This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the UK’s leading independent mobility specialist providers, TVM Cheltenham Ltd.
As a new century began, Millennium celebrations took place throughout the UK, Catherine Hartley and Fiona Thornewill became the first British women to reach the South Pole, and Kevin O’Leary sold his pride and joy, a Porsche 911 SC Targa for £11,000.00, to fund his new business, TVM Cheltenham.
Inspired by an opportunity which arose as a result of relocation, and with money in the bank, Kevin decided to become self-employed. His new mobility business grew quickly, providing a steady income to support Kevin and his family, and then grew into a sustainable local business to aid people to remain independent in their own homes for longer. That was the birth of TVM Cheltenham in January 2000.
Rapid business growth happened as a result of Kevin identifying a gap and solution in his marketplace. There were few mobility companies specialising in hoisting equipment in the South West, with most of the work being completed by larger national companies. Having worked for many years with two of the national companies, Wessex Medical (now Wessex Lifts) and Test Valley Mobility, Kevin offered his services as an agent to look after their client base in the local area. This allowed Kevin to maintain existing business relationships while developing good working relationships for his clients in the local area.
As TVM Cheltenham Ltd built a solid reputation with professionals in the locality, the company managed to secure new business whilst staying true to their relationships with the companies who had helped them at the start. Twenty years on, the company continues to maintain an excellent working relationship with Wessex Lifts and Test Valley Mobility (acquired by Prism in 2009).
Growing and sustaining a business for 20 years takes vision, dedication, belief, effort, consistency and resilience. When Kevin was asked the secret to TVM’s success he said:
“One of the keys to our success stems from listening to the needs of our clients and delivering a personalised service in a professional and reliable manner, at a reasonable price. We treat our service users in the same way we would expect members of our own families to be treated, politely and with dignity and respect.
Managing challenges, change and becoming good leaders goes hand in hand with growing a successful business. One of the biggest challenges Catherine and I faced was ensuring we had the right people to carry out the growing workload. Personally, at the time, it was a complete leap of faith to let go of some of the responsibilities I had, especially as I had started the business as a one-man band. As we grew, we began to implement a training regime to facilitate effectiveness and efficiency. In the early years, in my role as a developing leader, I made time to leave whatever I was working on at the time, in order to focus on, nurture and build confidence within the engineering team. This meant that I would spend time working in the evenings at home to complete additional management responsibilities, such as administration and financial reports.
In terms of building resilience, Catherine and I never felt like giving up even though at times, all we seemed to do was work. We were, and still are, building a team that can share the workload, and we are proud to say that the company is now supporting the whole team and their families.
From 2000 – 2020 we have seen many progressive changes within our business and the mobility sector. In 2000, I was a self-funded sole trader, working from my home office and sub-contracting my services to Wessex Medical and Test Valley Mobility covering the South West and up to Birmingham, installing and servicing hoisting systems and various other pieces of equipment, while gradually winning more local business.
In 2004 Catherine and I incorporated the company and we became TVM Cheltenham Ltd. By 2004 we had secured the servicing contract in South Gloucestershire and were responsible for the maintenance of ceiling track hoists in Bristol, on behalf of NRS, who held the Bristol contract at the time. That same year we employed our first full time engineer to concentrate on the servicing and repairs. This enabled me to invest my time on the installation side and to introduce complementary product lines for business growth.
The company continued to grow, and in a short few years we increased the team to 4, including myself and Catherine. At this stage we were installing complementary equipment to hoisting systems and we secured a workshop in Kingswood to operate from. Our next growth step came as a result of the South Gloucestershire Framework Tender for Hoists, Through floor lifts and Stairlifts. TVM Cheltenham Ltd. was successful in gaining the contract for the hoists which guaranteed us work for the next three years. We employed an electrician, who enabled us to register for NICEIC Electrical certification, and moved to larger premises in Yate.
There is always change, to make equipment safer in use, more reliable and more affordable. One of the most positive changes over the last 20 years has been the development of hoist tracking systems that allow a single hoist to transfer a client anywhere within that room, or if the structure of the property allows it, anywhere on the same floor using room covering and gated systems. This is enabling greater choice for people to continue living at home.
Achieving a milestone of 20 years in business is a huge celebration. When asked how it makes him feel, Kevin commented:
“We are thrilled to be celebrating TVM Cheltenham Ltd at 20 although we’re not quite sure where those years went. An amazing achievement, not only by Catherine and I, but also by the team. We’re grateful for the dedication of those who have joined us along the way, and together, we pride ourselves in the high standard of service we deliver.
As we reflect on our 20 years in business, we can recall countless winning moments. Key highlights we’re proud of achieving include being able to start, develop and sustain a successful small business, without any financial help from an external source, which now operates successfully to support an increasing workforce; developing and gaining professional certified Quality and Safety systems, ISO 9001, OHSAS 18000, NICEIC and Which? Trusted Traders and enhancing them over the years to provide a better experience to our client base year on year; regaining the Framework contract for South Gloucestershire Council to continue supplying their hoisting requirements for the next 5 years (2019 – 2024).”
At the heart of TVM Cheltenham Ltd lies a positive and progressive culture of a high-functioning and supportive team, based on the alignment of core values, which attribute to the company’s success.
“Our company ethos is to provide a service that we expect for ourselves and our families. We respond to need, with courtesy and good manners, at a reasonable price. Nothing short of this is acceptable. We only use selected products with a proven track record for reliability and performance, and our engineers are fully trained in the installation and maintenance of equipment. We allow people to develop within their roles, who in turn, contribute to the growth of the company”, said Kevin.
How do TVM Cheltenham Ltd plan to celebrate their 20th anniversary in business and what’s in store for the next 20 years?
Kevin commented: “Catherine and I appreciate it has been a team effort to reach the 20-year milestone. To say thank you, each member of the team was given a Christmas bonus and a little something from Catherine and myself. For us? I would like to say that we will be opening a bottle of bubbly. But anyone who knows Catherine and I will say we will most likely enjoy a cup of tea with biscuits and discuss what needs doing next.
Looking forward, Catherine and I will continue to take each year as it comes. We will ensure the team is engaged and happy, as they develop and build their experience through continual training. Staying true to our values and standards, we will continue making loyal working relationships stronger and seeking out fresh ideas to overcome obstacles.”