Entrepreneur Interview: with David Park, Park Commercial
Posted on the 29 October 2019
Tell me about your background in business
I’ve always had a passion for innovation and blazing a new trail, even if that means being different to others, and I apply this to all aspects of my business.
When I started my first job as an insurance administrator with Langley Insurance, it was a traditional high street insurance broker. I worked my way through every role and came to the point where I was running an expanding Commercial client department. In 1998, I became Managing Partner but running the Commercial team was my passion and best fit for my skill set. Over the next six years we acquired two other insurance businesses and expanded from one branch to five. At this point the business employed 24 staff and recorded a turnover of £4m.
How was Park Commercial formed?
Following the turn of the millennium, I decided that the business needed to move away from the car and home insurance market and focus on the commercial sector. We discovered that we really did add value to our commercial clients businesses. Because we were able to provide an excellent and personal service, we also found this aspect of our business the most satisfying. We found that we were becoming the ‘trusted advisor’ that clients needed, due to the experience and industry contacts that we had in our team.
In 2009, we took the bold decision to sell our personal lines insurance business. We wanted to grow significantly in the commercial sector and this gave us the capital to do so. It was a scary moment, we initially reduced the business turnover by 75% but we had the resources to support this. This was a terrific learning point – ‘cash is king when building a business’. With the capital we had created, we set out to build an amazing team of people who were (and still are) experts in their field. That team has continued to develop and grow into the fantastic group of people that we have today, and as a result the business has flourished.
In your own words, what is it that Park Commercial does?
We allow business owners to sleep at night. We do this by understanding how firms operate, identifying the risks and mitigating the loss should the worst happen. It’s all about information gathering, understanding and planning. We’ve discovered over the years that firms, business owners and entrepreneurs share many of the same problems and risks. Where we add real value is that we have a genuine understanding of sector-specific risks that we can understand, highlight to the client and provide protection against.
We currently have 2,000 clients throughout the UK, the majority of whom are based across the North of England.
What is your proudest moment with the company?
On reflection, it was having the guts to take the decision to sell off part of the business and specialise in commercial insurance, markedly reducing its size to begin the process of growing the new business, Park Commercial Ltd, to the level it is today – employing 15 staff with a turnover of £5m. This was absolutely the right decision, but it wasn’t an easy one to make at the time. However, I’m pleased that I was able to have confidence in my experience and understanding of the sector, and my ability to be astute about how the industry was evolving at the time, and take this opportunity. It was clear that the insurance market was rapidly changing and it made sense to tailor our service to business clients as that was where we could add the most value.
Is there a particular mistake you have made while in business? And how did you overcome/learn from it?
Much of our success is based on creating a strong and trusted team of people. I made early mistakes when building the team and didn’t act quickly enough to fix those mistakes. That doesn’t happen anymore. I have learned to have open, honest and frank conversations. I never shy away from the difficult conversation and am always willing to help people grow – mentoring, learning, training and feedback all play an important part. Our team are our business so now we take a very considered approach to recruitment to ensure staff are committed to our core values and vision.
What is Park Commercial’s USP?
As a dedicated commercial broker, we are committed to helping businesses grow by providing stability and peace of mind. We aim to be a client’s trusted advisor and critical friend. To achieve this; our account executives take the time to regularly meet clients on a face-to-face basis to better understand their specific requirements. We have such a breadth of skillset within the office that whatever area of insurance is required, we always have someone in the office who is a specialist. We have worked hard to be successful and our achievements are down to good leadership, a trusted team and a willingness to go the extra mile. Having a set of core values that run right through the business reinforces our ethos throughout our everyday work.
How has the firm grown and what do you attribute this to?
The business has grown both organically and through acquisitions, and we continue to look for the right opportunities to take Park forward. Much of our growth is simply down to having highly motivated and empowered staff who deliver the right product for the client. This is reflected in the fact that we have a very low client churn which is well above industry standards.
We work very hard to train and educate our staff to the highest possible standards. The team are empowered to make their own decisions but also work collectively to achieve great results. One example of the level of mutual trust we have between employer and employees is the introduction of an unlimited holiday scheme, which has increased levels of staff responsibility, empowerment and productivity.
Do you live by/do business by a certain motto?
I don’t have a specific motto, but I have spent a great deal of time thinking about and establishing a set of core values for the business and developing a future vision. This helps everyone understand our primary aim of providing clients with the best possible service. Our core values, crystallising the way we choose to do business, are: honesty, excellence, respect, drive and stability. You can read more about each value on our website http://www.parkcommercial.co.uk/core-values/ .
What are the future plans of Park Commercial?
I’m always looking for an opportunity to grow the business through further acquisitions. In addition, the focus next year will be office expansion. We’ve run out of room, (not for the first time) so we’ll be expanding into the adjacent property which will double the floorspace. We plan to take on new staff in January with more to follow in the coming year. So the future is looking bright, and bigger!