Interview | Paul Smith

In Conversation With..

Issue 66

Tell us about your role at HLA Services?

I am co-owner and a director overseeing our large multi-disciplined in-house contracts departments for both the ‘end user’ and construction sectors. I also oversee the financial departments.

What services does the company provide?

We provide essential compliance and operational services including heating, general and specialist ventilation, air conditioning mechanical services, plumbing, water hygiene, refrigeration and catering equipment and mechanical and electrical services, as well as, more specialist services such for example LEV (local exhaust ventilation), legionella control, car charging points and air source heat pumps.

What’s your proudest business achievement?

Every few years this changes. Obviously, setting up a business back in 2003 with Neil Henry at the age of 29, was quite an achievement (these days, with the gig economy, not such a big thing but back then it was) but we didn’t have time to be proud. I am also very proud of the various business awards we have won, as well as guiding and expanding the business through the financial recession and following years.

However, I have to say, it’s the way we have dealt with, and battled the COVID-19 situation, including keeping the business active and profitable and looking after the wellbeing of our staff and customers, that stands out above all else we have faced. Although we are still in the grasp of the pandemic, the end is in sight. I think we will come out of this quite unscathed thanks to the efforts of all the staff. This, I feel, will probably be our finest achievement. Even dealing with the aftermath of Brexit will seem like a walk in the park, after this!

What challenges have you encountered?

You can take some of the above as our greatest challenges, but the everchanging face of health and safety, human resources and the add-on costs associated, has given us some large challenges. The difference in the landscape over the last 18 years is massive and rightly so.

How has the industry changed since you started the company?

We are a very nimble and versatile company. We can change course and adapt very quickly and this has helped us survive the legislative and technological changes we have had to deal with. We have always found an opportunity within change.

Who are your heroes in and out of business?

There are obvious answers like Richard Branson. However, I would have to say my heroes are my peers in business. I know a lot of business owners and they are all heroes for taking on a small business and growing it to a decent enterprise, whilst looking after their staff, especially in these harsh times.

Is there a mantra you always aspire to do business by?

Honesty and reliability.

How do you like to unwind?

Aside from with my family, it used to be scuba diving but it’s been a few years since I did that. Recently, it’s been exercise, although not always successfully!

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