This week I’m excited to introduce Tom and his wife, Kelly, to my Parents in Business series who founded product and design consultancy; Raymont-Osman, a couple of years before their daughter was born.
I’m a little in awe reading this story as Tom attracted well-known clients from the outset, and also won awards for the business. I also really love the honesty that Tom shares about running a business around their daughter, and how Covid has impacted them in terms of childcare. It certainly has been a juggle!
I would love for you to have a read of Tom’s really inspiring business story. His top tip of focussing on what you’re good at is a must-have for anyone wanting to set up their own business – no matter what industry you’re in.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
My wife, Kelly, and I decided to take the plunge and set up our design consultancy back in 2014, reasoning that it made sense to do this before the patter of tiny feet. Looking back, this was, perhaps, one of our best decisions, having since discovered the all-consuming nature of parenthood! I don’t think we would have had the energy or the appetite for risk that those early days needed. As it happened, our first employee ended up holding the fort, having been with us for only a couple of weeks, when our daughter, Evelyn, arrived in May 2017, whilst I took two week’s paternity leave – I think it was a steep learning curve for us both!
In essence, Raymont-Osman is a multidisciplinary product design and development consultancy, developing products for a range of clients – ranging from mass-manufactured consumer goods to one-off pieces of industrial or test equipment. Our USP is that we specialise in managing the entire range of product design activities – from the initial concepts, working out what a product needs to do, through all of the detail design and then working with manufacturers to get products made and launched, rather than just the initial design. To help do this, we have a large set of specialist tools from CAD design computers and FEA simulation software to 3D printers and physical test machines, within a large barn conversion office set on a working, Warwickshire farm within the village where we live.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham and worked for JCB for four years and then another design consultancy for six. It had got to a stage in my career where I was looking for the next step. In the back of my mind I had always wanted to set up my own business, and Kelly had come from a background where both her father and grandfather had owned engineering businesses and were able to offer advice, support and motivation. Prior to the big step of handing in my notice, I was able to utilise my contacts and friends, finding two brilliant first customers in Aston Martin and Speedo. This helped to minimise the initial risk and keep the wolf away from the door!
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
Running a business can be time-consuming and stressful. It can also be flexible and allow you freedoms that a 9 to 5 simply can’t. From the outset, Kelly has been an active partner and a sounding board for decisions, whilst continuing to work as a Head of Year at a local Preparatory School. Running a business can be very lonely, and being able to share the emotional load at home has been invaluable – sometimes, talking an idea through is all it needs and it goes to show that you don’t need to background in engineering to have some valuable ideas! Due to the long hours associated with teaching, I’m the in wonderful position of being able to do the nursery run every day. Before Evelyn came along, it was easy for both of us to keep working, but now we have to balance our time to ensure that we are able to devote enough time to family life. It’s important to have a partner who is on the same wavelength and many of our most important decisions – both good and bad – have been made at the kitchen table with a glass of wine in hand or a toddler on our laps!
The current covid-19 lockdown has really tested us to the limits professionally and personally, and we have certainly taken a couple of weeks to adjust to who works when and who is ‘on shift’ as children’s entertainer. This has definitely been the biggest challenge we have experienced in terms of balancing business needs around family and children! For now, we have settled on an arrangement of one day working, followed by one day of childcare, but toddlers are unpredictable, and we have certainly had to overcome the challenges of video conferencing accompanied by mini ballerinas and snotty noses!
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
There have been a lot of successes along the way, from moving into an office and employing our first member of staff and every new client who chooses to work with us is a brilliant occasion. The pinnacle so far has undoubtedly been winning a RedDot Design Award with Speedo, being listed within the UK’s Top 100 Design Consultancies by Design Week and a finalist for the Design Week Product Design Innovation Award last year. Sophie Pascoe breaking a world record whilst wearing the Speedo Fastskin Pure Focus goggles that we helped to design was also a great day, and I’d like to think we helped a small amount in her achieving something so amazing! There have also been some thrilling moments, such watching that first, initial cranking up of the fabric milling machine we designed for Unspun Textiles – modelled on an original one from the 1890s that now only exists in a museum. A significant team effort, involving several tonnes of equipment and months of planning and simulation, there is always a lot of relief when a machine works for the first time!
What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
Concentrate on what you know and what you’re good at – employ others to do the rest. If you are struggling with accounts, hire an accountant, if you are struggling with IT, hire an IT support company. This will let you focus on what makes you unique, giving the best possible service to your customers and allow you to spend time on the activities that generate profit. Don’t be afraid to admit it when you have made a mistake (we have made many!) Whilst it can dent the pride, it’s really important to seek help and advice from those who have been in the business longer – you’ll be amazed what others can do to help!
Thank you so much Tom for being part of my series, it has been great to feature you and I wish you all the best in the future.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Cuzena, Gray & Greenery, and Oliiki