Gearing up for success
Despite the recession, cash-flow problems and dyslexia, one young man is making his mark improving off-road vehicles, says
Wednesday 09 August 1995
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
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday
NatWest is taking a stand against payday loan brokers
How to cut the cost of car insurance: A five-step guide to getting a better deal
Donald MacInnes: Think-tank makes me want to watch Brad Pitt blow something up
Families pay the price of superfast broadband
How shops make you spend: The subtle art of the savvy retailer revealed
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Woman blinded as a child can see again after hitting her head on a coffee table
- 4 Paul Hollywood: Police asked if I wanted them to arrest Mary Berry for vandalism after she 'defaced' my car
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...
£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...
Day In a Page
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000