As Solutions Asset Finance (SAF) reaches its 15th Birthday this week. We kick off the celebrations by interviewing our CEO Steve Bowers, the man responsible for creating the vision at SAF. Here he gives a very candid interview covering how it all started and why SAF has been so successful.
Can you believe SAF has turned 15 years old? How does that make you feel?
As a person I very rarely look back and am always focused on what’s next. If I reflect on what SAF has achieved as we approach 15 years of trading, I’m immensely proud; that’s both pride in the business achievements and the development of the staff within the business.
On the business front we have achieved so many UK firsts, becoming UK market leaders in our specialist sectors and completed transactions that we’ve had no right to given the size of business, whilst often competing against global banks and the like. On the staff front we’ve been very lucky to build a great team and watching (and hopefully helping) them develop over the years has and continues to give me the most pride.
Going way back to the beginning, how did it all start?
I always suspected I’d have a go at working for myself, it was just all about the timing and bravery. I recall creating a couple of other businesses and business models prior to SAF but whilst I was still working but I never really committed to them. I was working for a bank at the time and as one of the top sales people I was invited to a motivational speech which happened to be Simon Woodroffe of Dragons Den, he was talking about my favourite subject and one I regularly bore the staff about; ‘getting outside your comfort zone’ and I decided it was time to get out of mine and 2 weeks later I left my job and started trading as Solutions Asset Finance.
Looking back did you ever envisage the success that SAF has had?
In terms of envisaging success, I left my comfortable job with 3 months money in the bank and no secured business, and it was all about survival rather than success. Having said that I’m very rarely scared of failure and that’s helped me massively in most things that I do, its very cliché but I’m very firmly in the camp of you don’t fail, you learn, and that helped me towards success over the years.
Can you pick our one moment that you feel was defining?
There’s been so many defining moments, if I have to pick, there would be two; the first being the realisation that we needed a proper office as we had too many staff for the loft over the bacon butty shop where SAF was originally based. Soon after we moved to the current offices that are now Solutions House and house the 15 staff; the other would-be business based when we passed the milestone of funding £100,000,000 of business. As we reflect now, we are not that far away from £1bn, but at the time the £100,000,000 just seemed like way too many zeros.
What makes SAF standout and what’s been the key to success?
Tenacity, tenacity, tenacity …. I think that’s our biggest strength and for me, what the business has been built on and something I personally focus on. We want to know more, understand more and get more invested in opportunities that come our way. We are genuinely interested in our customers and what they want to achieve, we go above and beyond to make that happen often against traditional thinking, but always with the customers needs in mind, as that’s the key for me.
15 years is a long time at the helm of a successful business, how do you manage to kick back and relax?
I play the odd round of golf and like the fresh air, get out on my bike or walk a hill or two!