When job insecurity was hanging over the heads of Gary, Graham and Sid, they decided to take the plunge and set up their own internet company. Claire Veares met the three entrepreneurs....
They are the most unlikely looking businessmen. Two of them, Gary Gittins and Graham Twist, look like club doormen and are, in fact, wearing ties from their local working men's club. The third one, Sid Gould, has not adopted the uniform and is wearing a bright yellow tie.
Gittins, Twist and Gould are the Quote Company. The idea for which came when they were "having a pint and moping" after being told that their jobs at the Midlands-based intermediary, Motor & Home, were under threat.
All have more than 20 years' experience in insurance and, on the back of a beermat, they worked out the maths for their idea.
The Quote Company came into existence in May and its site, thequotecompany.co.uk, now receives 80,000 hits a month.
Visitors to the site looking for insurance fill in a quote application form. These details are forwarded to a selection of brokers which then deal with the customer. "We have nothing to do with the selling of the insurance," Twist says.
At the moment the company deals with 15 brokers. It plans eventually to have 100 brokers in ten regions, so that each set of details will be sent to ten brokers. Brokers are charged £1 for each lead passed on to them. Currently each set of details goes to six brokers.
Taking the opportunity
Twist says brokers have been slow to realise the opportunities the internet offers. Younger brokers seem to realise the importance of the internet, he says, but the older ones are more set in their ways.
"I would say less than 40% of brokers have an email address. Brokers are wary of the net," Twist says. "They don't seem to understand we will do the work on their behalf."
The speed of growth of the Quote Company is linked to the capacity of the brokers to deal with the enquiries. "I could double our quotes overnight," Twist says.
When more brokers have been signed up, there will be more advertising, as the company can only pass on the volume of quotes its brokers can deal with. The company advertises online on sites such as Ask Jeeves and Ask Alex.
Initially, the company was a sideline for the three and their initial aim was to get enough money to "pay for a holiday". Now, six months on, all are working for the Quote Company full time. Gittins and Gould tend to deal with the brokers, while Twist takes charge of improvements to the site.
The aim now is to earn as much as they got in their old jobs – but without a boss watching over them. "We've all taken a chance on this," they say. "We've all got mortgages. We've all got kids." But Gittins says: "We knew from that first meeting we were on to something big."
They appreciate that competition is bound to happen, but say they will have a head-start on the competition and any competitors will still have to overcome the same problems they faced. "Nobody helped us," they say.