Star of the WeekEnviroTech

Martin Smith will never forget one 16th birthday present in particular.

The teenager was brought up in the Huyton area of Liverpool and spent much of his childhood with his late grandad Terry Smith.

“For my 16th birthday he got me a job interview,” recalls Smith, who is the CEO of Warrington-based Dynamis Associates, which has just raised £3.5m in investment.

“He wanted me to learn the value of work and the value of money. My parents were the same so when I was 16 I was told ‘if you want something you work for it’.

“I learnt a very big lesson the first time I went in to buy branded clothing and thought ‘I’m better off in Primark now that I’m using my own hard-earned cash’. It was a life lesson.”

The 35-year-old intends to ingrain the same values into his own children as his grandad instilled in him but more about that later.

Fatherhood

Smith is leading a quiet revolution in the UK renewable energy market  but admits it may never have happened if he hadn’t become a dad at the age of 23.

He was working as a door-to-door salesman helping the public switch their energy when his then partner, now wife, told him she was pregnant.

“I’m one of those guys that has never shied away from responsibility,” he recalls. “The thought of having a kid excited me but scared me at the same time.

“I had to make a life adjustment and stop going round with the guys and put some financial security behind me so that my now three children are safe and secure.”

His first business was called Aberla, which now has an order book of £20m and he remains the largest single shareholder.

“It works in renewable energy,” he says. “It’s got some good domestic contracts. It does a lot of work with housing associations and it does a lot of mechanical and electrical work.”

Before launching Dynamis, Smith successfully exited Sunlight Tech after selling the business to Octopus Energy. When he was drafted in as CEO in 2018 the business was worth £11.1m but was bought 18 months later for £14m.

Ageism

Smith says he’s never worried what people think of his relative youth. “There is ageism,” he says. “You have to be resolute and confident in what you’re doing and believe in yourself.”

He launched Dynamis after seeing his grandmother sitting next to a bar fire to stay warm.

“It was after my grandad died and she said she couldn’t afford the bills on her own,” he recalls. “I offered to pay them but she wouldn’t let me because she’s part of that proud generation. That was when the trigger (for Dynamis) kicked in.

“People don’t die every year because they can’t afford to put the TV on but they do die because they don’t heat the home.  You see it year-after-year in the newspapers and no one is doing anything about it. That’s the start of where Dynamis comes from.”

While most renewable energy has focused on solar panels Smith identified the potential of air source heat pumps.

“We basically want to find an energy partnership with the consumer,” he says. “We don’t want to be a fit and forget run-of-the-mill installation company.

“Whether it’s a private homeowner or a large housing association we are working with we don’t just want to install but understand how your systems are performing once they’re installed.

“Energy can be confusing. We’re here to say ‘let us help you understand how you are using energy’. We have that knowledge and can help save money. It’s about not being wasteful.”

Investment

The company is now planning the next stage of its growth after securing £3.5m in an investment round led by Liverpool-based private capital investor Arete.

The growing firm was valued at £15m as part of the deal and is on track to be the largest installer of heat pumps and solar within  three years.

Arete’s managing partner is Mike Fletcher, who is also Smith’s cousin.

“We have quite a direct relationship with each other,” admits Smith. “People assume because we’re cousins it will all be nice and woolly but it’s far from that. I’ve had a strict upbringing from him.

“Mike, and the other guys from Arete, have been great. They’re always at the end of the phone. Their contacts within the industry are all top level. The direction they give is fantastic. Mike in particular has been helping me for years now and he demands perfection.  It’s one of the reasons why he is so good at what he does.”

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Family is clearly very important to Smith which is why he’s already planning the birthday present he’ll give to his 11-year-old daughter Paige when she turns 16.

“I have this idea of having a family-run pizza place,” he explains. “I want my kids to have the same values that I do.  The minute they turn 16 I would hope I’d be able to put them into a safe working environment. You turn 16 you go to work.

“I don’t want my kids to be spoilt in any way, shape or form. I’ll look after them but they have to work for their pocket money. They do the dishwasher and the tidying up.

“I’ve seen it where people spoil their kids and they don’t understand the value of work. That’s not going to happen with my kids.”

  • Dynamis Associates CEO Martin Smith has been chosen as the latest winner of TechBlast’s Star of the Week. Every Friday it’s given to the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs who have most impressed TechBlast in the previous seven days. At the end of the year we’ll  publish the full list of 50 names. To nominate someone email [email protected]