Friday, 15 February 2019
PAUL CARPENTER is the proprietor of Henley Computer Repairs in Hart Street, Henley. He was born in Stonor and went to Rupert House School in Henley followed by Presentation College in Reading. He then studied avionics at Brooklands Aircraft Engineering College. He lives in Peppard with his partner Simona, who also works in the business, and their dog Barney. Paul enjoys travel, mountain biking and, naturally, computers.
Describe your business
I specialise in the repair and installation of iPhones, iPads and small company IT structure. A lot of my work involves installing smart technology in people’s homes.
How many people does it employ?
There is just Simona and me.
What did you do before you started this business?
After graduating from Brooklands, I worked as an avionics engineer for more than 15 years. Before I set up the business, I started to develop my IT and PC skills and began building a client base while still working in avionics.
When did you start your business?
In October 2014.
What was your objective?
The company I was working for was gradually cutting back on staff and asked me to work longer and longer hours. I liked to have time off but it was becoming increasingly difficult so I wanted to escape. Eventually I decided to jump ship and take a leap of faith.
Who or what influenced you to set up your business?
Nobody really. My dad had always been self-employed, running his own business, and I think I’m independent in the same way.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
My dad encouraged me and offered me good advice when I started.
What would you do differently if you started again?
I think I’d do exactly the same. I’m just happy that I got past the first year to be honest!
How is your business doing compared with last year?
About the same. There are no peaks and troughs as the business isn’t seasonal but last Christmas was busier than usual as people seemed to be more reluctant to spend on new products, preferring to get their old stuff repaired or upgraded. Because of the economic uncertainty people were being cautious.
How do you market your business?
My website, Facebook and Instagram, but I don’t put a lot of effort into it. Most of my jobs are repeat business or as a result of recommendations. Where our shop is there’s very good footfall. When I was looking for a shop, the location appealed to me because I had observed Carphone Warehouse always tried to get premises near traffic lights. When cars are stationary the occupants tend to look at the shops while waiting for the lights to change. It’s amazing how much business that has brought me!
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Freedom, being independent and not having to take any flak.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
It can be stressful. You never seem to get the same problem twice. People and small businesses are very reliant on technology, so I have to work under pressure to solve whatever the problem might be to get them up and running again quickly.
How important are online sales?
Not at all.
Do you have a five-year plan?
I think it may well take five years for things to settle down after March 29, whatever the outcome might be, so I’m not really planning any significant change.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
The importance of keeping clients happy.
What’s the secret of your success?
Keeping small and not overtrading.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Patience, resilience and determination. You must have passion for what you do and not just be in it for the money.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Think and plan very carefully before taking the leap. Make sure you have a good reserve of cash before you start as things always cost more than you think they will. It will take at least a year before you establish a reputation, so the first year will be tough.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Probably taking on too much work at the start and not realising how much time some jobs would take. When you first start you want to do everything.
How organised are you?
I’m rubbish! That’s why Simona is so important to the business. She knows everything and everyone. I know much more about computers than about people.
How do you dress for work?
Very casual. A lot of my work involves old servers and computers which may be quite dirty, so I dress accordingly.
What can’t you be without every day?
My phone, my PC and the internet.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
I don’t have a routine. Usually it’s on the go.
Do you continue to study?
Constantly. What I did a year ago is not what I do now. Everything changes so rapidly I have to keep up.
What do you read?
I don’t enjoy reading. Videos are my means of learning. I learn more quickly with someone showing me what to do than I would through reading instructions. It’s easier for me to process information that way. I use YouTube and follow about 20 people and companies.
How are you planning for retirement?
It’s a long way away and I don’t think I’ll ever fully retire. What I do isn’t physically very taxing, so I can work on as long as I want to.
11 February 2019
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