It is with a certain sense of irony that Design Fire Consultants celebrates its 10 year anniversary. When we first set out, we were considered as “two mates doing some fire engineering at our kitchen table”. You can see from the photos below that we were younger, thinner, but no less optimistic than we are now.
Fast forward 10 years, and it seems that this is now the enforced reality for most companies…proof perhaps that we never really needed the additional overheads. Lesson 1.
For some, certainly our new accountant, the idea of starting a fire engineering consultancy in the middle of a recession was fairly bonkers. We had zero equity, zero cash, zero systems, zero templates, zero procedures and zero background in running a business. But…we had a clear goal and clear conviction: Provide better quality consultancy, better quality product and a better quality of life. Myself and my co-founder Jonny were both Chartered Engineers with good and varied experience…I cant think of many companies back then that offered 100% chartered engineer attention on their project. Know your unique selling point. Lesson 2.
‘Many companies fail within their first year’…we were acutely aware of this. In our first couple of years I sold most of my furniture and at times survived off bags of porridge oats and some vegetables. However, when the opportunity is so clear and when clients begin to arrive, there are some material things that seemed less important than the long term goal. Be committed. Lesson 3.
There are many lessons we learned in those formative years: communication, selling your quality, learning how to get paid (and get paid quickly), those lessons could form a post in its own right. But those first 3 lessons stood us in good stead for the next leaps.
I read a fantastic book recently (*) which drilled home the lesson of ‘grow or die’…and we have certainly had a few of these moments. We have been fortunate but clever in our growth in recent years, prioritising quality over quantity. A longer term strategy, but one that is reaping rewards and one that gives us confidence in the team during the current climate of consulting at your kitchen table. This growth stands us in good stead for the future, with the demands on fire engineers ever greater, the demand for quality ever higher, and the industry in such turbulence, there is still much to do and many more lessons to learn and to teach.
But we endeavour to remain true to our conviction – Provide better quality consultancy, better quality product and a better quality of life.
So, as I sit directing DFC from my own kitchen table again, I consider where we’ve come from and contemplate how or what to celebrate. Celebration doesn’t come easy at the moment. So until we have a chance to celebrate in person, I will allow us to celebrate those things we are proud of: our team, those special projects (and the less special but no less important ones), giving back to the industry, doing things that matter.
I also want to especially celebrate and thank those that believed in us in the beginning, those that have continued to support us, our families, our clients, our friends and allies and our talented team.
We do hope to celebrate with you in 2021. Drinks will be on us. Cheers!
(*) Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of Nike, Phil Knight
- Posted by Iain Macfarlane
- On 5th November 2020