England Perspectives South East UK

Setting Out On An Entrepreneurial Journey

Divyesh Chotai founded The DC Group in 2017 as a business that provides a range of gas and plumbing services.  Paul Andrews spoke to Divyesh on the inspiration and drive to set up a new business and what it is like to build a business with your wife and bringing up a young family at the same time.

When was the business founded?
The DC Group was trading as a sole trader from 2017 until it became a limited company as D&T Gas Maintenance Group Ltd in 2021. It was founded by Divyesh Chotai in 2017 making him the 1st generation of this family business.

What does it do?
We provide gas and plumbing services such as, boiler/tank installations, repairs, servicing, gas certificates, maintenance, power flushing.

Tell me a little about the history of the business?
I was managing a project for a multi occupancy building where I used to hire gas engineers and plumbers to carry out 1st and 2nd fixes. Some days they would turn up and some days they wouldn’t. It would get very frustrating as this would set projects back and cost money. This gave me an insight on how it felt to be a customer and how it would wreak havoc when things didn’t go to plan.

Seeing this I dwelled on whether I could do this better and how I could improve the customer experience. I soon began to enjoy what I was doing and my customer base grew rapidly. Everything that the other engineers got wrong, I did right. Whether it meant spending an extra 10 mins or 2 hours on the job, I wouldn’t leave without being fully satisfied that this is how I would want it done in my own house.

What generation are you and what are your first memories of the family business?
Seeing my fathers refrigeration business from a very young age taught me a lot about the do’s and don’ts of business and inspired me to be my own boss. I clearly remember trying to take apart the mechanical and electrical parts of fridges in order to be able to learn how it all worked. This is where my interest grew and brought me to where I am today.

Are there any other family members working in the business?
At the start of the business, I was a one man band and over time the company and I have grown. Now, my wife is a part of this journey and the backbone of the business.

How important was the business in your life as you grew up?
Having my own business was important as I wanted the freedom of time to be able to do what I wanted and when I wanted with the family that I’ve always wanted.

What was your journey into the family business and what do you do now?
It all started off with my fathers refrigeration business and that’s where I got a real taste of business. After his passing, the business closed down and I was very lost. My mother, being a housewife all her life, started working in restaurants to try and make ends meet. Seeing her go through this, I did the same. From there stemmed a mother and son events and catering business.

As time went on, we went on to become successful and became a household name in the community. The time then came for my mother to retire and I then started to look at new avenues where I could become just as, if not more, successful in starting my own new business. I got a piece of advice from my wife who said, ‘do what you enjoy.’ I enjoy taking things apart, figuring out how it works and then putting it back together again. The DC Group was born.

We have learned to be upfront and honest about everything. In this industry customers are hesitant to book engineers as some are not reliable when keeping appointments. We deliver our services in a timely manner day or night. This has led to customer confidence, which in turn has grown our reputation.

What values are important to the family and the business?
If it’s not good enough for our home, then it’s not good enough for yours. Trust is everything.
Do you build the family ownership into the marketing and brand narrative and if so, how? I am the face of the business and am in touch with all of our customers. They have come to trust me and my team as we provide a personalised service throughout the whole customer journey.

What do you think makes working in a family business special?
We are a husband and wife team who work towards the same goal and we bounce off each other quite well and our communication is key.

Are there any disadvantages associated with working in a family business?
It is sometimes difficult to take the time out and relax away from the business. However, having 2 children gives us the incentive to work smarter not harder and be able to spend a lot more time with the family.

Have you taken any particular steps in terms of governance to help protect the business for the future?
We are heading towards substantially growing within the renewable and electrical sector as in 15-20 years time when the children are grown this is going to be all the more common. Starting now we will ensure that we can be in the race to be market leaders in this sector.

Is there a next generation in the wings?
Our company name played a strategic role in the future of this business and the next generation. It is a husband and wife team now (Divyesh & Tina, D&T), but can be a business of brother and sister (Diyan & Tiana, D&T) should the children wish to pursue this course.

What advice would you give to anyone in the next generation considering joining their family firm?
Start from the bottom up, learn every aspect of the business, no matter how small, including how to load and unload the van. Master the art of what you do and revenue will be a bi-product.

If you could talk to your younger self before you joined the business, what would you say?
Become your own boss as early as possible is what I would say. I would be where I want to be in business right now if I had got my head together and concentrated early on in life. Stick to one thing and give it 100%.

If you could sum up the family business in three words, what would they be?
Honesty, Integrity, Family, Safety

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