Simon Jarman, Founder of Clever Bean Accounting and former CEO of Everest, is on a mission to make a positive difference in the glazing industry. Here, he tells Total Installer about his return to the sector after a brief hiatus – and why he couldn’t stay away!
When and how did you first enter the glazing sector?
I remember exactly! In October 1995, I was lucky enough to join Everest as a fresh-faced management accountant. I’ve been looking at windows and profit and loss accounts ever since!
What are some of the companies you have worked for in the sector, and in what capacity?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with several great glazing businesses over the years. A significant part of my career was at Everest where I was Finance Director for 4 years and CEO for 7 years. I also had a spell as Finance Director of CET (Everest’s in-house glass processing company) and spent a couple of years working in the sector with a private equity company who was acquiring several fabricators. I assisted them with the post acquisition integration process.
You’ve also spent time in other industries – what did you learn from these experiences?
I’ve had two significant roles outside of the glazing industry. After leaving Everest in 2012, I successfully completed a management buy in and subsequent exit of an energy management business in the hospitality sector. This experience honed my skills in how to rapidly grow a small business and manage all the challenges that brings – in particular, managing tight cashflow and putting in place the structure and processes that a larger business demands.
I’ll deal with the second role under the next question.
Tell us about your most recent role, prior to launching Clever Bean Accounting
I served as CEO of an international branding business, supplying graphics to the automotive and aerospace sectors. This was a diverse and interesting role that involved selling into the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa to a largely blue-chip customer base. In particular, supplying product direct to the production line of companies such as Ford and Toyota requires exceptional product quality and on-time delivery – qualities that are equally important in the glazing sector.
Part of this business was based in South Africa and one of the highlights of this role was the opportunity to live and work in Cape Town, an incredibly vibrant and culturally diverse city that I completely fell in love with.
When did you decide to launch Clever Bean?
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a long and rewarding career in the corporate world, but I’ve had a hankering to start my own business for a number of years now. At the end of 2022, the stars aligned and the time felt right to take the leap.
The feeling of being the master of my own destiny is truly liberating, and it’s opened up a world of possibilities.
The sense of ownership that comes with running your own business is unparalleled. Every decision made, every success achieved, and even every setback encountered becomes a reflection of your dedication and hard work.
Being able to align your passion with your profession creates an incredible synergy where work feels like a fulfilling pursuit and brings with it a whole new level of motivation. Each day brings opportunities for personal growth, but more importantly, I know I’m making a real difference to others and that creates an immense feeling of satisfaction.
“If installers prosper, so does the whole industry supply chain”
Why did you decide to return to the glazing sector specifically?
I don’t think there’s a single person in this industry that would disagree with the fact that once you are in, you are in for life! Some may try and escape, as I did, but in the end we all come back!
It was actually an easy choice – aligning my experience with a market where I knew I could make a difference was an obvious decision.
Why did you make the decision to return to finance after being a CEO?
During all my time in CEO roles, I’ve always had a strong leaning towards finance – something which I’m sure many of the Finance Directors that have worked for me have really enjoyed!
I’ve been lucky enough to gain a great grounding in all aspects of business but my roots have always been in finance so it seemed logical to start a business with this focus.
What type of companies/clients do you work with at Clever Bean?
I work with all company types in the glazing sector – installers, fabricators, systems houses, trade counters, glass processing companies and component suppliers. The unique requirements of each business type, vary considerably, influenced by their size and nature, but it’s this variety that always keeps my work interesting and engaging.
What is Clever Bean’s mission?
I’m not sure we have a mission as such, but if we can make a positive difference to the industry and have fun doing it then I will consider that a huge success.
How can good accounting and finance practice help installers?
Unfortunately, all too often, smaller businesses in the sector are operating without any management information The only regular measure that these businesses have of their performance is by checking how much cash is in the bank. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s crucial for success and growth to regularly monitor business performance. Anything else is like being an air traffic controller in a power cut!
KPIs matter. Successful businesses have a handle on all their key numbers. By maintaining accurate and detailed metrics, companies gain a full understanding of their health and performance. These metrics help make informed decisions, identify challenges, highlight growth opportunities, and take effective actions.
Why should installers choose Clever Bean – what’s your USP?
We are glazing industry specialists. Our in-depth knowledge and understanding of the unique challenges and requirements of the industry set us apart from generalist accountants.
Why are you interested in working with installers specifically?
The success and growth of installers drives the whole industry. If installers prosper, so does the whole industry supply chain. Helping installers can make a huge difference, both to the installer themselves and to the industry as a whole
What’s the best thing about working with installation companies?
It’s been so incredibly rewarding seeing installation companies overcome barriers and improve their business performance. One of the nicest things is witnessing the sigh of relief when business owners realise they’ve now got someone to lean on, to share their issues with, and who they know is going to help them flourish.
Tell us more about your partnerships with fabricators and systems houses, and the benefits of these partnerships for installers
I’m currently working with a number of businesses further up the industry supply chain, helping them implement programmes to drive performance improvement into their installer customer base. I tend to work on the driving the financial side of the business and work alongside others helping in areas such as sales, marketing and operations. The benefits are clear – anything that drives better growth at the installer end of our sector will always benefit the whole industry.
What does a typical day entail for you?
One of the joys of running your own business is variety. No two days are the same. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve visited clients across the country, attended the Glass Times Race Day, a GGF meeting, PiGs and the Glazing Summit. The work is also hugely varied, depending on the needs of each client.
What are your interests outside of work?
I like to keep quite active and love skiing and mountain biking. I try to keep reasonably fit and have been known to do the odd crazy sporting challenge!
What’s your greatest achievement to date?
In business, I would say it was being part of a team that grew Everest over a number of years from £100m turnover to £175m. But maybe the best is still yet to come…
Where would you like to see Clever Bean Accounting in five years’ time?
If Clever Bean can become an established, trusted, and respected partner to the industry, making a real positive difference, then I will be happy.
Read Simon’s accounting advice column in Total Installer magazine