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Meeting Mark Henderson, CEO of Magicman

After many months of video meetings, we were delighted to meet Mark Henderson, Chief Executive of Magicman, in person at his Brighton offices. Magicman is an award-winning on-site repairer of doors, floors, worktops, baths, shower trays, tiles, window frames and furniture and much more.

In this wide-ranging Q&A, Anton Nebbe, Head of PR, asks Mark for his views on everything from Covid and Brexit to innovation and sustainability.

Tell me who you are and your role at Magicman please

My name is Mark Henderson and I’m the Chief Executive of Magicman and Magicman group of companies.

Give me an insight into your firm and what you do…

Magicman is the culmination of the work I’ve been doing for about 28 years and from my experiences in the Royal Navy as a shipwright, repairing things at sea with whatever’s available. And that’s exactly what we do.

There are three facets to our operations:

  • We save people time in the supply of replacement items
  • We save people a lot of cost, generally in the region of 72% of the replacement cost
  • We work in an environmentally sustainable way  

Sustainability is a big part of what we do because we’re not creating the waste that would normally have gone to landfill and there’s minimal waste from our processes.

On the subject of sustainability, tell me about the award you won

We were delighted to win the Sustainable Product of the Year award at the Cruise Ship Expo last year. We were up against much larger manufacturers and for a small company like ourselves it was a great achievement.

I am very proud of the team and the work we’ve done in the cruise ship industry that enabled us to win that award.

Are you finding more and more of your customers, new and existing, are looking to become more sustainable?

For a number of years people have been looking at more sustainable ways of working, some to a greater degree than others.

Our baseline work is growing every year as more people become aware of our services.

In the early years, repairing on site wasn’t really known about or even properly understood, but over time we’ve extended our service through research and development to include new products and services, including repair techniques, which have widened our scope.

There is definitely more interest now than there was in the past, and it keeps growing.

Give me an example of the types of things you can repair 

Pretty much every hard surface, including woods, vinyls, plastics, marble, stone, glass, and so on – the list is almost endless.

If there was something we couldn’t repair, we’d suggest alternatives because we don’t like to leave clients with no option.

We would even bring something into our research and development facility and find a way of solving their problems.

How has Covid affected your business?

Severely, like a lot of other businesses, but fortunately not as badly as some.

For example, our cruise ship work, which is usually programmed months in advance was postponed pretty quickly before being cancelled altogether, meaning we lost a lot of revenue.

Nobody knew the impact it was going to have – it was unchartered territory for everybody. We had to look at the whole business and figure out how we were going to sustain it.

Looking back, we used the time productively, reshaping the business for the better. While it’s been a difficult time, it’s also had its advantages.

What support did Close Brothers Asset Finance provide you with to help you keep trading?

To put it bluntly, we wouldn’t be here without Close Brothers Asset Finance.

We’re always pushing ourselves to grow and expand, committing to things, so when you get something like Covid that removes several million pounds of income, it created problems.

I spoke to other banks and lenders but by far the most helpful was Close Brothers Asset Finance. Nick Young, our contact, suggested ideas we hadn’t thought about and looked at things in a different way.

High street banks, in my experience, are not very helpful. Their lending criteria was very, very tight even though the government’s CBILS scheme was there to help businesses like ours.

I was very, very impressed with the way you looked at refinancing vans in a different way while also utilising CBILS loans in ways we never knew it could be used.

It also helps we’ve had a long-term relationship and to me that’s the key – people ‘buy’ people and relationships are key to the business.

What did this assistance enable?

It enabled us to continue because without the CBILS loans or the refinancing of the vans, it would have been as near as impossible to continue as it could be.

Those relationships bear fruit – if you’re honest and up front and don’t sugar coat anything, it helps you through the difficult times.

What does the future hold for Magicman?

We’re now slowly emerging from lockdown and our cruise ship clients have come back to us in great numbers.

The closure of the air bridge between the UK and US is causing us problems, which restricts the numbers we can send anywhere, but that will return and I’m convinced 2022 will be a really big year for us.

There are clearly challenges ahead including recruitment and retention, and I see 2021 as a bedding down period making sure everything is ready for next year.

Brexit – what does that mean for you?

Brexit has created its own challenges but I’m not sure it’s created any opportunities.

The challenges for us is shipping our goods to meet cruise ships that are on a timetable and can’t delay leaving a port because they’ve got a booked itinerary. Because of that, we’re now looking at warehouses in Europe where we can store the equipment we need and meet the demands of our clients.

The other concerns about Brexit is the potential issue with visas and longer transportation queues – we’re going to have to allow for more time – maybe a day or longer – to ensure we meet our clients’ deadlines.

How important is it for you to continue to innovate?

Innovation is key – we are constantly researching and looking for new ways of working. You’ve got to move forward – if you stop and rest on your laurels, you’ll get overtaken.