Getting to know you: Paul Brown

What do you currently do?

I am the owner and managing director of specialist short term vehicle leasing company Cars on Demand based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The business also incorporates supercar hire company Supercars on Demand.

What was the inspiration behind your business? 

Having spent a number of years working for a large corporate rental company, I saw an opportunity in the market for a leasing product that sat between short term daily hire and long term leasing contracts. Having tried to develop this with my employer, and finding the bureaucracy and process of trying to bring a product to market prohibiting, I decided to leave and pursue it myself.

Following on from this, in 2010 I decided to add Supercars on Demand as a sub-brand. The idea came when I bought my first luxury car – a Jaguar XKR – and it rapidly depreciated in value. This sparked my ‘lightbulb moment’ and business idea to offer consumers the opportunity to drive a supercar without the associated investment and running costs.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I have a firm belief in never regretting any decision, and this holds true with running Cars on Demand. Of course, hindsight is wonderful – but it only allows us to make better future plans and not dwell on past judgements.

What defines your way of doing business?

Being flexible and fair with all our customers is the lifeblood of my business. We work alongside the customer to come up with a leasing solution that suits their needs – avoiding the ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Our product works on different levels for different types of customer, too. For example, short term vehicles are an ideal transport solution for small to medium sized businesses that require ad-hoc access to vehicles to accommodate constantly expanding field sales teams or freelancers, or have a high staff turnover.

However, it also works for individual consumers that may need access to a vehicle on an ad-hoc basis to cover a change in circumstances. So, if a customer secures a new job role and is awaiting a company vehicle, they can take a car from us to cover the waiting time and simply hand it back when their company car arrives.

I think the five main descriptors for my way of doing business would be honest, clear, flexible, fair and fun.

Who do you admire?

It sounds very predictable, but first and foremost it’s my parents who taught me to be honest and have integrity – which has transpired in the business that I run. Secondly – and in a business context – I would have to say Richard Branson’s success story is very inspiring.

What advice would you give to someone starting up?

First of all, write a business plan that includes both the sales and marketing strategy, but more crucially the financial plans and budgets to ensure that you can measure success. Try not to invest or borrow too much initially (remember, what you might have spent on a hobby now needs to return your investment!) and build up slowly to generate cash to fund expansion.

Also, I would strongly advise getting a mentor. No matter how passionate you are about your idea, turning it into a successful business requires support. Whether it’s a friend or someone with more in depth business experience, it helps to have someone to challenge your ideas, stop you getting carried away and help you overcome difficulties. Running a start-up business can be very lonely, so having some close advisors can really help.