Rach welcomes Darren Willoughby of 2XL Commercial Finance to the sofa today. Darren shares the reasoning behind his very recent consideration of awards, which has become important to him and the business as they are entering into their 11th year. Darren believes that they are award-ready and looks forward to the opportunities and recognition which award success could bring – fingers crossed!!

Video Transcription


Good morning. Good Morning. It’s Rach here, an award-winning award writer with, you know, The Awards People. And, and I’ve got Darren on the Sofa on Success, er, a reasonably new introduction.

DW: Yes.

RH: So I’m sitting here thinking, “Ooh!” Erm, I don’t know you that well, but I know people who know you so it’s like we’re best friends.

DW: Yes. It’s all good. [Laughs]

RH: Erm, so before I stuff it up in true Rach style, I’m gonna ask Darren to do a blatant plug. Who are ya?

DW: Yep.

RH: What’s your company? What do you do?

DW: Okay. I’m Darren Willoughby, er, Director of Commercial Finance, and we’re a commercial mortgage broker based in Leicester.

RH: Oh, you see. Short and to the point. He’s the money man, ladies. And gents.


RH: He is a money man. So, erm, we were introduced by Pete who owns the Sofa of Success—

DW: Yep.

RH: – I say it’s mine. He’s got rights, but you know, we’re fighting about it. Erm, we were introduced by Pete, er, and he said, “Actually, my mate, Darren, who’s also obviously a client, erm, might be interested in talking to you, so we sat down and had a coffee date.

DW: Yeah.

RH: Er, very salubrious s-, surroundings of Sileby which is the centre of the universe. Erm, and it was just really an exploratory conversation about what potentially was out there for you to enter—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – but what it might be able to do for your business. I mean, tell, tell our viewer in, er, sunny Sheffield—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – erm, what—why you, you started thinking about it.

DW: Yeah. I think one of the things that, erm, was important to us is that we’ve, over the course of our business life, which is now 11 years, er, we’ve ever been established—

RH: Wow.

DW: – we’ve never got embroiled in, er, looking at awards or—

RH: Mm-hmm.

DW: – self-promoting what we do.

RH: Yeah.

DW: Erm, we’ve always been very focused on just driving the business and looking after our clients. I think as businesses become more intense and there’s more competitors in, in our marketplace, I think it was about time for us to put our head above the parapet to actually say to people, “Look. We are here. We’re successful at what we do, and we can, we can do more.”

RH: Mm. Mm. Mm.

DW: I, I, I think the other side of it, maybe even from a, a vanity perspective really, is that you look at it and see other people who you perhaps don’t think are as good as you in the marketplace perhaps getting recognised without truly being good at what they do. And I just think we’ve probably drawn a line in the sand now having been at it 11 years to actually promote what we get involved in and, and hopefully be recognised for, for how well that we’ve been doing, really.

RH: Mm-hmm. You’ve, you’ve got some clear and you’ve got 10, 11 years, forgive me, so 11 years of, of track record, testimonials, erm, expertise. You’ve got that story of growth. You’ve got some great things—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – that are coming through that.

DW: Yeah.

RH: And, of course, the business—remind me. It covers the whole of the UK? You’re located in—you’re in the East Midlands.

DW: Yeah.

RH: But you’ve got business partners who are covering other parts of the country as well.

DW: Of course. That’s it. I mean, the, the business originally, erm, was established in Manchester.

RH: Yeah.

DW: Erm, I then moved for personal circumstances back to Leicestershire would, would be about seven years ago now, and I’d, I’d like to think we’ve probably got quite a solid, sort of, word-of-mouth reputation within, er, within the city. Erm, but because we are national in what we do, we can deal with clients that are in London, in Edinburgh, wherever they might be.

RH: Mm.

DW: Erm, but I think the important bit is that we try and work as locally as we can—

RH: Mm-hmm.

DW: – erm, but also be recognised amongst the people that actually pass clients to use, so your accountant, your solicitor, your IFA, and because we’ve been awful, really, at self-promotion, erm, I mean, I can hold my hands up, you know, in terms of we’ve not gone out there.

