Invoice Finance helps toilet parts firm weather Covid-19 supply chain challenges

As a leading supplier of toilet spares to plumber’s merchants around the country, Viva Sanitary has enjoyed significant growth since starting up in 2008. The business began when Paul Illingworth and his colleague Allan Hanson – both plumbers by trade – decided there must be a market opportunity to supply competitively priced, quality toilet parts to the industry. They took the plunge and the business, based in Liverpool, has now grown to employ fifteen staff.

Viva supplies to a number of high-profile retailers in the industry selling its own products that they develop, which include a patented fill valve for toilet systems.

According to managing director Paul Illingworth, hard work and an ability to learn along the way have been key to the company’s success. “We literally put in all the hours we can to make it work,” he says. “We have embraced innovative ways of thinking, conceptualised and produced new products, and created a brand which stays true to its core values.”

Flexible finance facility

Another key factor in Viva’s growth has been the Invoice Finance facility it has had in place with Aldermore since 2010. The company has a Factoring facility that has increased in size as turnover has grown, with Bad Debt Protection cover for selected customers. Viva also took out a term loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) with Aldermore.

The flexibility that the Invoice Finance facility provides helps the business manage its cashflow and make investment decisions more confidently.

“We mainly use our facility to buy in stock. We like to know we have enough stock there to cover all eventualities – and to do that, you’ve got to have the cash available,” says Paul. “The Bad Debt Protection is really about peace of mind – it’s good to know it’s there should we ever need to use it.”

Dealing with Covid-19 stock challenges

The issue of stock and having the funds to buy it, is something that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp focus.

Manufacturing has been a challenge throughout the pandemic due to the various lockdowns governments had imposed which led to product shortages. There are still availability difficulties in the global supply chain now, and product prices have risen too. Shipping goods has also become more expensive, with container costs rising considerably. 

“We have been buying ahead as much as we can,” Paul comments. “We’ve needed to increase our purchasing and inventory, leading to a greater cash requirement which has been exacerbated by the raw material price increases on top. So, our financing has been crucial during the pandemic.”

Trust is key to the relationship

Having worked with Aldermore for eleven years now, it’s a relationship that has suited this SME business well.

 “I cannot rate Aldermore highly enough,” Paul comments. “The team we deal with really go the extra mile and are so knowledgeable and helpful. There is trust between us which is so important. I particularly value their flexibility – we’ve been able to increase the size of our facility as our own business has grown.”

Plans for the future

Looking forward, there is plenty on the horizon. The business has new product ranges planned and is also considering the possibility of relocating to larger premises in the next five years to accommodate their growth.

Grace Caine, relationship manager to Viva Sanitary at Aldermore, believes the business has built a solid foundation. “We’ve been delighted to support Viva Sanitary and help the business grow. They’re a strong business with an established customer base and high-quality products. Having the right financing in place helps them capitalise on this and take advantage of new opportunities. We look forward to continuing to support the business over the years to come.”

As for advice to other SME owners and directors, Paul says: “Work like crazy, make mistakes, learn from them, then go again. Most importantly, try and make it as fun as possible. You’ve got to enjoy what you do!”

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