John Loveday struggled to find work after leaving the army, so set up Spearhead Compliance Training to provide other military personnel with the opportunity to gain qualifications. He told Business Advice how this background has helped the business take off and weather the tough times.
After leaving the military in 2013 with no civilian recognised qualifications, Loveday was unsure as to where he could and should find work next. He found a recruitment company which sent him on various courses, leading Loveday to the idea of providing other military personnel with the opportunity to gain qualifications.
His business started with Loveday working alongside co-founder Paul Hood from his house, with just a laptop and low-budget business cards. Since taking part in the accelerator programme Entrepreneurial Spark, they have gone from strength to strength. Spearhead Compliance Training now operates from an office in Birmingham, with 125 trainers nationwide and backing from entrepreneurs including Poundland founder Steve Smith.
Loveday spoke to Business Advice about the company’s fast growth and how his Armed Forces background has resulted in Spearhead being run with a rigorous and dedicated approach.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is John Loveday and my business is Spearhead Compliance Training, which provides compliance-based courses from health and safety to first aid, to companies and individuals nationwide.
(2) How long have you been around for?
We have been trading for two years to date.
(3) How do you make money?
We deliver the UK’s leading online and practical courses to organisations ranging from a small business all the way through to multi-billion pound organisations. Our courses cover many areas and our most popular are first aid, health and safety, food safety, fire safety and care sector courses.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
In all honesty it is very difficult to differentiate in the training industry, this is something we had to get right in order to stand out against the mass of other providers out there. We realised we couldn’t differentiate on cost and we couldn’t differentiate on resources. Where we could be different was regarding standards of training delivery.
Our trainers are all experts in their field – each trainer has been through a rigorous selection process and is continually monitored.
We also differentiate in the fact we do not deliver an “off the shelf” service. Each course for each client is bespoke because we care about their business, we listen to their business goals and objectives and tailor the training to those goals and objectives. My co-founder Paul Hood and I are both former members of Her Majesty’s Forces and run the business like a military operation.
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?
For us it was belief, we had to believe in what we were planning to do. If we believed in our service then our potential clients would too. We bootstrapped to begin with and used our own funds and resources.
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
That’s a tough one – we have had so many recently, but something that stands out is gaining Poundland founder Steve Smith onto our board. This in turn has enabled us to secure a huge national contract with one of the UK’s largest retailers, qualifying over 8,500 staff from 106 stores over five years.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
We have had challenging times where we felt like giving up. We took no salary for a number of months due to reinvesting every penny back into the business, but we pushed on and it has now paid off in huge ways.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
Investing in further businesses and selling Spearhead Compliance Training, at which point it will be one of the UK’s leading training providers with multiple national contracts.
(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
Validate your idea, service or product before you spend any money or time on it. Do this by ensuring you have a customer – if you have no customers you have no business. Ask people if they would use your idea, service or product and if the results are good then go for it. If they’re not then fail fast, fail cheap and move onto the next idea. Entrepreneurs love problems because we love finding the solutions.
(10) Who are your business heroes and why?
I have many and I like to take elements from each person. Rod Tompsett, the former CEO of Jessops and St Tropez fake tan brand, who is now an official business advisor for us. He has been superb for our personal development and as a mentor. Elon Musk is also someone I admire, he is challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries and I like that.
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