In our ‘Spotlight On’ series, we’re showcasing the many things Woodingdean has to offer, through profiles of local business owners. This week we speak to Stephen Roke from Stephen Roke – Office Support.
It isn’t essential to be a trained accountant to work in finance these days, but I’ve been working with money and in finance-related industries all my working life and think there is a place for everybody, whether supporting customers or in banking services. I worked for the Midland Bank Group and was an area manager of their finance company Forward Trust for seventeen years. But true to form with the onset of computers in the early eighties, I was made redundant one Monday morning and given an envelope and a black bag to take my personal stuff away. Luckily, when I went to tell my largest client of what was happening I was taken on by them, which in timescales of the motor industry turned out to be the onset of motor vehicle contract hire. I became a salesman leasing company cars. I went from there into writing leasing agreements. But I wanted to make more money, having a small family by then, and set up a small car leasing brokerage, leasing cars and vans to companies.
It’s important to me to do something I feel strongly about. The brokerage company only lasted a few years but it gave me the opportunity to set up an office in Brighton, where, after further progression in the industry, I had eventually found a good life and a good place to live – Woodingdean. I then went to work for the NHS as P.A to a dental director where I stayed for three years. When the NHS moved the dental side from Brighton to Haywards Heath I didn’t want to go with them so I stayed in Brighton and I now work as an administrator for the district nursing teams out in the Moulescoomb Centre. I feel passionately about this work because they work so hard and they need administrative back up.
I’ve had to cope with a lot of change. There are five of us who work out of Moulescoomb to support nigh-on 20 nurses and supporting staff and it’s a lot of work. There are a lot of patients, and they need a lot of time and care. They’re all at home, and you start relationships with patients because they recognise your voice when they ring you and all sorts of things. There’s been a lot of change but now I help assist the Moulescoomb hub, which I love doing, but I’d also been bookkeeping and doing sundry things for a long time, so I thought I might as well do it full time. I set up Stephen Roke Office Support.
Businesses can need support with all sorts of things. With Office Support I help individuals, partnerships and small businesses. I help set up companies and if they’re starting from scratch, then I steer them through all the registration processes, the banking, profit & loss predictions and loan applications. I’ve also set up my own computerised bookkeeping systems, so if you put an entry in on day one on a spreadsheet, it filters through all the other systems and produces a balance sheet at the other end. I can prepare a customer’s books for an accountant, or if an individual or company with a small turnover, l will do the accounts as well..
I like to have a one-to-one relationship with Clients. I work mainly with small partnerships and somebody who’s a sole trader, because ideally I have a one to one relationship. I’m always available working hours. Clients often ‘add work on’. I build up trust with those people, they either like or don’t like the way I work and then I can develop those relationships. I have everything that is necessary to do all the work from home. I have a good-looking website, and rely on word of mouth: I don’t actively market for anything. I don’t want to get to the stage where I’ve suddenly got to think about premises again, suddenly think about salaries and all that sort of thing. I hope my Clients would say I’m approachable, that nothing’s too much trouble. Also, I like to think I’m an honest person and I won’t do anything that I feel is dishonest or is covering anything up, and I say that on my website too.
Woodingdean’s got everything. Personnally I love it! I’ve lived in Woodingdean now for twelve years. I like Woodingdean for its friendly demeanour, people say hello to each other, and help where they can. I am involved with the Woodingdean Tenants and Residents Association, as Secretary and Treasurer, and I am Vice Chair of the new Woodingdean Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, which is just getting off the ground. I like the cottage industries that are going on in the village, where one or two people are working together in collaborations of one sort or another. We have a number of well-known artists and writers in the village too. People try to enhance their lives by doing something that they have to do, while balancing it with something they want to do. It’s got a mix of people that is so different from anywhere else in Brighton. Woodingdean people are friendly and try to keep a village atmosphere, it’s a cheerful place and there’s a lot going on. Some people expect it to be an extension of Brighton, which it isn’t – it has a distinct community spirit. I’m passionate about the village keeping its identity, which would be so sad to see lost.
Stephen spoke to Jo Weatherall
You can read the other Spotlights here.