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Spotlight on success – Mobius Works

07 January 2021 | Paul Hardman

In the first of our ‘Spotlight on Success’ stories, we talk to Lee Bignell, founder of Mobius Works

Tell us about your business

I started Mobius Works in 2017 to try and bring something new to the industry. Rather than becoming just another construction company, focussing on one aspect of a project, I wanted to offer clients a holistic service that includes everything they need.

We go into projects with a really open mindset and find ways to make it happen, rather than pigeon-holing ourselves as delivering a certain type of solution or trying to fit the clients’ needs against our services to make it easier for ourselves. I think our attitude has paid off as we’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some amazing landmark Bristol projects in the past few years. We’ve worked on various retail and residential aspects of the new Wapping Wharf harbourside development, developed the Loungers Group new HQ in Baldwin street and built and fitted out the Yeo Valley office & café in London.

As well as taking pride in working with other local businesses and seeing them flourish and grow as we do the same, we try and employ local people and play an active role in the community. We’re a team of nearly 50 people now and together we do try and give something back. We regularly raise money for Bristol charity Empire Fighting Chance for example, who empower young adults through sport and get involved in sponsoring local football teams and community groups where we can.

 

Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?

Before setting up Mobius Works, I’d been in the construction industry for 15 years and had two other businesses, so it wasn’t like a sudden moment where I got the idea. It was more of a culmination of all I’d learnt taking shape and becoming a reality really.

Through having run businesses before, I was able to think about what I did and didn’t want to bring to Mobius Works, that experience is really invaluable. It gives you a sense of how you want things to be from the start and gives you the opportunity to put into practice the lessons you’ve learnt from past mistakes and successes.

 

What’s been your biggest challenge to date?

Fast growth is something to be pleased about obviously, but it does bring its challenges with it if you haven’t got your house in order. We’ve grown 40% year-on-year and if we hadn’t got our structures in place around the governance of the company with a board and proper forecasting then it could easily have been a different story.

The same as for all businesses, Covid-19 has bought its challenges.  But in some respects, we’re lucky because we’ve been careful not to put all our eggs in one basket. As well as having clients in the retail sector, which has been badly hit, we work with lots of different types of businesses and our skills are transferable. We stay agile, it comes down to mindset really. Obviously, skills are important and so is doing a quality job – we reflect that in our ‘infinitely better’ branding. But being infinitely better isn’t just about the workmanship, it’s the customer service and our attitude to it too. Someone who has got a positive, open mindset and looks for new ways to do things and isn’t afraid to change tack if a project needs it, is always the type of person I look to employ. Skills can be taught and developed but mindset is about someone’s attitude.

This mindset drives the leadership team too. Yes, there are always challenges but we’re looking at what impact Covid’s had on the market and thinking about where the opportunities are. For example, we’ve recently launched a new wholly owned subsidiary called Mobius Construct, to focus on some of the bigger projects and repurposing of commercial space that’s going to be going on post pandemic.

People are really important to us too. As things change so rapidly around them, the pandemic has given our team the chance to show how creative they can be when it comes to thinking outside the box. Plus, we’ve seen some really great talent coming on to the market, which is exciting and gives us the opportunity to explore new avenues.

 

Where does professional advice come in the story?

This time round it was really important to me that everything was right from the start. When you set up a business for the first time you think it’ll all be OK and that you can work it all out as you go along. You realise once you’ve done it before that this isn’t always the case and that getting in specialist help from the start can be invaluable further down the line.

There are so many implications for the future in how you set up and structure your business that people just aren’t aware of. I worked with GL Law to make sure that I had all bases covered from day one, from shareholder and director agreements to employment and client contracts. It just makes the day-to-day so much easier once you get going with everything in place.  We also worked together on Mobius Construct, I wanted to understand the implications of how we set it up in relation to Mobius Works and what the best structure was.

 

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?

I think if you’re going to do something, you should do it properly. That goes from when you’re first starting out to when you’ve been going a while. Don’t just go down the cheapest or easiest route if you’re serious about something in your business, it rarely works out.

As I’ve already mentioned, mindset is really important to me. I think to start your own business and make it a success, you have to keep an open mind and be able to react and adapt as things change around you. Getting too wrapped up in things so you can’t see the wood for the trees is easier said than done when you’re so invested in what you’ve created but you have to try in order to keep perspective.

I think having a plan in place for if the worst possible happens also helps to keep perspective and frees your mind to focus on opportunities rather than worrying. If you’ve got a grip on your finances and what you would do if A, B or C happened then you’re always ready, and everything else is safe.

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