Deceuninck UK’s Managing Director, Rob McGlennon talks to Glass News’ Editor, Chris Champion, about the lockdown, the return to work, and what the future looks like for the ever-growing system company.
Ed: With that large Deceuninck logo behind you, you’re back in the office, Rob!
Rob McGlennon: Yes. Just come in because we’re blowing the doors off! We’re very busy indeed so I’m in reviewing the manufacturing and the shipping to make sure everything is as it should be. Oh, and Happy New Year, Chris – we haven’t spoken in a long time.
Ed: It has been a strange year…
Rob McGlennon: We’re both long in the tooth but I certainly have never experienced anything like this before. It has been a two month learning curve to say the least.
Ed: Let me start off by asking you a question. Talking around the trade there seem to be factions. One like yourselves who have used the opportunities the government have handed out in the way of furloughing and things, got back to work as fast as possible and got on with what you do best – manufacturing. The other faction seems to be showing no willingness to get back to work and all they seem to want to do is take as much money as they can from the government, and when that runs out they will consider going back to work. Have you seen or heard that?
Rob McGlennon: That would be a barking mad strategy. The furlough scheme has been fantastic. It has supported business, supported people, it stopped instant reaction to redundancy. It has supported families and businesses’ bottom line and I suspect a lot of people who haven’t returned are protecting their bottom line.
Although we are having a really good and spectacular return, I think we’ve got deeper problems ahead of us when we get into Quarter Four when the furlough scheme comes to an end, unless it’s extended. Then we will see the true cost of redundancies in the country as a whole and not just our market.
Ed: Things are looking good now, with a pent-up demand, but it may not be all new orders but orders that have been in the pipeline that’s coming through now and making the figures look good. When we get into that Fourth Quarter and there’s no money for furloughing there’s also going to be a lot of people who can’t afford to change their windows, doors and so on. They are not going to be a priority at that stage. I think there’s going to be a bit of a slump at that point.
Rob McGlennon: Although I don’t disagree with you, I’m a person who has a positive nature so I don’t like to think in a negative way. To be honest, I just wish everyone the best through this crisis, from a business perspective. It’s going to be challenging in the next 6 months and 18 months but I’m thinking positively all the time, not negatively. We’ve got to make our end good and not worry about it too much.
Ed: You are obviously having a lot of success in this country but what about Deceuninck overseas? Are they experiencing the same issues that we are in the UK?
Rob McGlennon: Yes, the market is pretty strong everywhere. Europe went into lockdown earlier than us. Places like Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – the countries I’m in with, are about 2 ½ weeks ahead of us. Spain is strong as is Holland with a lot construction going on, and France is a big market for Deceuninck. Interestingly the sales of decking have gone through the roof as that is something people have been able to do during lockdown.
Ed: I’d also heard roofline stuff has been doing very well too…
Rob McGlennon: If you are turning up to do roofline or decking you aren’t disturbing the homeowner at all. On that point we’ve been shut down for so long everyone has manicured lawns and people have had time to reflect on whether they should move, extend, get new windows or make other improvements. We’re halfway through June and at Deceuninck UK we’ve done around £10m in commercial contracts. It’s really moving out there but you’ve got to put yourself about. We have a great team of people and if you put the effort in you get the reward.
Ed: What about where you go from here? We keep hearing of companies in our industry hitting problems, disappearing, phoenixing. Does this mean more business for you to pick up?
Rob McGlennon: We start with having a good group of customers and continue to build that customer base with quality fabricators. And to be fair, we get more opportunities than we take on because we’re quite selective.
Ed: So it’s not just a matter of grab anyone who wants to come and play?
Rob McGlennon: No. I’d have a very short life expectancy if that was the case. It’s all about our offer. First of all, you have to have good relationships – the management team have over 150 years’ experience between them so have a lot of very good relationships. We created an offer that is second to none, we’ve got award winning quality and service, we have award winning products. I don’t believe you hear a bad word about Deceuninck…please tell me if you do!
Ed: No, that’s very true.
Rob McGlennon: We’re looking for people who are slightly different. We’re 60% foil and it continues to grow and is an enormous feature of our offer. Flush windows, flush door, the Heritage Collection, they are all flying.
If I’m presented with someone who would like to join Deceuninck but, when I visit their factory there are 200 white windows and no colour, it’s not going to work. The days of doing the same thing, week in and week out, month in and month out and expecting a better result are over, because if you continue doing the same thing you’re going backwards.
Ed: Doesn’t that present you with a problem? You’ve got a huge range of products and more colours than you can imagine, so where do you go from here to keep changing that offer?
