Rob Stone is the founder and sole director of the UK’s largest installer of loft storage solutions, Instaloft.
Rob Stone’s story really is one of rags-to-riches, going from selling his belongings at car boot sales to feed his nine children, to scaling his loft conversion business into a £14 million-turnover empire in just seven years. Now, with his wealth of experience in business development and people management strategies, Rob is on a mission to help other aspiring entrepreneurs on their own journeys to success.
When I started Instaloft, I was completely broke. I was having to borrow money from my dad, and sell DVDs for £1 each at car boot sales just to keep my head above water. I remember sitting on the floor of my living room and looking through various business opportunities when I stumbled across an advert for a loft boarding franchise, and I though “this is something I can do”.
It was tough because I felt what I had was a great idea, but I just didn’t have any money or access to money to start the company with. That meant I had to do everything on a shoestring budget, and the start of the business was very much a beg and borrow situation. I managed to get a credit card with a £200 limit, and as I couldn’t afford a website, I set up a Facebook page. I used the credit card to buy a few basic tools and the Facebook page to advertise on local buy/sell/swap groups, and that was how the business got underway, working by myself from the driveway of my house.
We were in an incredibly tough place. My partner and I temporarily split up, and I had been living in another house due to the financial situation and the stresses it had put us under. We were very much in limbo, with one child living with me and the rest with her, and she was working all the hours she could to keep them fed and clothed. I was struggling to make any money before I started the company, but once I had Instaloft up and running, just getting one or two jobs a week helped to ease some of that pressure. As we got busier, things became a bit easier, and I was spending a lot of time on the job, often working late into the evening, but it meant enough money was creeping in to make a living and get us by. By the time I had got my third van on the road my partner and I had fully reconciled, and we got married. I am truly grateful to her for how she supported me back then, and though it was hard and I missed out on a lot of the kids early years, we now make up for it each and every day.
This can be a tricky one, and we try and hit a balance as much as possible. For example, we allow for flexible working so that people can do the things they need to with their children, such as sports days and other events. We used to have mandatory overtime on Saturdays, but I got rid of this as I believe people need quality time with their family outside of work. We’ve also recently introduced a new company bonus scheme which is designed to pay for family days out and adventures. We felt that this was a better solution to a purely financial reward, as it provides unique experiences that people can enjoy with their families that they might not otherwise get a chance to do.
For us, it’s a constantly evolving situation, and we are always looking for ways to adjust what we’re doing to make it work for our staff. I want to encourage unity across all of our teams, and consider every member to be a part of the Instaloft family, and while families can and do fall out occasionally, we try and do what’s best for our staff. We hope that by running annual events for the whole family, as well as quarterly bonus days out, we will encourage people to want to work here, and to enjoy what they do.