Case Study – Mike & Toria Thorpe

Lighting by Plum

With over 20 years of experience and expertise from award-winning, industry-leading companies, Toria and Mike decided to combine forces in 2014 and create Lighting by Plum.

In the last three years, Lighting by Plum has worked on over 150 residential homes and gardens including listed buildings, new builds, buy to sell developments, flats and apartments, country estates and barn conversions.

Toria and Mike’s technical knowledge and highly creative approach to lighting projects have been the foundations for building a successful business. And they were ready to take things up a watt or two!

Why Ash?

I met Ash through a networking group in Amersham. I hadn’t heard of him previously; however, I was impressed with the conversation we had, and I understood the role he could perform in our business. Because, from a position I had previously held in a design firm, I knew an outside perspective could be invaluable.

In that role, I was asked to review each department and ‘poke the bear’ as such (then solve with applications and technology).

As a team, we fully appreciated the value of having a person unrelated to the business look at it from all angles. Someone who can see what you can’t because you’re too close; and perhaps too focused on the ‘every day’ rather than the direction and efficiencies. It was the ‘poking of our bear’ we knew we needed from someone with Ash’s experience.

How did Ash help your business?

Before engaging Ash, the company was doing well; very well. However, we recognised that to take the next steps; to drive the business forward and grow, we needed some help and guidance. We needed a ‘third wheel’ who could understand what we wanted to achieve and help us get there.

To start, Ash identified the need, then helped us to define every role in the business. At first, this was challenging for us because we were all used to doing whatever was needed. But once we settled into our specific roles, we saw a massive improvement to the efficiency of our systems and procedures. Both because we were all now accountable for specific tasks, but also because we were more focused on what we, as individuals, had to achieve to make a positive impact on the overall team and ultimately the business.

How else did Ash help?

By not knowing the ‘ins and outs’ of the lighting industry, Ash was able to ask questions we would never have asked ourselves. In particular, he will often ask “But why do you do it like that?” or “What would the best lighting design consultancy do or offer in that instance?”.

These questions allowed us to look at our business very differently. We had possibly fallen into the ‘that’s the way things are done in our industry’ trap. But with Ash asking the unexpected, we started to see things from a different perspective. This set us apart from our competition; because we were now creating our USPs. One of the most valuable things we’ve learnt from working with Ash is that asking the questions above will enable you to arrive at better answers for your business.

What are Ash’s strongest qualities as a coach?

Ash is direct and honest. And often, it’s honest feedback you need to hear to force a necessary change.

Ash has so much experience as he’s worked with lots of companies, which has exposed him to many scenarios. So he has a wealth of knowledge to share, and he suggests ideas we would never have thought of.  And he’s very efficient with his time. You get a lot achieved in two hours.

Ash also challenges; he takes you out of your comfort zone. At the time it’s not necessarily a great feeling, but once you’ve achieved what he’s asked of you, you can instantly see the benefits to your personal growth and that of the business.

One particular challenge for me was making a video to showcase our company. Being in front of the camera is not my happy place, and it took some encouragement. But I did it, and we’re now seeing the benefits through increased business.

Ongoing role

We continue to use Ash regularly for ad-hoc projects. Particularly our board meetings. Because we know that if we want to raise a particular issue or idea at a meeting, Ash will be that person who can advise and guide us through to the right answers and outcomes.

He’s the ideal person to throw ideas at and get valuable answers and guidance to implement those ideas – if they’re the right ones.

If I could summarise I would say we will be regularly asking Ash to do some more ‘poking about’ because it will undoubtedly result in improved performance for our business!

Would you recommend Ash?

I frequently recommend Ash to other SMEs – he’s an easy referral. And my advice to them, always, is to engage with him even if you’re doing well. Because he’s not only about helping you out of a hole and getting you back on track; he can help take your business to the next level. He’s your third voice, or wheel, and gives value and benefit across the board, whatever stage your business is at.

Mike Thorpe, Design & Technical Developer, Lighting by Plum