Consider this an open letter to the entire industry. After the events of the past week, I can see why 22% of our industry voted to say that they thought we had a worse reputation than MPs.
People in glass houses
On Tuesday the rumours about the fate of Synseal were put to bed as it was announced that a new company was formed called Aperture Trading Ltd and bought the old business. Just in case you haven’t read that yet, clear here to catch up. It has since opened up many very important subjects which hit hard right to the very centre of our industry.
The immediate news was that 1000+ jobs had been saved by the move. Admittedly 40+ jobs had been lost in the roofing division, which is never good news to have to report on.
Following the announcement, as the dust settled, some on social media were talking about the other ramifications this manoeuvre would have. The major issue being what would happen to the various suppliers of the old company and if they would be paid the money that was owed to them. Our industry has form.
I was approached on Friday on Twitter as to why I had not called out the new company for allegedly dodging their debts. So, I’ll state now for 100% clarity, that I have always been against the practice of companies being shut down and restarted, allowing them to clear their debts unpaid. It causes huge damage to the rest of the supply chain. That being said, whilst the law allows it, the new company have not done anything wrong. But I will tackle that specific point later on in this article.
What followed was a back and forth in which DGB was the sole industry media account that was directly mentioned in what became a debate about the state of trade press bias. That was until I thought it was only polite to bring in the rest of the trade press which was supposedly being targeted by actually mentioning them in one of my replies. Glass News have since replied on Twitter to say that they have approached the new company for an interview or further comment. No other media outlet has replied as of yet. At least on the same thread.
It was discussed by a small number of people on social media that a company reforming and avoiding debts is a bad thing. I really do understand that point, as do many. But before we all become holier than thou, I would like to point everyone to the fact that there are a great many companies operating in our industry that we all seem very happy to deal with now, after they themselves have gone through similar “phoenixing”. I could name them, but I don’t think I need to. So, I would caution people before they start declaring one thing and another that a great deal of our industry, including many reading this right now, will be dealing with companies that have also gone under and come up again. Staggering hypocrisy in operation every day.
The media is biased? Of course it is!
One of the frustrations voiced on the aforementioned Twitter conversation was the bias of the industry media in their coverage of the Synseal acquisition. This is a quoted tweet: It is the biased reporting of it (not just you). Not one word in any press has been uttered concerning the millions of unpaid creditors. Some of whom will probably have to shed jobs as a result. It needs reporting.
Is this the moment it was realised that our industry press is biased? That the established media outlets won’t go near anything that might cause a hint of a raised eyebrow or rock a boat slightly? Of course they won’t! They rarely do, if at all. So no, I don’t think this is some kind of epiphany, rather, a tweet that actually shone a well aimed spotlight on something that does need to be talked about.
Should Glass News indeed land an interview or extra comment from the new company that would be going further that anyone else has.
For anyone hoping to hear alternative views from industry press I wouldn’t hold your breath. It’s not coming. But let me also take this opportunity to explain my own position on this. I fully understand the point being made about avoided debts. There are however a couple of key factors as to why I cannot write about this, at least not yet. First, I am not in possession of information that yet confirms that the new company, Aperture Trading Ltd, will actually avoid paying debts to their suppliers when they were in their old form. Second, I do not have accurate information as to who is owed what exactly. I will reveal I have been sent in private a list of purported companies and the amounts owed. But, it can’t be verified and would therefore be wrong of me to publish that information. We live in an age where facts are more important than ever. If I was to write such a piece it would have to be based on facts.
This specific issue on a single company has however shone a very clear spotlight on how our industry media actually goes about it’s work in our industry. The reason I work so hard on DGB is to try and give alternative views, opinion and analysis on a very large number of important industry issues that are just not being covered by anyone else, but that affect us all every day. It seems like an utter dereliction of duty from industry media to not report on things like hard-sell practices, the state of payments, installation matters such as a lack of lintels being fitted by installation companies. At the end of the week before last there was the news about Masco in the US considering their options on a number of UK based companies. Where was that mentioned on the websites of the other fenestration media companies?
