paid so I decided to qualify to drive heavy goods vehicles. Then I worked in a metal workshop in Wokingham until I was made redundant and then worked for Dolphin Showers and Bathrooms. Steve and I started working together in the Nineties.

When did you start your business?

In 2001 we had been doing some installation work for a man running a bathroom business from the premises where our showroom is now. The business was struggling and losing money. The owner didn’t have much technical knowledge or experience and it was obvious that he would eventually have to give it up or run out of money, so Steve and I decided to acquire the business. We had already become business partners having set up Steepal a few years previously. The name Steepal is an abbreviated version of our first names.

What was your objective in starting the business?

I don’t think we really had one as it all happened fairly quickly.

What or who influenced you?

Being in the home improvement business, we became aware that the thing that kept coming up was bathrooms.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

Steve and I have each other, which enables us to share and discuss whatever issues might crop up.

What would you do differently if you were starting again?

Knowing what we know now, we would have started earlier!

How is your business doing compared with last year?

Since 2008, following the financial crisis, the business has been a bit erratic with ups and downs but recently it has become more steady and there are positive signs.

How do you market your business/service?

Our showroom is our main “advert” and we do only a minimal amount of other advertising. We occasionally do targeted leaflet drops. The Yellow pages used to be our main strategy but it’s about to cease publication having now become internet-based as Yell. We use social media, Facebook, Instagram and Houze. James, who is our salesperson, is very capable in that area. We also actively search for people doing house extensions or renovations and make contact with them to offer our services.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Having control.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Uncertainty. Not knowing if and when work will be coming in — and worrying if it isn’t! Also there never seems to be enough time.

Where is your business headed?

We have plans to open another shop in Crowthorne this year, which is big new venture for us.

Do you have a five-year plan?

Opening the new shop and making a success of it will keep us busy over the next few years!

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Our staff are our most valuable asset and it’s very important to keep them happy.

What advice would you offer someone starting a business?

You really need to know what you are doing. It’s very important to do your homework first.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Happy to say that there hasn’t been a really big one.

What’s the secret of your success?

Developing the knowledge that relates to the business.

What three qualities are most important in order to be successful?

To ask for help when you may need it, to recognise the importance of good timing and to select the right products.

How are you planning for eventual retirement?

I’m not sure that we are in any hurry to retire but now that we are about to have two shops we intend to work towards the time when they will generate enough income for us each to work less and take more time off.

How organised are you?

Not as much as I should be.

How do you dress for work each day?

It’s important to look fairly smart as I now spend most of my time in the showroom, so I dress “smart casual”.

What can’t you be without at work each day?

Nothing readily comes to mind.

Desktop or mobile/pad?


Lunch at your desk or going out?

I have lunch in the showroom most days.

Do you continue to study?

Not really.

What do you read?

Newspapers and lots of instruction manuals!

What are your hobbies?

When I’m not working I use my spare time to think about work!

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