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Thornton & Lowe
Dave started Thornton & Lowe in 2010. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on Thornton & Lowe?
Thornton & Lowe is my first and only business. What I still get asked regularly is, ‘who’s Lowe?’ Well… as I always wanted the company to be more than just me I knew I needed a name, which could ‘hint’ at being larger and more established. Lowe is my wife’s, Cassie’s, maiden name. It sounded right to me, and I was then known as Dave Thornton ‘trading as’ Thornton & Lowe, which then developed into a limited company a couple of years later.
So how at 23 did I decide to set up a bid writing and management consultancy? After completing my undergraduate degree I managed to secure a Graduate Trainee position at a large Social Housing Provider. This was a great opportunity for me to work across their divisions, from supported housing (working with vulnerable groups), through to traditional housing management and dealing with contractors and suppliers, to report writing for the Board of Directors. A great opportunity to develop a broad skillset.
Near the end of the 1st year of this training scheme, I applied for a job internally in the Group’s Head Office working in the Performance department, helping the group achieve efficiencies, value for money and developing their new procurement strategy. While in this role I completed a part-time Master’s Degree in housing management but focusing specifically on how Housing Providers spend their income and how to make savings while improving customer satisfaction.
In my role, I was receiving continual training and mentoring from a specialist Procurement & Supply Chain Consultant. We went through everything in theory and in practice from EU Procurement rules and their implications, through lean management, value stream mapping and completing detailed spend analysis. We formed, which I headed, the Value for Money department; the go-to place for anyone in the Group who wanted to achieve savings and ensure procurement compliance. I would help run tenders, set up the procurement documents, project manage the tenders and lead on evaluating the bids.
I had started to think and feel like a Consultant. In a very short period of time, I had picked up a lot of qualifications, skills, and experience. One of my plans was to improve how we worked with the supply chain and invest more time with them, to understand their challenges and ensure we had the right partners. One issue we found when smaller, local businesses put forward proposals or tenders for our contracts, was that the ‘quality’ element we were evaluating was simply not strong enough. This was not due to the product itself or the service but simply because they did not know how to respond to our quite formal procurement documentation. Larger competitors had Bid Teams compiling tender responses for them and as a result, largely scored higher and won the contract.
> Every small business owner needs to be a salesman. This isn’t just to create and convert leads but selling to new recruits, to your suppliers, creditors, and partners.
Without really thinking about it in any detail I had approached the HR department to get permission to work with some of our suppliers to improve their bid skills and to better take advantage of public sector procurement opportunities. 16 months later I was going full time on my own. This period gave me the chance to test ideas, understand the sector and where I could add the most value. I applied for a business loan but in the middle of a recession, I was quickly turned down. So before I gave my notice I applied for a personal loan to cover mortgage payments for 6 months and then felt free to finally go for it on my own.
Most family and friends felt like I was giving up a promising career but for me, and not being a risk-taker really, I knew the more I earned in my career the more I would have to give up. So do it while you are young!