RPM Hire owner and director Ashley Woodcock began his entrepreneurial journey while he was still at university, starting with only three signs for hire. He had low expectations for the business. Never has he imagined that he would grow his venture into a successful enterprise and enjoy the experience along the way.
Supplying variable message signs (VMS) is the core of Ashley’s business. For over seven years, he has expanded his company by doing other product lines and services and now has over 400 signs and other products for hire. It’s a niche industry, but Ashley found huge significance in what he is doing, serving not only their clients but the general public as well. “If we’re giving the public a warning, it allows them to change their habits, take a different route, or use another mode of transport for that day. During road closures, our signs are dotted along a detour route to help them navigate around the closures,” he explained.
Now, Ashely is sharing some message signs for upcoming entrepreneurs to help them navigate through the business journey, which may be full of potholes, mounds and twists and turns.
1.) "The best time is now"
Ashley was in university doing an entrepreneur class when someone came to him and said, “If you want to start a business, the best time to do it is now, when you don't have a mortgage and family pressures.” Starting a business requires one to put in a lot of time and often not take a lot of money out as initial profits are put back to finance the growth. While it is advisable to start the journey young, it doesn’t mean that it is not suitable for those who are beyond their youth. Regardless of age, it is always better to start sooner into the journey rather than to stall time until it’s too late.
2.) "Work smarter and harder"
He quoted a common saying that states, “work smarter, not harder”. Although Ashley somewhat agrees with it, he believes that it is better to be both working smart and working hard. With such a combination and with many opportunities available, he finds it as a winning recipe for success.
3.) "Stick to your values"
His values of honesty, operating with integrity and a level of openness, and putting their customers first meant that Ashley runs his business with good intentions. He pointed out, “We don't hide the fact that we're there to make money, but we're going to do it the right way and not rip people off or take advantage of them if they're in a desperate situation. I guess it starts with being a good person, leading right from the top and providing the best possible service.”
4.) "Be your customer’s partner"
“We look to partner with our customers as opposed to working for them. If we can take some of the heavy liftings off their shoulders, then we will do it. We've built ourselves as experts in the area. It goes right to even the small tasks. We are doing the hard work, understanding their pain points and making it easy for them,” he professed.
His business ethics of providing quality service to their clients and giving them value for their money have helped him to prosper in the industry. Ashley goes the extra mile, sometimes taking calls in the wee hours of the morning and answering them with a smile. To be the biggest or the cheapest business on their playing field is not his goal. For him, it is to be the best partner for his clients.
5.) "Find a solution to every challenge"
Getting and retaining good staff members and maintaining a positive cash flow are some of the major challenges for his business. RPM Hire is service-driven and needs high capital investment, so Ashley has to make sure that he has the best resources to deliver good service to their customers.
“Challenges are opportunities, opportunities to build a solution that highlights our values and strengthens relationships, and often lead to opening up further opportunities in the future,” he quipped. According to Ashley, you can come up with a solution if you are not afraid to think outside the square and do not regard the status quo as the best way to do things. He also stressed the need to match your business model with your strategy. He learned to resolve issues by sticking to his values, staying firm and moving past the negatives.
6.) "Enjoy the journey"
Despite the detours and road closures, what kept Ashley still on the track after all these years is that he enjoys whatever he is doing. There were a lot of long nights and after-hours phone calls, but he found all these exciting and gratifying. He added, “The highs have been watching the business grow and develop and turn into something so much bigger than myself. Watching the staff grow and take on the values of the business, and our customers giving great feedback about that as well, I find it fulfilling. So, yes, it's been a wonderful journey.”
7.) "Continue to grow"
What he enjoyed most in his being an entrepreneur is the journey of growth. With more than seven years on the journey, he still finds a lot of things to absorb and learn, which has brought him beyond the startup stage. “If you're willing to keep on learning and developing and pushing through, then that five-year mark is exciting, as it was for me,” he said.
Part of his continued growth is joining EO Melbourne in November last year. “I've enjoyed the experience. The events have been amazing, especially with the quality speakers and presenters. The forum experience is awesome because of its encouraging and motivating environment. There’s a diverse range of people, all with similar goals and parallel challenges in business, even though our businesses are very different.”
Moving forward, he wants to continue with that growth, focusing on his personal development and staff development. He wants to provide them with opportunities to grow and have a rewarding career. For his business, he plans to open up interstate later this year, with hopes to transition towards a national footprint five years from now. Because he knows his clients well, he is familiar with their pain points and the systems and processes that they need. “It's going to be a challenge for sure, but an exciting one,” the passionate entrepreneur said.