Each week we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Philip Milne, the founder of Peterhead-based property surveying network HICH
How and why did you start in business?
Having trained as a buildings insurance claims inspector, I found there were two common reasons for companies turning down people seeking payouts on their policies.
The first was poor workmanship, and the second a failure in the original inspection and survey to highlight historical defects at the point of purchase.
I saw a gap in the market and, in 2011, decided to create a national surveying business that provided not only a high-specif-ication service over multiple survey types, but also used the best people in the industry for a fraction of the normal costs.
Since then I’ve grown the business to five full-time staff, complemented by 32 freelance surveyors located throughout the UK from Plymouth to Wick.
How did you get to where you are today?
Hard work and persistence.
Firstly, I set about developing an online platform to connect surveyors nationally. This allowed data and images to be remotely sent to our office for reports to be generated in-house.
The website was also used as a marketing tool to showcase our work and promote the services we offer to the general public nationally.
We’ve succeeded by being able to offer a variety of bespoke property surveying options throughout the UK.
Who helped you?
A number of people, including family and friends – especially my wife, Caroline, who simply believed in me.
Special mentions are also due to Paula Bowes, our head of administration, who is a force and always goes above and beyond, and our very first surveyor, Robert Wheeler, whose efforts helped drive the vision forward in the early stages.
Development is nothing without the correct support system. This we found in David Groundwater at the Federation of Small Businesses, which has given us great support and continues to be a limitless source of information.
What has been your biggest mistake?
At the beginning of the business journey we commissioned the wrong web designer to build our website. We were naive and lost a lot of money at a time we could least afford it, but I like to think we have learned from our mistakes.
What is your greatest achievement?
By far our best was winning the award for the best bespoke roof and property surveying company in the 2019 SME News UK Enterprise Awards.
We have also been shortlisted for the 2020 Global 100 Awards, so fingers crossed on that.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
Homelessness. There needs to be a state-funded support system that provides more help for those without a roof over their head.
What do you still hope to achieve?
We are in mid-development with a new iPhone/iPad app that homeowners can download for free and complete their own survey, avoiding the need for a surveyor site visit.
The app will allow users to upload data and photos direct to our main hub, at which point the information will be reviewed and edited by our building engineers. Our clients can then pay for the completed report online at a significantly reduced fee.
What do you do to relax?
Before Covid-19, relaxation was travelling. We love visiting Orkney and Shetland, spending weekends away or on location for work, and enjoying the history we have right on our doorstep. That is our relaxation.
How would your friends describe you?
That depends on which friend you ask. I would hope they would say I am loyal and reliable, someone that would go through walls for them – no pun intended.
What would your enemies say about you?
I’m not aware of any negative comments being made about me or against me. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
At the moment I’m driving Caroline’s Audi TTS when I’m not in the company Ford Ranger.
I’ve always wanted an Audi R8.
However, I’d have to say that the real dream is a Porsche GT3.