Entrepreneur Interview: with Dan Martin, Elmtronics
Posted on the 25 March 2019
Headquartered in Consett, County Durham, Elmtronics has grown to become the UK’s largest independent supplier and installer of electric car charging points.
The business counts local authorities and some of the most globally-recognised brands among its clientele, since its formation in 2014.
Dan Martin, the CEO, gives an insight into Elmtronics and what the future holds for the growing firm in the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s latest member interview.
Tell me about your background in business
I started my career as an electrical engineer in the construction industry before moving on to leisure management, including public houses, restaurants and then operating holiday destinations and parks.
After a few years, I set up a small electrical contracting firm, which operated nationally. I had gained invaluable experience when I was working within the leisure and hospitality sectors, as I was managing large teams of staff. This gave me a huge advantage when I set up my electrical contracting business, which was a different kind of challenge for me.
The concept of Elmtronics came as a result of the emerging electric vehicle (EV) market, which was a niche industry and very challenging as it was a relatively new concept.
How was Elmtronics formed?
Having established my own electrical contracting firm, I wanted to diversify. Solar energy was a big thing at the time, but we didn’t want to go down the same route as everyone else.
I came across an article on EVs and wondered how they charge, which proved to be the inspiration behind the business and the eureka moment.
I wanted to get into the sector, and, at the time, there were only two or three companies involved in it, so we got in early and quickly built a lot of traction from a standing start. Elmtronics was formed and co-founded together with Anthony Piggott, who is the company’s Technical Director.
We started out serving the domestic market and soon tapped into the public and private sectors, building the company up to become the leading independent EV charging company throughout the UK.
Like anything, we put in a lot of hard work during the early days, going through the pains, bloody noses and scratches!
In your own words, what is it that Elmtronics does?
We design and build EV charging infrastructure for both public and private sector clients throughout the UK.
What is your proudest moment with the company?
Achieving a £1m turnover was the big one for us and a massive step forward for Elmtronics. We started out with £500, a laptop and a van, so it was a great moment and proved just how far we’ve come. For me, though, it is the little steps we make that allow for those big moments.
At the back end of last year, we expanded our team to 15, which was another significant milestone. We’re fortunate to have a close-knit team, who are great. In truth, they could work anywhere, but they come to us and Elmtronics for the culture and the excitement, instead of going elsewhere.
The team is a big part of what we’re doing, and where the company is headed.
Is there a particular mistake you have made while in business? And how did you overcome/learn from it?
We’ve been knocked down quite a few times over the last five years! Especially, the early days with cash flow proving to be difficult – as any business starting from scratch will testify to.
There were months where I didn’t pay myself, which is rough and can be disheartening, but it was all about tenacity and perseverance that drove us through those times.
Sourcing funding is another hard slog. It’s a journey where you’ve got to go through the pains and deliver pitches all over the country. That’s the biggest challenge, not building up the company. They really are the biggest sales pitches of your life.
What is Elmtronics’ USP?
The fact that we’re an independent company and match the equipment to the customers’ needs, as opposed to what’s best for us.
Our service elements are also key. We go the extra mile for the customer, nurturing them and looking after them throughout the entire process. This is the most important aspect, even greater than securing the actual sale.
How has the firm grown and what do you attribute this to?
We’ve grown 50% year-on-year since we established the company. The natural growth of the EV industry has contributed to our success, with electric cars becoming even more popular.
Our honest advice and overall customer experience has led to a lot of recommendations too, which has, in turn, enhanced our reputation as a leading company within the industry.
Do you live by/do business by a certain motto?
Do what you love, to love what you do!
What I mean by that is you have to find something you’re passionate about and what will truly make you happy in your career. It is what gets you through the hard times (with a good measure of tenacity!).
What are the future plans of the business?
We have a growth plan in place to expand throughout the UK, with the opening of several regional offices. This will allow us to really get under the skin of each region and increase our geographical presence.
We are innovators, not followers, and are always looking to embrace new and emerging technologies. The firm recently won an Innovation UK grant for induction charging, which is massive as this is one of the first in the country. We’re now focused on expanding our service range and looking to tap into the wireless charging market, which will further support the growth of Elmtronics.