RH: [Crosstalk 03:27]

DW: Exactly.

RH: [Crosstalk 03:31].

DW: And, and nothing—the, the bit that really got, got us together was, obviously, the work that we were doing around the website and the rebrand.

RH: Yeah.

DW: But I was also conscious that I think we need to try and establish ourselves a bit more in terms of the community and perhaps some of the people that we’ve had contact with previously, erm, who have been so busy focussing on doing the business that we’ve probably lost contact with—

RH: Mm.

DW: – I think it’s an idea to try and effectively raise the profile of what we do and, and hopefully get some recognition for that, erm, amongst our peers and, and the general public who, who potentially could be using us.

RH: Mm. So, what we did after we have a conversation with, er, with Darren, with a potential client, is we go away, and we write an awards calendar, an awards plan, if you like. An indicative, er, plan that includes—we usually go quite wide ’cause I like clients to go, “Yeah. No. That’s not for me.” Why is that not for you? “Oh, it’s, er, er, erm, it’s a bit to, to the edge of what we do as a business,” because if we just went really narrow, then you might miss some opportunities.

DW: Yeah.

RH: And there’s so much opportunity out there for entering into quality awards to achieve the ambitions—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – that you’ve, you’ve mentioned. So, we write an indicative plan, go quite wide, say, “Look. This is what it could look like over the next 6 to 12 months,” erm, and then we’ll leave that with the client to have a think about what they wanna do next ’cause, as I’ve said before on vlogs, you know, people write awards, enter awards, and win awards.

DW: Yeah.

RH: They don’t have to work with an Awards People, The Awards People.

DW: Yep.

RH: They can, you know, work with somebody else. They can do it themselves.

DW: Yep.

RH: Entirely down to what they wanna do, but it gives you that idea how, er, how you can start. What are the opportunities? What’s it look like? Because yes, you are a commercial finance company—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – and there’s a plethora of awards for that, but you are also a business. Plethora of awards for that. Er, now you, your brief was that you wanted to concentrate particularly on the East Midlands, but of course if you wanted to go wider—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – you could go to Manchester as well. Erm, but the East Midlands was the, the key, but there’ll be other parts to your business, whether that’s community activities, erm, staff training and development, er, people, all sorts of different things that Darren could consider to, to enter for his business. And that’s what we’re trying to capture with those awards plans is what’s the scope and the scale?

DW: Yeah. I think the initial—

RH: And then narrow it down.

DW: Erm, yeah. I mean, I, I think, you know, what I would, what I would say to anybody who’s, who’s looking at this is that, erm, you know, we didn’t know each other from Adam—

RH: Nope.

DW: – in terms of—er, it was an informal chat.

RH: Yeah.

DW: This is what we wanted to do. And actually having to ask you to go out and do a bit of research in terms of the things that would be suitable for us did open my eyes, in particular, to hold on a second. That is an area that we should be looking at. And that is something that we should be trying to strive for—

RH: That’s great.

DW: – in terms of recognising those awards. Erm, without that initial exploratory chat and a coffee, we would-, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. I think probably the next stage that, that you and I are at is actually sitting down formally ’cause I know it’s only very recent we’ve done this—

RH: Mm-hmm.

DW: – but sittin’ down formally and saying, “Right. Those are the areas that I think we should, er, er, concentrate on. Let’s see if we can work towards those.”

RH: Yeah.

DW: And I think probably what we will find is that whilst we were originally sitting down and perhaps talking about entering this commercial business award or a finance award, I, I don’t necessarily think that we might be in that territory.

RH: Mm-hmm.

DW: So, erm, because a lot of the time—and it’s an opinion, and it is a, purely an opinion piece. It’s not a-, an Awards People quote, erm, you know, erm, is that I—the preconception I had when I’ve gone to some of these things p-, prior is that it’s a done deal who’s gonna win something already.

RH: Mm-hmm.

DW: And I think perhaps from the discussion that we’ve had and, and perhaps some of the stuff that we’ve looked at in, in the past that with you—having you on board will certainly help guide us through that, really, to, to hopefully, erm, be recognised.

