Heaven & Hell: Matt Moss and Paul Sheppard

Matt and Paul of SMART

Matt and Paul of SMART - Credit: SMART

Matt and Paul are managing director and operations director of the UK’s leading garden room manufacturer, SMART. Since acquiring SMART in 2019, the business has by their own admission been on a rollercoaster ride, marked by Brexit negotiations and Covid-19 closures. Outside of their busy work lives, family comes first, and the pair are always looking at how they can support charity and their communities. They talk to Gina Long MBE

Q: What’s the impact of Covid-19 been on you and how are you adapting? 

Matt: A complete spectrum, which included closing the business in March 2020, like most business owners, without any idea what was going to happen. We could not foresee that Covid would accelerate the working from home and agile working situation as it did. We are very fortunate to be one of the winners as a result of Covid and there is a clear intent, given the investment people are making in their garden rooms, that an element of working from home will remain as people see the benefits of a better work life balance.

We have had to adapt and took the decision, in a measured way, to grow the business to meet the demand, but that was only after we could see consistency in the order book. After six months we took the decision to invest and grow, adding more people, vehicles, equipment to the business to meet the growing demand as our lead times grew from eight to 10 weeks pre-Covid to nearly six months. Fast forward to today, the business has doubled in size, with significant re-investment, continual improvement and the right people.

Q: What is your connection to East Anglia? 

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Paul: I was born in Ipswich. My family have lived here for generations, and I have lived here ever since.

Q: What is your East Anglian Heaven?

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Matt: I love coming home. I was born and grew up in Bury St Edmunds, so my roots remain here. I have been to several different places in and outside the UK, but I love coming home. We have so much to offer. Landscapes, parklands, market towns, coastline, rivers. It’s a place where people come for their holiday’s and it’s the best part of the UK.

Q: What is your East Anglian Hell?

Paul: It must be the A140! It just seems to take forever to get anywhere.

Q: What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

Matt: The Abbey Garden’s and Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds. I am fascinated by the history, by the size and its importance, even today. The gardens are stunning, and I have enjoyed both my own childhood, and now as a parent, time in this very special place.

Q: What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year? 

Paul: The Suffolk Show, it’s a great day out and shows off the very best of Suffolk. It’s certainly been missed the last two years.

Q: What is your favourite restaurant? 

Paul: It must be the Sorrel Horse in Barham near my home. Great home cooked food, and I can walk home after a few pints.

Q: What's your specialist Mastermind subject? 

Matt: Star Wars. I am a massive Star Wars fan and once played Trivial Pursuit Star Wars edition, the competitors had no chance!

Q: What is always in your fridge?

Matt: My head! I am always looking for something. Everytime I go into the kitchen I am looking in the fridge, not really sure what for and I know nothing has changed since the last time I visited. I always check just in case I missed something….but the answer is Blueberries!

Q: What’s your simple philosophy of life? 

Paul: “It is what it is!” I find lots of people spend time worrying about things that they cannot change. I prefer to get on with things and worry about what I can do, not what I can’t.

Q: What’s your favourite film? 

Paul: Dirty Dancing! I can’t get enough of it. I even once lifted Matt on the dancefloor…that was a sight to behold.

Q: What was your first job? 

Matt: My first ever job was working for ITFC in their retail shop in Bury St Edmunds as a Saturday/holiday worker whilst doing my A’ Levels. My first proper job was a trainee accountant at a local practice in Bury St Edmunds, that’s where it all began.

Q: What is your most treasured possession? 

Paul: A cassette of my dad singing in his band. Unfortunately, I never got to hear him sing whilst he was alive, but I’m told he was a brilliant musician. Unfortunately, it’s doesn’t run in the genes.

Q: Who do you admire most? 

Paul: My mum. Bringing up three boys on her own. She is completely selfless but does not let people walk over her! I think this upbringing gave me the drive and hunger I have today.

Q: What is your biggest indulgence? 

Matt: Homemade brownies. My wife makes the most amazing chocolate brownies and as soon as they are out of the oven I am there.

Q: What do you like about yourself most? 

Paul: My relaxed approach to management. My colleagues are my friends/family. Everyone should be able to relax and be themselves when at work. If they get the job done, I say be yourself and be happy! Life is not a rehearsal.

Q: What’s your worst character trait? 

Paul: Not being able to switch off. I am always looking at what’s next, home improvements etc. It’s a good trait for business, however, I do need to learn to switch off when at home.

Q: Where is your favourite holiday destination? 

Matt: New Zealand. My wife and I honeymooned for a month there. We toured in a campervan the south and north islands, visiting the most incredible sites, seeing the most incredible things and doing the most incredible activities. A trip of a lifetime that will always be remembered…and hopefully one day repeated.

Q: Best day of your life? 

Matt: My wedding day. The most incredible day but more important was what came after that special day. That was the day that started my family. Three kids, a dog and many great memories followed that day.

Q: What’s your favourite breakfast? 

Matt: A full English breakfast at the ICE Café in Bury St Edmunds. Great food, great atmosphere, great people.

Matt and Paul of SMART

Matt and Paul of SMART - Credit: SMART

Q; What’s your favourite tipple? 

Paul: Birra Moretti, in an ice-cold glass on a hot day.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

Matt: Cooking, during Covid I decided to change my diet and look more at nutrition. As a result I started cooking things I have never tried, using ingredients that I didn’t know existed and started to get to know how combinations of foods and tastes went together.

Q: What’s your earliest memory? 

Paul: Me and my brothers jumping off our dad’s shed pretending to be Mary Poppins. Not the best example of health and safety.

Q: Tell us something people don’t know about you? 

Matt: I was a vegetarian from the age of eight until I was 28 years old, - 20 years of being a vegetarian, Then I changed back to eating meat and have not looked back since. Most people wouldn’t know that.

Q: What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you? 

Paul: “It can’t be done” - In my head anything is possible. With the right mindset and the right team around you anything is possible.

Q: Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

Matt: Family. Simply, all my family and my wife’s family live in Suffolk and family is so important to us both that living anywhere else isn’t really an option. Add to that the fact that we live in a beautiful area, a safe and well served location, with easy access to so much, we are so fortunate to grow up here, why would we ever move away.

Q: What do you want to tell our readers about most? 

A: Our ethos has always been about people, whatever business we have been in, the focus is on people. At SMART this is a concept that we, the management team, which consists of Matt, Paul and Sue Phillips (sales and marketing director), completely understand. The most important people are our colleagues that day in day out turn customers' dreams into a reality. For us the way to ensure customer experience is the number one priority is to ensure that the people that are responsible for their experience are valued, looked after, rewarded and listened to. Great businesses are built by great people.

Garden rooms have become the new essential addition to the garden for so many people as a dedicated space in which to work, work out, relax, enjoy, escape. We pride ourselves of our customer service, quality of product and innovate quick installation (as few as two days) process.

We are a Suffolk based business with a nationwide reach, our garden rooms are manufactured at our facility in Suffolk and each building is bespoke to our customer.

If you are interested in finding out more about our garden rooms, visit our website smartgardenoffices.co.uk

If you have a story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: @ginalong_geewizz

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