Mike Coates tells Business Matters why his way of doing business is being a straight talker and not using jargon to confuse clients
What do you currently do?
I’m the Managing Director of Commercial Expert Ltd, an independent commercial finance brokerage based in County Durham, offering a comprehensive range of business finance to a broad spectrum of clients, each with differing financial requirements. The team and I commit to offering expert advice to businesspeople, helping them find the best deals relating to commercial and residential property investment finance, bridging finance, asset finance, commercial restructuring, development finance, and property portfolio finance.
We’re proud to be authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and a full member of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB) since 2008. This ensures a robust process is adhered to throughout the application process and regulated commercial financial advice is offered.
My mission is to ensure every business gets the finance they need to grow and succeed through a fair and honest process.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Commercial Expert actually started under the guise of Chestnut Finance, and I was heavily involved with offering mortgage advice. Unfortunately, when the financial crash occurred in 2018, the mortgage market took a beating and I’ll admit I began to panic. But, instead of shutting shop like many suggested I should, I switched my focus to commercial finance brokerage leading to the birth of Commercial Expert – the rest is honestly history.
Throughout our years’ of operating as Commercial Expert, I’ve held that inspiration close to my heart and ensured that we as a team are agile and have the passion and drive to adapt to changing markets. We keep abreast of the news and industry updates so that when speaking with potential clients, we know we’re offering the precise support they need.
What defines your way of doing business?
Our way of doing business is simple; we are ethical and act in the best interest of the client, always. Businesses in need of commercial finance come to us to get the job done, so we don’t believe in delivering a service which doesn’t fulfil their requirement.
I’m a straight talker, and just because I work in the commercial finance industry, doesn’t mean I need to use jargon or present information which can confuse things. Clients need details explaining correctly and clearly, so it’s a no-nonsense approach from us.
I also think it’s in the best interest of our clients to build a team of experts, and sometimes that means consulting people more knowledgeable than myself. I’ve never believed in egos, and regularly take the opportunity to shine a light on the team when they’ve been behind a great deal we’ve secured for a client. Having the right expert do the job is the ensured way to achieve an excellent, reliable service every time.
What do you admire?
For me it’s all about character. The go-getters, the hard-workers, the passionate people with the drive to become more experienced in their field – all extremely admirable qualities. I find myself naturally drawn to those who demonstrate the above qualities but are driven by the example they want to set for their families. I am a devoted family man, so those who always strive to put their family first are definitely my favourite kind of people. When someone is driven and determined in everything they do, they move with tenacity and purpose – that kind of consistent effort within a person is incredible.
Honesty is also extremely important, specifically those who have the respect to be honest and admit their mistakes. Being honest with yourself and others about what’s gone wrong allows for communication to begin about how it can be rectified. In fact, communication in general I find admirable. Being able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people is a skill not everyone possesses, those who do have my respect.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
To be perfectly honest, there’s a number of things I would have done differently, oh the joy of hindsight! In general terms, I wish I’d have gone with my gut feelings more often. I’ve learnt to trust myself and my gut now, but in the early years I didn’t have the kind of confidence to make decisions based on instinct.
When looking at the changes and developments I’ve made over my career, I think it’s safe to say I’d have brought technology into play sooner. Technological advancements are what drives a business forward and keeps it relevant, but in the past, I’ve acted with trepidation around technology that I probably should have been bringing in there and then.
Similarly, I’d have looked to increase awareness of Commercial Expert much sooner. We’ve started using marketing and PR strategies to improve reach, and the benefits we’ve seen make me wonder why we never used it sooner. But, as always, you live and learn.
If I had the opportunity to go back, I think I’d also focus more on pure commercial finance rather than trying to diversify into other ancillary services in 2016.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
I’m a firm believer that we should follow our hearts, but my advice is to always do your research properly. It’s vital to know and understand the market you want to occupy, even if it does feel right. I’m a big advocate of thorough research and I think people should never stop learning new things.
Surrounding yourself with smart and knowledgeable people and building a network is also valuable when just starting out. It’s amazing how much you can learn just by being around people, but you have to make sure they are the right people. Sometimes, having a mentor might be the best option. They are extremely powerful influencers when it comes to your business, but they also hold you accountable – something I think we all need.
Try to network as much as you can. Pick up the phone and communicate with people; remember emails can be ignored, so be the person that makes the effort to properly reach out, because that’s the person that will be remembered.
Finally, a last piece of advice I’d give, not just to people starting out, but as a recommendation; always remember that a cheap service usually means you’ll get a poor service. You get what you pay for, and I think people often forget that.