Andrew Franks, ClaimsLine
A change in the law prompted a big change in strategy at Claims Line, which provides support for people who have been involved in an accident, says its co-Founder and Commercial Director Andrew Franks.
- What does your business do?
Claimsline offers an accident management service for motorists who have been involved in an accident that wasn’t their fault. We provide free and easy wraparound support to get drivers swiftly back on the road following an accident, and give them the appropriate aftercare and assistance to recover any losses incurred. We employ 25 people and will have an £8 million turnover this year.
- Why did you decide to start your business?
We saw that insurance companies were falling really short with their clients and wanted to offer them a better solution to using their insurance after an accident. We felt it was unfair for drivers to be penalised after they were in
an accident, losing their time spending hours on the phone and having to pay their insurance excesses, which average at about £348 in the UK. What’s more, these drivers weren’t being given a suitable replacement vehicle, if they were given one at all, whilst their repairs were often being made not by a manufacturer approved garage. All of this was putting clients and their vehicles worse off after an accident they didn’t cause, so we felt this needed to change. From previous experience we knew it was possible to provide a service where we could return a client to the same position they were in before the accident, so we set out to make that a reality.
- How did you get it off the ground?
We started out by setting up commercial arrangements with replacement vehicle providers and bodyshop networks to see if it was a viable solution. Once that was agreed we recruited a strong team with knowledge within the sector and began to market the service we could offer online.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
My co-founders and I started the business with £15,000 from personal savings. We have a very reliable network of partners and are in a fortunate position where they pay us very quickly – I know that can be a challenge for some businesses starting out. This has allowed us to scale up quickly and reinvest our capital into our systems, staff development, and marketing.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
Definitely the Personal Injury Reform in May 2021. In a nutshell, it would have meant at the time that we would have lost about 50% of our revenue – roughly around £3 million. We weighed up the options available and most looked pretty bleak and would have made the business untenable at worst or have to downsize at best. I had a meeting with one of the providers we work with and they were looking to increase in size but couldn’t really fund doing so, so I proposed that we buy into the business to provide them working capital, which doubled the amount of work they were able to purchase from us. This allowed us to continue to grow and offset the losses from the reforms, and it also allowed them to grow.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
Usually the point at which you are working the hardest and feeling like you are not making progress is just before the tipping point.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
During the first lockdown in March 2020, we continued to market and were spending heavily to do so but there were so few vehicles on the road that it wasn’t viable to continue. We were losing money fast and wondering when it would end. It was really frustrating but like many others there were little to no customers to provide our services to at that point. We took the decision to turn off all marketing, pay the staff in full and have some time off for a few months until we finally returned to the office in June. It was a tough decision, but I’m proud that we were still able to support our team during that difficult time.
- What has been your biggest mistake?
We should have set up the business sooner.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
It is all about the people you have around them. You need to empower them and lead by example.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Try to make informed balanced decisions; that’s where having a team of experts is really important. Second, if you believe in something then you need to work hard at it in order to succeed, which sometimes means sacrifice. Finally, don’t be disillusioned by thinking other people are doing better or having it easier - just keep going.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?