Gearing up for success

Despite the recession, cash-flow problems and dyslexia, one young man is making his mark improving off-road vehicles, says

Kevin Mason is one of that lucky band of individuals who can turn their hobby into their job. The proud owner of a 34-year-old Land- Rover, he was driving along one day when it occurred to him that the engine should be strong enough to produce a cruising speed above the usual 60mph.

Having trained as a farm manager and worked on the land for several years, he was confident enough with machinery to start tinkering with the vehicle's gearbox. The result was a gearing system with modified ratios that not only increased his cruising speed to 75mph, but also improved fuel consumption and reduced noise levels.

A little research in the close world of Land-Rover enthusiasts convinced him there was a market for what he had produced - and off he set in 1991. It was not, however, to be a smooth ride.

The problem was not shortage of orders, but of cash. Demand for KAM Differentials' product from owners of such models as MGBs and rally versions of the Ford Sierra, as well as Land-Rovers, meant he soon had a turnover of pounds 40,000 from his base in Godalming, Surrey. But that meant he had to order thousands of gears to make his adjustments one at a time and had to take on more staff. All this, combined with the recession, put the young entrepreneur under severe pressure in 1992 and 1993.

Fortunately, he was used to the odd setback. His previous business, a chicken farm, had gone under when the 1987 hurricane struck southern England and blew down his barn.

Now he sought help from the Prince's Youth Business Trust, which helps people under 29 who have been unemployed for a substantial period or who have a disability, in which case the age limit is a year higher. Mr Mason had a double qualification in that he had been out of work and also suffered from the reading disorder dyslexia.

He persuaded the trust that pounds 5,000 would be enough to get him out of trouble. "But it wasn't enough," he says, adding that he then borrowed pounds l0,000 from the Rural Development Commission, while Barclays helped him to obtain a further pounds 15,000 under the Government's loan guarantee scheme. This financing, on top of the negotiation of a 60-day credit period with his suppliers, put him back on the road. Thanks to expansion of the export side from 5 per cent to 25 per cent of the business, and a deal to supply equipment to the Sierra Cosworth motor team, turnover is on target for pounds 200,000 this year and should double in the following 12 months.

Much of this could come from expansion into producing differential locks to assist the performance of off-road vehicles such as Land-Rovers in difficult terrain. Other companies are involved in this field, but Mr Mason is confident that he can beat them on price at the same time as maintaining his reputation for quality.

He also believes he has the management in place to prevent a recurrence of the original troubles. The Prince's Youth Business Trust adviser Eric Sidebotham, who visits the operation about once a month, has provided "a lot of tips on commercial contracts" as well as checking on such matters as cash flow. Although he is looking after the trust's investment, he has become "almost like a personal friend over the three years".

In the meantime, Mr Mason picked up some business knowledge himself through winning a place on a Cranfield School of Management financial course in a ventures competition organised by National Westminster Bank. Though it only lasted three days, it was so intensive and the tuition so helpful that he gained an insight into producing cash-flow forecasts, business presentations and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. He now attends seminars organised by the trust and reads business books.

Moreover, his staff are also highly motivated. "They're working for low wages now, but they know that they'll be part of a big business in the future," says Mr Mason. And himself? "I'm ambitious and eccentric, and I don't think I would be very happy just bailing and feeding the sheep or chickens."

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Suggested Topics
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Financial Analyst - Forecasting - Yorkshire

    £300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...

    Business Architect - Bristol - £500 per day

    £500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...

    Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

    £200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup