Posted on September 19, 2019 by staff

Smart home tech firm to double turnover


A Greater Manchester business is set to double turnover to £14m following a spike in demand for smart home technology.

Paul Simkiss founded Simkiss Control Systems in 1999 but set up a second business – Simkiss Home Automation – after spotting a gap in the market when he installed smart tech in his own farmhouse.

As well as being able to control all aspects of his home’s technology through a display panel, the 48-year-old can check everything remotely via a mobile phone app, including monitoring his CCTV to controlling the lighting, blinds, TV, music system and several other features.

The entrepreneur said the smart home technology is attracting interest from Premier League footballers to assisted living providers, the latter of whom want to improve the lives of residents and check that that they’re safe.

“We’re also working with a property developer in London who is building 630 flats and we’re creating a control panel for each home,” he said. “It’s all about giving choice to the homeowner.”

The home automation side of the Rochdale business currently accounts for £1m of the group’s total £7m turnover but Simkiss predicts it will reach £8m by 2021 as the company’s overall turnover doubles to £14m.

The company is based at Bentley Avenue, which is part of Stakehill Industrial Estate, and employs 68 people.

“Rochdale is great location for business with brilliant access to the motorway network,” he said. “There’s a good base of technical people in Rochdale while the manufacturing sector is very strong. There’s space to grow and the council is very supportive.”

Simkiss admits he fell into the smart home market by chance.

“I was looking at doing some work in the farmhouse that we had,” he recalled. “I thought if I was rewiring the place I would look at home automation. I installed technology from a company called Legrand into the house.

“When I spoke to Legrand I was told that 80 per cent of people who installed home automation weren’t happy. It wasn’t because the components weren’t working but rather because they’d either been oversold it, it had been installed poorly; or they’d received poor customer service.

“I thought ‘we do controls on an every day basis so for us it’s easy’. I approached Legrand and said I’d be a distributor for them. We amalgamated the controls into one panel.

“The problem with home automation at the time was it was quite fragmented. You had different controls for things like your lighting and audio visual equipment. There was nothing that linked everything into one system.

“It was about doing the installation at a reasonable cost. If we can help people assemble components and give them a box that they put in a room in the house it would be a massive step forward.”

Simkiss is born and bred in Rochdale and admitted his education was overshadowed by undiagnosed dyslexia.

“I didn’t excel on the English side but I was good at maths and science and making things work,” he said. “I didn’t find out I had dyslexia until after I left school. These days I do presentations and I speak in front of hundreds of people and I’m fine but if someone asked me to read a book in front of an audience I’d struggle.”

He left school with a B in O-Level engineering and had an unsuccessful six-month stint with his family’s garage recovery before starting a YTS with the Rochdale Training Association.

He then got an apprenticeship with Extrusion Press Services in Littleborough, where he stayed for 10 years before going to work for Manchester-based Varcol Electrical Services

In 1999 he decided to launch his own business – Simkiss Control Systems – after being convinced by his then wife to take the plunge.

“It was a risk because I had a young daughter and my wife Jessica was pregnant with our second but she said ‘what have we got to lose?’ so I had to put my money where my mouth was,” he said.

“Customers wanted a one-stop shop. They wanted to make the control panel, do the software and do the electrical installation all in one. I set up offering all three.”

He started by making the control panels in his garage but in their second year a customer went bust owing him £38,000 so he took the decision to work directly with the main contractor.

They have developed lasting relationships in the gas industry and now work with blue chip clients like Siemens, ABB and Northern Gas Network.

In 2009 Simkiss took a step back and delegated some of the decision-making to his senior managers, which helped the business grow. At about the same time they moved to their current office in Stakehill Industrial Estate.

He launched a second business – Simkiss Home Automation – which he predicts will reach £4m-£5m turnover by 2020 and £8m in 2021, swelling the company’s overall turnover to £14m.