Established in 1997 by Andy and Lisa Postle, Allspars Limited on Plymouth’s Queen Anne’s Battery has grown to be one of the most respected yacht riggers in the marine sector.
The business supplies the UK sailing community with bespoke rigging solutions, masts, booms, furling gear, hydraulics, deck hardware and a wide range of other marine products. They also undertake repairs and refurbishments and have an in-house machine shop enabling bespoke designs to be manufactured including masts, spars and rigging.
Allspars reputation as a trusted supplier of technical products also led them to branch out into the UK-wide distribution of quality marine brands. To ensure that trade customers didn’t consider them as competitors, this side of the business was established as a limited company in its own right in 2014 trading as Technical Marine Supplies Ltd (TMS) and is purely a business to business operation which doesn’t supply the end user.
The business has grown by some 30% in the last five years and now employs a team of 24 including a new apprentice and one who has just passed his apprenticeship period. In recent years it has outgrown its headquarters on Queen Anne’s Battery and has acquired additional premises in nearby Cattedown and opened a new workshop on the Hamble in Southampton.
The technical expertise and experience of the team is also used by the construction sector seeking advice and design solutions for architectural rigging including balustrading, structural braces and trusses, membrane and lightweight roofing.
Success is attributed to in-depth knowledge and hands-on sailing experience, personal service and responsiveness supported by high levels of stock. The key is teamwork with a knowledgeable and technically expert staff and supportive and committed owner managers.
However, they are operating in a tough marketplace and need to be agile in their response to changing needs. The boat owners’ profile is ageing at a time when consumer discretionary spending is shrinking. The trend for fewer but perhaps wealthier customers is likely to be maintained in the foreseeable future and, although this group may be financially protected from the fallout of Brexit, there is an inevitable uncertainty for businesses in the marine sector.
Both Allspars and TMS have the same three shareholding directors – Andy Postle (Managing Director), Lisa Postle (Finance) and Dave Barden (Operations). As part of a company restructure, they now have the facility for members of their senior team to acquire a shareholding in the business at the appropriate time.
Andy Postle said: “We have been advised by PKF Francis Clark partner Martin Atkins and client manager Luke Green for around seven years and they oversee our accounts, corporation tax and personal taxation as well as providing invaluable strategic advice. They are a good team and are absolutely on it.
“Over time we have grown from being a relatively straightforward limited company to one where we have restructured with a holding company and separate trading and property companies. Martin and Luke have taken us through that journey providing expert and insightful advice. They helped us organise a share system so that we have the ability to further restructure and perhaps help other members of staff to become involved in the ownership going forward.
“I have also been considering an exit strategy. I have seen others leave their ideas on selling their business too late. They run out of effort and energy and are left trying to sell a business without planning for it.
“Our plan is not to prepare the business for sale as such but for succession to take place from within the team that we already have. They are very loyal, experienced and technically expert and it would make sense to see the businesses pass to them in the right circumstances and at the right time.”
The combination of having staff who not only know their jobs well but really enjoy it too and an organisational ethos that is focussed on customer needs and ensuring you have the resources to deliver is working well for Allspars.
“First and foremost we are sailors,” said Andy, “so customers have confidence in our technical knowledge and engineering ability. We have also built a reputation for taking care of our customers, paying attention to detail and responding quickly to their individual needs. We can do this because we have a very capable and committed team so even when pressures of business mean that my co-director Dave Barden or I are unavailable, enquiries will still be dealt with in the same professional manner.
“We also carry high levels of stock which allows us to be very responsive. We continually reinvest in stock holding and customers come to us because they know we’ve got it, can get it quickly or can make it.
“Our people make us strong. We all get along well and enjoy each other’s company. We put on family oriented events which always include everyone’s children and this reaps rewards in the loyalty our staff show and the extra mile they are prepared to go when it’s needed. We had a customer visit our workshop recently and they commented on how happy everyone working here was and that is very rewarding feedback indeed.”
PKF Francis Clark’s Martin Atkins added: “We really enjoy working with Allspars, their drive and passion for the business is obvious and seeing our advice help the businesses go from strength to strength is fantastic. We are looking forward to working with them on future plans and helping to bring those ambitions to reality.”