RH: Mm. Mm-hmm.

DW: And I think that’s the bit that, sort of, galls a little bit with me sometimes around some of these things that the people—you’re not actually recognised for being successful, you’re recognised in some quarters, and obviously not all, for being the sponsor in the event or something like that—

RH: Mm.

DW: – and that’s not the, the area I wanna be. I think a lot of people can—

RH: No.

DW: – see through that. And given the research you’ve done a-, and with the stuff that we’ve worked on, I think, you know, we-, we’re certainly going in the right direction.

RH: Yeah. It take-, it takes us back to something that we’ve talked about on vlogs previously about, er, quality awards versus perhaps some that are very commercially-run—

DW: Definitely.

RH: – and are there to make a profit for the organising—

DW: Definitely.

RH: – company. I am not making any judgments on that, but where do you want to sit [crosstalk 07:58]?

DW: Definitely.

RH: So, erm, and, and the same, again, I—my personal experience isn’t that, “Oh, you sponsored. You’re gonna win.”

DW: Yeah.

RH: That’s not been my experience. But then, you know, I only have the experience that I have.

DW: Yeah.

RH: I have to, to give due credit to, to other people’s experiences—

DW: Of course.

RH: – and what they’ve had. And, and some, you know, not—you’re not the only person—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – that has said that.

DW: Yes.

RH: Erm, I think it’s about raising profile, enhancing reputation by telling great business stories about your business that are backed up.

DW: [Indiscernible 08:29] challenge that, that preconception—

RH: Absolutely.

DW: – then, then even better. And then, actually, by going through this process and actually understanding it a little bit more with the discussions we’ve had, I think that’s certainly helped, erm, change my viewpoint and standpoint on things. And at the end of the day, that’s from only have a very brief discussion, you know, a half an hour or so when we sat in Sileby, and then following up with what we’ve done now. So—

RH: In the sun.

DW: Yeah, exactly. It was very nice.

RH: It was very nice.

DW: Erm, so, yeah. Certainly I’m on excited on what we can do going forward, and I’m, you know, hopefully, vice versa, that we-, we’re good that we we’re working together and, er, fingers crossed we can press on.

RH: The other thing that I really like with Darren, as well, is he’s not waiting for the month that that award that he wants to enter is taking place. He’s thinking now, whether you use us or not—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – is entirely irrelevant at this point. He’s thinking about the evidence he might have to gather, so he’s thinking about testimonials, and he’s thinking about some stats. He’s thinking about case studies, so that when we have that almost inevitable, er, “Oh, we’ve got two weeks before the deadline closes,” thing—

DW: Yeah. Yep.

RH: – we’re not scrambling for the testimonials, the case studies, the proof. We’ve got it in those little buckets. And we’re not—it’s not about spending a lot of time. It’s not about spending a lot of money on it or any money. It’s, it’s about just beginning to—when you get a great LinkedIn review—

DW: Yeah.

RH: – when you get, get a great testimonial on the phone. The client rings you and goes, “Thanks so much for gettin’ that deal through the, the, the gate.”

DW: Yeah.

RH: [Indiscernible 09:55].


RH: Erm, then it’s about saying, “Do you mind putting that on a quick email for me? Do you mind just giving a quick video testimonial?” It’s about just capturing that because yes, it can be used in many ways: social media, digital, er, on your website, but it’s also about being able to capture that for the purposes of awards entry and proof.

DW: I think it’s dovetailed into what we’ve—we’re trying to do as a, as a business, really—

RH: Yeah.

DW: – in that because we’ve been established that long, we’ve just gone through a rebrand. I, I’m very confident. I know we’ve got the statistics. We’ve got the testimonials.

RH: Yeah.

DW: You know, we lent just over £76 million last year. We’re a small broker in terms of numbers, but we’ve got the ability and the quality to go out there and do it.

RH: Yeah.

DW: And I think where it’s letters down 10:41 is that we’ve made the conscious decision, —

RH: Right.

