From sleeping on the office floor to a £1.5M business

August 8, 2017

Law students Gareth Smyth and Craig Graham slept on their tiny office floor and used their student loans to get their fledgling business off the ground in 2011.


Now, specialist high street estate agent for businesses Hilton Smythe, based in Bolton, is a £1.5m turnover outfit and is aiming to quadruple its performance by handling up to 800 completions by 2020, and to benefit from regeneration £1bn of its home town.

The company wheels and deals in small businesses like cafes, fish and chip shops and a growing pubs market, and is on target for 300 completions this year.

Currently, the company headquartered in the town’s Wood Street conservation area boasts a headcount of 46 and has finance director Phil Maguire also on board.


“The first 12 months was very difficult,” said 29-year-old Smyth, who used his surname in the company title, but added the ‘e’ to make it sound less like the name ‘Smith’ when pronounced.

“We slept on the office floor, mainly to get the work done and delved into our student loans and ran up overdrafts.

“In our first year we turned over £60,000. After launching the company we occupied five different offices at the Evans Business Centre on Manchester Road in Bolton, before moving here.”


Four years ago Hilton Smythe invested more than £250,000 buying and renovating their offices at 20 Wood Street.

Meanwhile, Smyth, Graham and Maguire have not stood still in their quest to grow the company.

Their achievement was recognised recently when Smyth was admitted on to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business programme.

His participation in that training has led the company to scrapping up-front fees from sellers of small businesses, which Smyth told TheBusinessDesk stands to cost the company up to £500,000.


How Did They Do It?

“We dropped the fees in April as a result of what I learned on the course, but we are aiming to mitigate this by creating a group of companies, including a financial services arm so we can facilitate lending and borrowing,” said Smyth.

“We have identified a gap in the market. We were the first business in our sector to include legal fees for sellers and we have been copied.”

The company enjoys a selling ratio of up to three in 10 businesses it handles, which is very good for the sector. It recently celebrated its record month (in March) with 49 transactions.


“We’re on the verge of selling two businesses a day,” said Smyth.
The ambitious trio have no plans to leave Bolton and in fact focusing on potential opportunities which may emerge as the town embarks on a £1bn regeneration programme which could bring in many community-type small businesses.


“There are lots of boarded up shops at the moment,” said Smyth. “But there is always opportunities in areas in need of regeneration.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what happens in the near future.”


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