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Not putting all your eggs in one basket is key to not only surviving a downturn but to running a successful fabrication business, according to the owner of Devon-based M&S Windows Mark Sansome.
The Deceuninck fabricator manufactures 200 frames a week out of a 12,500ft2 unit in Newton Abbot, supplying windows and doors to builders, developers, window companies and social housing providers across the southwest of England.
“We’ve got some great customers, many of whom have been with us for 12-15 years,” Mark said. “In fact, we’ve just signed another 10-year supply agreement with one of them.”
Mark knows that there are bigger companies available to pick up the kind of contract work M&S Windows successfully targets, but the size of his company offers more reactive levels of service, which his customers appreciate.
“I like dealing with straight-talking suppliers, which is why we’ve got on well with Deceuninck for the 17 years we’ve been with them,” Mark said. “And I like to take that approach with my customers. We’re very reactive if there is an issue – we like to keep the ball rolling – and our customers appreciate that.”
Mark said the problem M&S Windows was now facing was not so much turning work down, but making sure they were taking on work from across different sectors.
“I look at the work we are doing in the social housing sector, and I reckon we could pick up an extra 30% there,” Mark said. “But it wouldn’t be sensible. You look at the economy at the moment, and you look at what happened during the last recession, and you can see how those companies who had one or two big customers in the same sector struggled when budgets were rolled back. I want to spread it around a bit.”
Mark admitted that the temptation was to set up a fully automated facility and maybe take on extra space to manage the increased demand. But this could put the company in a weaker position if demand drops.
“Key for M&S Windows is to get the right product range, which makes us attractive across all market sectors, and which targets those growth areas, and to have targeted investment in areas where you can support your existing strengths,” he said.
“So, we keep output at around 200 frames per week, but we make sure they are the best 200 frames we can make.”
M&S Windows makes fully sculptured and chamfered windows, and was one of the first to offer the flush casement window from Deceuninck.
“We also offer the full-colour range from Deceuninck, which we can do knowing that they have 30+ colourways from stock,” Mark said. “Being able to supply your customers when you say you can have been vital over the last couple of years. The sudden increase in demand, followed by the supply chain problems, created a real headache for some businesses – we even found ourselves doing work on behalf of other fabricators in the areas when they had their supplies cut.”
Investment in a new welder, new IT system (including full fibre to the premises), and new delivery vehicles support the company’s aims as sales leads are expected to drop as we go into 2023.
“There will always be work to be won,” Mark said. “You just have to make sure you are in the best possible shape to win it. For example, down here in Devon and Cornwall, we saw holiday home refurbishments take off following the pandemic. Thanks to our flush and colour offering, we were able to pick up a lot of that work.
“But, ultimately, if you make sure you’ve got good customers in a number of sectors, and that you have the full support of your suppliers, then you should always be able to win work.”
Pictured: Office Manager Mark Stockman.
For more information call 01249 816 969, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.deceuninck.co.uk
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