Greater than the sum of its parts

Online component specialist Accu, has seen rapid growth since its inception in 2012, but it is the Help to Grow: Management Course that has played a key role in its success…

Greater than the sum of its parts

Inside its brand new Huddersfield HQ, Accu’s team of more than 100 people work to deliver parts to customers ranging from hobbyist makers to multi-national corporations making it one of the UK’s leading online engineering component suppliers.

The new HQ is a symbol of just how far the company has come since it started in 2012.

Back then, Accu was nothing more than a start-up idea dreamed up between two childhood friends – Martin Ackroyd and Antony Kitson. With no formal business training and only £200 in their company bank account, they worked evenings and weekends on top of full-time jobs to turn their vision into reality.

As Ackroyd recalls: “Like many entrepreneurs, we didn’t have any formal training and simply got stuck in. Despite only having £200 in our company bank account, we were determined. Everyone has to start somewhere.”

Driven by a shared passion for engineering and technology, the pair saw a gap in the market to create an online shop stocking all the components needed to build specific tech projects.

He explains the unlikely origins of their niche idea: “Around the time we founded the business, the first Iron Man film came out. That’s when we thought, let’s try and create an online shop that has everything that you could possibly need to build an Iron Man suit, and let’s not stop until we’ve got there.”

After a year working 16-hour plus days, Accu had turned over £100K in sales. Feeling they were onto something good, Ackroyd and Kitson decided it was time to expand the team and rented the firm’s first office space.

Growth was swift from that point. Headcount doubled year-on-year as Accu earned a reputation for excellent customer service and an ever-expanding product range. Last year, it hit the £12 million turnover mark and there are no signs of slowing down.

When asked about the key to Accu’s success, Ackroyd credits its culture of constant curiosity and improvement: “Continued learning, determination, and hard work. Embracing change and understanding that it’s OK to ask for help at whatever level was also key. While the business has grown over the years and has been stable, you need to constantly ask yourself if there’s more you could be doing for you and your team.”

Despite their engineering backgrounds equipping them with crucial technical skills, as the company scaled rapidly, Ackroyd and Kitson realised there were gaps in their management knowledge.

Ackroyd admits: “Recently I realised that I needed greater understanding in areas such as finance and HR. At the time we had around 60 people and I was really struggling with imposter syndrome. I felt I didn’t deserve to have such a great team and that I was still this 20-year-old lad running a business from his bedroom.”

It was this realisation that led Ackroyd to enrol on the government-funded Help to Grow: Management Course in 2021, along with many more business leaders across the UK seeking to improve their leadership skills. 

The 12-week course provides training across core disciplines from finance and marketing to HR and IT. Experienced mentors are paired with each leader to provide one-to-one coaching and advice.

For Ackroyd, Help to Grow: Management proved transformative: “The course gave me reassurance that what we’d been doing was working, even without formal business training. It validated what I’ve been doing and gave me a lot of confidence in being able to take the business forward.”

Armed with new skills and confidence, Ackroyd and Kitson accelerated their ambitious growth plans. In just one year since completing the course, Accu’s staff count has nearly doubled while revenues have leapt from £8 million to £12 million.

A key lesson Ackroyd took away was learning to work ‘on’ the business rather than just ‘in’ it day-to-day. He stepped back to focus more on big picture strategy while empowering his team to implement their roadmap.

Despite exponential growth, nurturing Accu’s close-knit culture remains paramount. He explains: “I’m more focused on maintaining the culture we’ve created. For me, that’s about staying true to our beliefs and not becoming too corporate. No matter how big we get, I always make sure to check-in with the team and get feedback from all different levels to make sure there’s no divide and instead, constant and clear communication.”

Looking ahead, global expansion is next on the agenda. Accu aims to replicate its 24/7 UK service across international timezones, with plans to open its first overseas offices in the US next year and start exporting to Singapore.

Ackroyd explained: “We’ve recently moved into a new office in Huddersfield. The building is six times larger than our current building, giving us plenty of space to hold more stock and cope with the demands of the UK market. The move will also support our plans to enter overseas markets.”

Closer to home, the company has also launched new charity initiatives under the AccuFoundation banner. Employees can take paid volunteer days at local causes or even trips further afield.  Warehouse worker Kieran Parker was recently chosen at random for an all-expenses paid volunteering adventure in Kenya.

Ackroyd’s ambitious yet grounded outlook stems from Accu’s humble beginnings: “Trust your gut. In the early days, we had some crazy ideas but trusting our instincts led us to where we are today.”

When envisioning Accu in another five years, he shares plans for a podcast shining a light on their customers’ innovations that are changing the world.

From tinkering in a backyard shed to emerging as a global innovator, Accu’s story is certainly one of inspiration. 

And Help to Grow: Management has equipped the homegrown heroes with the tools needed to keep aiming high. The best, it appears, is yet to come.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan

Share via
Copy link