Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ed Heaver, Serve Legal: Navigating Challenges and Successes

In this exclusive interview with Ed Heaver, the founder of Serve Legal based in the United Kingdom, we delve into his entrepreneurial journey and the challenges he has successfully navigated. From overcoming setbacks to adapting to changing customer trends, Ed shares valuable insights on how he has built a multi-million-pound business. Join us as we uncover the unforgettable stories and lessons learned from his experiences, and gain a glimpse into his future plans for Serve Legal.

Interviewee Name: Ed Heaver

Company: Serve Legal

Intervirew Host: Jesse Samberg

The Interview

Let’s get started. First, we’d like to know more about how you started your business journey

Ed Heaver : Hey Jesse, thanks for having me on.

My journey into entrepreneurship kicked off after I graduated in Geography at the University of Liverpool. I spent about five years working in different places, got some solid training, but quickly realised the big corporate world wasn’t my scene. In fact, I was encouraged to leave my position at one point.

Anyway, I ended up at this small startup called Waterfall Holdings for about a year. I learned a ton there, about the challenges to anticipate and what not to do when running a business of your own. Then, I transitioned into another venture that was backed by a renowned venture capitalist Guy Hands. We used that backing to build and sell around 65 pubs, which was a big win for us back in 2002.

Following this milestone, my colleague Julian and I joined forces with Laurel Pub Co – that’s when things got more interesting. We had challenges related to underage drinking that cost us our license. It was a real wake-up call if you ask me, it kind of spurred us into action. We couldn’t find anyone to help us out, ended up paying a retired cop a considerable fortune for his advice.

But you know what they say, necessity is the mother of invention. We saw an opportunity in that mess and decided to do something about it. So, we came up with a solution that not only fixed our problem but also opened a whole new market. And that’s pretty much how we turned a setback into a multi-million-pound business, which is now Serve Legal.

Reflecting on your business history, what stands out as the single greatest challenge you’ve successfully navigated, and how did you overcome it?

Ed Heaver : If I had to pick one of the top of my head, it has to be COVID. It hit us hard – no sales, no revenue. Nothing. It was a time of immense uncertainty, with all our customers scrambling to assess their own business needs, and understandably, cutting back on spending.

However, I didn’t panic. Infact, it was a time I enjoyed the most in terms of business as the adrenaline kicked in and we had the right mindset for it. We came through the tide with hard work, clear thinking, decisive decisions, and good old comms. I strongly believe you think your best when thinking of ways to get out of a problem – so that worked out well in our case.

Businesses often face ongoing challenges. What does your business consistently grapple with, and how do you tackle these challenges head-on?

Ed Heaver : Internally, I think our business by nature has a workforce composition that brings its own set of dynamics. We work with young people – right from auditors to mid-management so there’s a lot of varying expectations. It’s crucial to foster an environment where you listen, taking their needs and desires on board. But at the same time, it’s equally important to ensure that there’s clarity regarding performance expectations. We have various tools and measures in place to help us gauge that, like staff surveys, work counsels, etc. We also invest quite a lot in helping our young employees move up the ladder. We recently set up the Serve Legal Foundation, whose first recipient was Catriona Jolley, currently a Marketing Executive with us. Due to her exceptional commitment to work, we’ve decided to offer her a scholarship for further studies, a comprehensive CPD programme, and a fixed two-year contract. We also have many young auditors who have moved to managerial positions due to an exemplary display of professionalism.

Externally, economic uncertainty is a recurring challenge. Since our inception in 2008, we’ve learned the importance of maintaining a top-notch value proposition even in turbulent times. We closely monitor key metrics such as query rates, complaint rates, and offer rates to gauge our performance. We also take client feedback very seriously. We conduct client surveys very frequently and distribute newsletters to add value and stay connected. Constantly assessing the competitive landscape allows us to stay ahead of the curve. Moreover, through initiatives like the Serve Legal Foundation, we aim to give back to the community while solidifying our brand’s reputation.

Can you share with us the most unforgettable story involving a customer or client? What made it memorable, and what lessons did you draw from the experience?

Ed Heaver : There are so many! One of my favourites is the one with Sky Sports, back in 2013.

At the time, we were in negotiations with them, as they required our services for media compliance in their pubs, presenting us with a unique challenge and opportunity. I remember the next thing around was Manchester Derby, and Sky Sports tested us out with 500 pubs to cover just within a week. It was a tight deadline, but we were up for the challenge. We quickly assembled a team of 38 auditors, including myself, by 6:00pm that evening, and devised a plan to efficiently cover the designated pubs.

Despite encountering unexpected hurdles, such as one of our auditors being temporarily “taken hostage” in a pub (fortunately, he emerged unharmed!), we persevered. We thought he’d never want to do this again, but it was just the opposite. In an impressive display of teamwork and determination, we managed to cover 493 out of the 500 pubs within a mere 90 minutes.

What made this experience truly memorable was not just the task’s successful completion, but the resilience and dedication displayed by our team in the face of adversity. Despite the challenges, our colleague’s unwavering commitment to the task at hand was inspiring.

As a result of our exceptional performance, we’ve had Sky Sports with us ever since, and not just that. They ended up paying us a lot more than what initially agreed upon.

Looking ahead, what are your current plans for your business when you retire?

Ed Heaver : We’ve invested significantly in a young workforce through training, mentoring, and leveraging external talent to ensure a skilled and empowered team capable of driving our business forward. Additionally, we’ve established a robust board to oversee operations and make key decisions, ensuring continuity and stability even in my absence. I believe my team is very capable of running the business in strategy or otherwise.

Navigating the small business landscape can be both challenging and rewarding. Can you share a bit about the specific hurdles you’ve encountered in areas like sales, marketing, and adapting to changing customer trends?

Ed Heaver : 1. Always try to keep ahead of the game. Make sure you’re delivering the best service and have KPIs in place that measure that.

2. Always keep an eye on new markets and new services. We strive to demonstrate the potential value of these offerings to our clients, crafting narratives that resonate with their needs. In our case, we emphasize the consequences of compliance lapses to highlight just how important it is to keep the business in check.

3. Always invest in people, systems, and tech. We make sure to set aside a portion of our budget to reinvest in the business each year. We’re also keeping an eye out to diversify into new areas, like allergens, revenue protection, and exploring new markets.

4. We’ve increased our spending on digital marketing initiatives, like Google ads, paid advertising, and invest in leveraging our social media platforms. It’s important to keep up with changing trends in all aspects of the business. Additionally, we’ve also enhanced our sales tracking system and transitioned into an end-to-end one. Right from the enquiries on our website to the approval of our proposal, everything is documented and easily traceable.

5. We’ve weaved AI into our system for auditor processes, particularly in data verification. This has helped us optimise our workflow and add another layer of accuracy to our auditing procedures.

Leaders Perception magazine would like to thank Ed Heaver and “Serve Legal” for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

Interested in connecting with the host of this interview series? Feel free to reach out to Jesse Samberg on LinkedIn: Jesse Samberg’s LinkedIn Profile

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