A Birmingham number plate manufacturer fought back from the brink of bankruptcy to hit the long road to success – after their accountant called them a ‘basket case.’
Aston-based Hills Number Plates was on the verge of going under just four years ago after losses and bank debts piled up – but a cost-cutting programme and major rethink saw the firm on the path to recovery.
Its efforts were rewarded with an Ernst and Young award for turnaround achievement, and now Hills’ horizons are fixed firmly on more success.
Hills has reversed its losses by turning an £800,000 deficit in 2007 into a £1 million profit last year, and is now looking to create extra jobs and target new export markets.
The Electric Avenue firm, which produces six million number plates a year and supplied the James Bond Aston Martin car in the last 007 blockbuster Skyfall, recently completed a new £4 million funding line deal with HSBC to further bolster their future prospects.
But back in Christmas 2009, Hills looked to be running out of road as cut-throat competition and ill-judged investments in hi-technology hit the balance sheet hard.
Managing director Richard Taffinder said: “Back in 2007 we made an £800,000 loss on £9.1 million turnover.
“The market had turned into a commercial bunfight and that had been the case for several years.
"We were being priced out of the market by the competition and the market had dropped by 22 per cent in 2008. We had over-invested in technology solutions. On paper, we should have gone.
"The accountants called us a basket case. We had debts up to our eyeballs in a declining market.
“We were completely insolvent but I got some investors on board and also some significant support from two or three suppliers who extended credit terms.
"We made a few redundancies and went down from 80 to 56. The loss was cut to £150,000 but now we are back to 76 people and the turnover is £13 million.
“We paid off everything that we owed; we paid off £1.8 million of debt over four years. We made £1 million profit last year and this year we will do £1.1 million.”