Clifford Towers’ client, Peter Walker of Compass Garden Designs, chats to us about managing client expectations, his advice for start-ups and why he swapped the constraints of the corporate world for perennial planting.
Peter’s skill at transforming gardens, large or small, to truly beautiful places of sanctuary are a testament to a natural sense of space, a deep knowledge and love of plants and a keen eye for detail. Technical skills, honed while acquiring the HND in garden design from Pershore College, combined with a real love of the English countryside and its gardens act as his constant source of inspiration. These have resulted in the creation of many glorious gardens. His own Northamptonshire garden is a tribute to a real passion for his craft.
Seeing the wood for the trees
But this is a world away from his previous career with Beyond Petroleum (formerly British Petroleum). After 25 years with BP, Peter decided he’d had enough of big commercial business and decided to re-train as a garden designer. In 2017, he teamed up with Louise Bowman-Shaw, a garden designer with more than 10 years’ experience, and together they established Compass Garden Designs.
Getting the right accounting support
They immediately appointed Clifford Towers as their accountants. Peter says: “It’s great to have someone like Simon who I can just pick up the phone to, or pop into his office, if I have a query. The whole team is very responsive and extremely good at dealing with HMRC and Companies House”.
Starting a business – It doesn’t always smell of roses!
Establishing a business can have its challenges and Peter is open about lessons he’s learnt along the way. Here are some tips from Peter based on his experience:
- Start-ups require a lot of work to get off the ground. Have a clear idea of what you want to do with your business and what you want to achieve. And make sure you have the experience and qualifications to do it.
- Starting a business can sometimes be lonely. Be prepared to get yourself out there and keep chipping away. The most important thing is getting the message about your new business heard.
- Marketing is key; and I don’t just mean placing an advert in the paper. Have a great website, use social media and make the most of word-of-mouth. Once you get your first client or customer and do a great job, shout about it and news will hopefully spread.
- Your sales pipeline is important. Sometimes you might wonder if the phone will ever ring! Our business is sometimes seasonal, and we recognise that, but we try and ensure we have a healthy pipeline of new projects.
- Get an accountant early on and don’t be afraid to ask for advice – they are the experts. Set time aside to think about what your future plans are and keep your accounts up-to-date.
- IT support has been a necessity for me so I would say that’s an essential thing to have and to understand.
- Attention to detail is crucial in our business but the same goes for any company. You are often the single point of accountability for everything so make sure you’ve checked, double checked and reconfirmed!
- It can be stressful, for example if a supplier lets you down or if you have a client with unattainable expectations, so make sure you have ways of coping. Obviously for me, it’s gardening and being outside!
- Try and make work your passion. I’ve always found pleasure in gardening but never had time doing my previous job. So, to now do what I love as a career gives me great satisfaction.