Rob McGlennon: We’re pretty much where we are at the moment. We have some innovations in the pipeline but I’m not sure we need much more. We’ve had a couple of customer days where we have asked specific customers in specific areas for products of interest. Obviously I’m not going to suggest what they are, but we have interesting innovations on the horizon. We just have to keep supplying our customers with the tools to stay ahead of the game.
We have to remember it isn’t what I want or my management team want, it’s what the customer needs. So every step of the way we are looking to enhance our customer offer and put them front and centre when they’re talking to a retail customer, a trade customer, a commercial customer or new build – we want them to be slightly different.
Ed: Presumably the introduction of aluminium from Deceuninck is, again, something to help your customers to offer everything that is available.
Rob McGlennon: Sure. When I said relationships, offer, quality, service; aluminium an additional string to our bow. To be honest, we’ve always sold against aluminium but there seems to be a place for aluminium and the offer that we’ve got at Deceuninck, throughout Europe, is growing in stature. Again, the focus has been on quality and service, because the feedback I’m getting from customers is that the expectations of customers of aluminium is not the same as with PVC-U. Everyone in this country runs with a very tight order book so we need to be agile, we need to be good, we need to hold stock – all of our colour is held in stock – and that hasn’t, to my knowledge, been the case with aluminium suppliers.
So, it’s a very strong offer with a complete and on time turn around. We’re looking forward to engaging with more customers. Some have already engaged and there are others who we hope will take on the aluminium system. I think that has a good future in it.
Ed: Is it fairly geographic when you look at your customers? Presumably you are not wanting to take on one fabricator who is right next to another fabricator. Do you look at where they are when you take on a new customer?
Rob McGlennon: Absolutely. We’re not the biggest and don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best. Being selective is the wrong word but I suppose we can be a bit choosy about who we take on. We’ve customers who are small, medium and large and we don’t want to offend anyone. They have been loyal to us and we have been supportive of them. We don’t want 300 or 400 fabricators. We would like maybe an additional 40 fabricators over the next two years, which should be quite achievable, and we will then grow to the aspirations we’ve set. We have nine new customers to start and we’ve done three deals over lockdown – all done over the internet!
Ed: And will you be using things like Zoom meetings more with customers in the future?
Rob McGlennon: I think day to day it has got real merit. We live on strong relationships and relationships have got us to where we are today. I’ve spent a lot of time in bars and restaurants with customers over the years and it is lovely being in contact with people, but these sorts of meetings are another useful tool.
Ed: I’ve heard how fabricators can talk through a problem with an installer using technology, saving time and money by not having to send out a man and a van. Is this going to be the future?
Rob McGlennon: Certainly in the short term and people will become very adept at using these technologies. You don’t have to hop in a car to drive 200 miles to see someone.
Ed: Why just the short term?
Rob McGlennon: I think we’ll get used to it, but old habits will come back in. We may not do the number of visits we’ve done in the past but we’ll want to see people face to face from time to time.
Ed: The future. You’ve got some catching up to do before the end of the year…can you catch up the lost two months?
Rob McGlennon: Those months are lost but there are positive signs out there of increased volumes. All we can do is support our customers and create the best end to the year that we can. But what we are doing now is trying to make 2021 a good year by setting our stall out now.
Ed: We have seen some companies really suffer but I’m presuming Deceuninck has the financial backing to withstand this difficult period?
Rob McGlennon: Yes and, to be fair, the group is very supportive and they are quite happy with how we are performing, and with performance across Deceuninck’s global business. Everyone is playing catch up as best they can but, of course, by the end of the year we’ll have Brexit to deal with.
Ed: What about recycling and the new European directives?
Rob McGlennon: We’ve spent an arm and a leg on our recycling plant in Belgium. This whole issue of lead in old PVC-U…it’s not lead, it’s lead salt in it and I haven’t seen anyone lick a window in the last fortnight!
Do we want to go back to landfill? That’s not a good thing for our industry and our green credentials.
Ed: Has this episode affected staffing levels either by greater efficiencies by using technology or because of finance, having to lay people off?
Rob McGlennon: We need more people, we’re a growing business, Chris. We’re under pressure but we’re not rattling. We don’t want to impact the service to the customer. All our extrusion lines and foiling lines are running and running 24 hours per day. The recovery from the middle of May until now has been staggering. Certainly better than my hopes and we’re going to need more people.
Ed: Thanks Rob. It’s always interesting talking with you…and good luck.
Rob McGlennon: And, please, let me say ‘Good Luck’ to everyone in our industry and the country as a whole as we will all need it over the next 18 months. And then, when we come out of the other end, we’ll need to all give ourselves a pat on the back.
Watch the video here: youtu.be/z8EOqnD7950
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