This month, Hydraulics Online officially comes of age. The business Mark and I have nurtured together from day one turns 18 on December 15th. Like any proud parents, we’d like to take a moment to wish “happy birthday” to this inspirational, wonderful part of our life that is Hydraulics Online
You may be thinking that two weeks before Christmas sounds like a crazy time of year to start a business. And it was.
With 4 young children already, Mark and I were somewhat preoccupied with the lead up to Christmas, but that didn’t stop us having the lightbulb of an idea to start our own business. In fact it made perfect sense.
Over the last 18 years, we have refined the way we articulate our vision. But from the outset, we always knew that we wanted to stand as a connected, non-partisan ‘hub’ in a fragmented and product-led marketplace. We always saw ourselves going the extra mile to add value – offering personal service, expert and brand-agnostic technical advice and unrivalled choice.
Perhaps we couldn’t have put it so clearly into words back then, but that clear sense of purpose, our ‘why’, always burnt like a fire inside us. And it burns just as strongly now – maybe more so.
It hasn’t always been straight forward, but then life and business rarely are. The last few years of the pandemic haven’t been easy for anyone, and like so many others, we are acutely aware of the growing skills gaps experienced in many sectors, including engineering: we feel it first-hand as our technical team are always in high demand, the world over, every day. Attracting talent into engineering can be a challenge, but one we’re passionate to help conquer through our work with local schools, universities, Engineering UK and our wider business support networks.
Support along the way
I’d have laughed when we started, if you told me where Hydraulics Online would be in 18 years’ time and, on a personal note, that one day a name as big as Parker Hannfin would ask to interview me for the benefit of their own teams. We may even have had second thoughts if we knew the external economic ‘shocks’ that we would have to endure at times. But once we had set off, there was no possibility of us quitting.
There have been plenty of people who have given us encouragement along the way including the awesome team at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Enterprise, the UK Government’s Department for International Trade, Be the Business and the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry where our award-winning journey began 5 years ago. Beyond that, please let me take this opportunity to say a big “thank you” to everyone who has been part of this amazing Hydraulics Online story so far.
I can’t say that we wouldn’t have done it without you – as our son, James, told me the other day, “I knew you’d do it, because you’re no quitter” – but you have certainly made the journey easier, smoother and a lot more fun! Thank you.
More certain and needed than ever
As Hydraulics Online comes of age, it is clearer than ever that the brand we have built is doing the right thing. The post-lockdown chaos and global economic uncertainty which is currently disrupting traditional supply chains means that the Hydraulics Online approach is needed now more than ever.
People and organisations are turning to us in desperation as their established suppliers simply can’t supply what they need – or are offering incredibly long lead-times if they can. Our approach of personalised service and agile, brand-agnostic advice means we can regularly offer creative solutions that provide a different but equally effective way to solve the problem. And by sourcing alternative products, we can deliver on sharper lead times too.
But we aren’t content to rest on our laurels. Moving into 2023, we have big plans to further improve the Hydraulics Online customer experience and offerings. Work is already underway to enrich the online resources available to our customers. We will also continue to collaborate ever closer with the brands that we work with to ensure that Hydraulics Online, as official UK Export Champions since 2019, can also be their gateway to the rest of the world.
Not just empty words
As our ISO 9001 auditor told us last month, our mission isn’t just empty words on a wall. I could have burst with happiness when the auditor told me they’d never seen a business live out their vision, mission and values so clearly.
It comes down to purpose. An overwhelming sense of ‘why’ you are in business. A feeling I can remember as if it were yesterday, as Mark and I sat on that sofa two weeks before Christmas and wondered what Hydraulics Online could be. It’s never left us – it has been our guiding star.
So, for anyone who’s wondering about a business idea, who has a little kernel of that fire building inside them, I say: make it happen! It won’t always be easy, there will be loneliness and days when it feels overwhelming… but, when you look back, maybe in 18 years’ time like us, at what you’ve achieved, imagine how you’ll feel… knowing that you acted; seeing the positive impact that you have had on the world so tangibly. Instead of wondering “what if”?
Happy birthday, Hydraulics Online! 😊