We’re at a stage now where the established media are now avenues for PR and advertising. Nothing wrong about that of course, and there is the once-per-month article from the editor just to add a flavour of something different. But lets not pretend that these types of business models will then allow for regular, unbiased opinion and analysis from those platforms. It’s been like that for a long time. So, if you’re happy reading PR piece after PR piece then great news, you have a huge selection to choose from. If however you’re after genuine opinion and analysis from a site where the person writing actually works in the industry and will approach subjects on the industry no matter who advertises on the site, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
Speaking of advertising, I would like to address my own site and it’s advertising, seen as though I’m commenting on the industry media in general. As you may have seen DGB, through it’s hard work and rapidly growing audience, has attracted quite a number of quality companies who have chosen to advertise on there. With that comes PR, which I duly publish as is the service I provide. However, I am also fully aware that DGB was built on the back of independent opinion, analysis and writing. I am incredibly proud to say that the site reached the ten year mark in March, a milestone that as of yet I am unsure of how to mark. Still, to keep central the reason why 260,000+ people will read the site this year I created DGB Opinion. An area on DGB dedicated to all my own independent writing, analysis and commentary. It is (as far as I know) the industry’s biggest resource of it’s kind.
It would be very easy however for our industry to change our media and how it covers our sector. What I’m doing anyone else could do. It’s not difficult.
Want change? Change the law
Back to the news at hand, and that is Aperture Trading Ltd. As I have mentioned earlier in this article, what the company has done is not illegal. The current UK legislation allows it to happen. If we wanted to stop this sort of thing happening, then it would have to be legislated for.
Given what is happening in the UK right now, looking at something like this would be below even the low-level letter box debate that is ongoing. What I will say is that if push came to shove, I don’t think the industry would actually back this sort of change.
As I have said, there are many companies operating right now in our industry that many of us continue to deal with that have folded and started again. And one day, one of us might find ourselves in a bind where even though we don’t want to, we may have to fold our company and reform in order to save jobs. At that point, would we be happy if the laws were changed which means we wouldn’t have been able to do it? Probably not.
So by all means shout and tweet about how unfair the system is, but unless the law is changed it’s perfectly possible to do what has been done. And maybe think on about condemning a system you might one day need yourself.
Breaking down barriers
It is rare that a story like this can have a much wider impact than just the subject of the article itself. Usually these things come and go and we’re back to normal within a couple of days. However, the discussion online rightly brought into focus the type of reporting our industry MSM does, or doesn’t do as was argued.
This though speaks to the even wider issue of breaking down barriers within our industry. Daring to do things differently. Challenging the established ways of doing things and confronting those who resist change. We often complain about our own industry, whether it’s the use of hard-sell tactics by installation companies, our trade press, our governing bodies and schemes. But change requires action, and so often it is the case that plenty of us are prepared to stand up and shout out against what we see not to be right, but then stop. With the NFAs and DGB I try to exercise just that.
With DGB I am able to talk about subjects that others won’t approach and that effects all parts of our industry. I’m able to break stories quicker than most others, and talk about subjects without having to worry about upsetting potential advertisers. With the NFAs we set up an awards that were laughed at by the industry elite, but are now into it’s 7th campaign. We recognise more sectors than any other industry awards, with a Winners Event that gets bigger every year, and with a platform which garners thousands of votes from thousands of people across the entire sector. It hasn’t been easy, we have faced a lot of push back from those who don’t wish to see their own positions challenged. But we have carried on in the face of that, in the belief that there are better ways of doing things in our industry.
For those who wish to see things done differently in our industry, be it press coverage, business trading, standards, quality, awards or anything else in between, back the people and companies who are genuinely trying to do something about it. If you’re not prepared to dare to step away from the archaic structures that continue to have way too much influence within our industry, then don’t expect anything to change.
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