DW: – rightly or wrongly, to fly under the radar. And I think it’s now about time that we should try and go above the radar and put ourselves above the parapet to say look, we’re here. This is what we do. We’re keen to grow, and we want to continue that success. And hopefully that’s shared with the likes of you guys and, and everybody else who we work with.

RH: It’s, it’s got to be right. It’s got—the time has got to be right for you.

DW: Absolutely.

RH: And there’s never a “right” time. Some businesses—we had a guy sitting on the sofa this morning. He entered his first award when the business was two years old. Glynis, who sat on the sofa earlier, entered when her business was two or three years old.

DW: Yeah.

RH: Different businesses.

DW: Yeah.

RH: Different, different, different people. It has to be right for you. There’s no right or wrong answers, apart from these ones.

DW: Okay. [Laughs]

RH: These are my three big—

[Crosstalk 11:27]

DW: Here we go. Here we go.

RH: Seriously, there is no right answers.

DW: [Indiscernible 11:30] Oh, please listen to my [indiscernible 11:32] injury.

RH: Oh, no. No. Gosh, yes. [Indiscernible 11:33] here on the Sofa of Success. Hopefully, the sofa will have made you [crosstalk11:36].

DW: Exactly. I feel I’m not worthy.

RH: So, erm, er, rightly so. So you’re at a—you know you’re a finalist. You’re at a, a, an awards, let’s say, dinner. You’re sitting around your table with your team and your, your colleagues. Erm, somebody up on the stage says, “And the winner is…Darren Willoughby.” Bear hug or high five?

DW: If I’m not crying, it will probably be a bear hug. [Laughs]

RH: You get up onto the stage. Just you or with your team?

DW: Erm, very much I’d like to be with the team, erm, because whilst it says as a principle of the business it’s a team effort in terms of what’s, what’s been there, so I think successes—and there’s something I was just speaking about, actually, just today is that what’s the point of havin’ success if you can’t share it with everyone ’cause, you know, you’re not sittin’ in your room high-fiving yourself, are you? So, whichever way that can be mis-, er, misconstrued, but at the end of the day, yeah, [indiscernible 12:28] team.

RH: Right. Brilliant. And I’m at the bar. You’re on the stage with your team. Whoop! Whoop! And I go, “Darren. What’re you drinking?” And this is a biggie:

DW: Yeah.

RH: Champagne or Prosecco?

DW: Can I say all of it and probably some wine and [indiscernible 12:43]?


RH: With wine. Yes. We’ve had a red one with Lori [indiscernible 12:47].

DW: Exactly. Exactly.

RH: And what was it that, that Pete, your mate, Pete, was saying? He’d go in for, was it a tequila cocktail? Or I got—a Tequila Slammer? I can’t remember now.

DW: I’m sure after a couple of [indiscernible 12:57] we’d forget anyway.

RH: Well, right. So, we’ve got a, kind of, a new thing, but red wine is in there

[Crosstalk 13:03]

DW: Definitely. Without a doubt.

RH: Brilliant. Well, listen. Whatever you decide to do with your awards, great that you’re on the track. I’m so looking forward to seeing you getting in there, finalists, er, getting some of the silverware—

DW: Fingers crossed.

RH: – up in the office. It’s a good deal, mate.

DW: Be good.

RH: You’ve got a great story. So, I’m excited to hear. Do come back and join us on the sofa when you get a few first ones in.

DW: Yeah, without a doubt. Yep.

RH: Yeah?

DW: Thanks for inviting me.

RH: Absolute pleasure. Darren’s contact details are flashing up in a few minutes at the end of this video. Erm, phenomenal at what he does, you know. The face of corporate finance does not have to be a grey suit and, and dull. It’s vibrant. Proof’s on the sofa, mate. So, er, give Darren a call. Er, in the meantime, we’re gonna take a lunch break, and we’ll be back next week with you. We’re not having a week’s lunch. Well, we could actually, Dave. Shall we? It’s nothing. We’re gonna have lunch, but we will have somebody else on the Sofa of Success after lunch, and we will catch up with you next week for more madness from the Sofa of Success. Until then, see ya later.