Heidi Bingham is the Managing Director of The Craggs Country Business Parks, a business park in Cragg Vale offering units, serviced offices and storage facilities.
Why did you start your business in the first place?: I live in Cragg Vale with my husband Chris and children Charlotte, Sophie and Lucy and since we moved here in 1999, we had always driven by a slightly tired looking farm on our way home from work. We wanted to revitalise this part of Cragg Vale and so put some plans together for how it could be used. My family has a history in commercial real estate that goes back to the 1980s, and we’ve run several business parks in that time. The Craggs gave us the opportunity to take our personal approach to dealing with tenants and apply it to a unique countryside location.
What is your business motto?: We don’t have an official motto, but I subscribe to the idea that if you are right with people, they’ll be right with you. This doesn’t just apply to our tenants, but extends to our staff, partners, suppliers, everyone we work alongside.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?: Nobody is an island, and you can’t achieve everything on your own. Ask for help from everybody you can, whether that’s friends, ex-colleagues or the great resources available through the council. Make sure you get that help to find out where your weaknesses are and work on them.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?: For a real estate project of this size, particularly with such a unique selling point and in a location like ours, finance was a huge issue. The banks wouldn’t believe in our vision, so we self-funded the first phase of project. Cragg Vale is such a beautiful area, but as it’s not right in the centre of a city or next to a motorway I can understand their trepidation to an extent. It’s certainly not a problem we have any more!
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?: I’ve previously worked in the corporate world, and while I enjoyed it, nothing quite beats the fact that being self-employed means that you can really get things done. I can decide to do something with the business one day and it’s ready to go by the morning after, whether it’s marketing or operations.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?: I’ve always hated letting people down, and when things go wrong as a business owner it does weigh on your shoulders. Ultimately the buck stops with you, so you have to take on that responsibility, but the advantage of that is you’re the one who can do something about it.
Which business figure do you most admire and why?: Without wanting to sound too cheesy, it has to be my husband. We work together as a team so well because we’re so different! He has all the ideas and the vision for our various businesses, then I focus on how we can all work together on the implementation, it’s a great system.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?: Most likely it would be The Ark Nursery, which myself and my friend Jo created in 2002 and sold in 2015. Even though I’m not involved anymore, it was such an amazing time in my life and career. Looking back, I think we were both insane at the time! We both had our own children and decided to start a nursery, it was a total whirlwind. It was built from a compassion for amazing childcare, and it’s great to see it still doing well and achieving an Outstanding Ofsted rating for the third time in a row.
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?: The goal is obviously for Craggs to be fully tenanted, but aside from that we have several projects that we are starting now which we hope to complete in the coming years. We have just started our mission to make the park Carbon Net Zero, completely offsetting any of our emissions. We are also investing in the local landscape, planting trees and generally focusing on making it the most beautiful business park it can be. I want it to look more like a national trust site than a cluster of offices and commercial buildings.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?: I would love a robot housekeeper. I need a machine that can take clothes from the washing pile, clean them and put them away in the right places freshly ironed!
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?: It would be great to work in the NHS, because it’s such an important part of this country and to have a hand in making it even better would be hugely satisfying from both a career and personal standpoint.