A specialised niche product and service can bring challenges as well as advantages
Castle Group has been in Scarborough since 1971. The owner, our Scarborough Business Hero, Simon Bull, told me that his father moved the business here from Reading as part of the regional development at that time.
Castle Group specialises in environmental measuring, monitoring and assessing, in relation to health and safety, the outdoor environment or production machinery. It sells both services and products, offering professional training courses, and an online shop with a consultancy division and rentals. The business provides the capability to measure anything environmental from air quality to electromagnetic fields.
Simon began his career in construction where he was sponsored by Wimpy before moving to work in America. Eventually he was invited to work in the business and returned to Scarborough to do that. He bought business from his father in 2014.
I asked Simon if his experience of business had been all that he imagined it would be. He admitted it had been a lot tougher than he could have imagined in a number of ways.
Firstly, it’s not easy taking over the lead of a family business. And then the recession hit hard. The products and services they offer are specialised and often the first to get chopped by customers when their own times are hard. As with other Scarborough Business Hero businesses I’ve spoken with, they have found effective marketing needs to be consistent.
What makes Castle’s business offering unique is its flexibility. They deliver across the range of service providing training and equipment for hire or rent. For example a customer concerned about noise levels in their factory could buy a noise meter or Castle can do the measuring for you, or train you to do it. The customer can then buy or rent solutions. They match solutions with needs depending on what’s best for the client.
Simon is clearly proud of his business in particular their customer service he calls “the Castle Way”. They really care about and look after their customers.
I asked Simon what he loves about his business and in particular doing business in Scarborough. He loves creating the products and is constantly innovating. He sees things other people don’t. He is a great fan of Scarborough: he loves the sea and enjoys surfing and sailing at Scarborough Yacht Club.
In particular he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond. He’s involved in Scarborough Business Ambassadors and feels he knows a lot of people and businesses. That wouldn’t happen in Leeds for example. So there are advantages of being a well-established business in such a small town far from the competition in cities such as Leeds.
There are challenges of course. In particular, ensuring sufficient new orders. Being in such a niche market means his target market is relatively small locally. While all manufacturing companies need Castle’s offering, he has very little business from Scarborough itself. Simon noted wryly that if they do come to him, they often want it for free!
Finding the right people to join his team in such a small town is also a challenge.
To find out more about Castle Group, go to https://www.castlegroup.co.uk/
To find out more about our Scarborough Business Heroes project, go to https://bit.ly/2T7QQWJ