It’s good to talk

Nathan Court
Nathan Court

Do you want to cut costs and improve profit? Then keep the dialogue open with your suppliers, argues Sternfenster’s sales director, Nathan Court.

While Covid is almost a distant memory, we should still remember some of the lessons learned during that tumultuous period, believes Sternfenster’s sales director Nathan Court, who says that processes developed then are still valuable today.

“When we think of Covid, we tend to think about lockdowns, supply shortages and increased demand,” Nathan says. “But, for me, the real lesson is that an open dialogue with customers and suppliers is vital for ongoing success.”

Nathan explains that all recent product developments at Sternfenster are the result of the ongoing discussions with its customers.

“The number one request from customers is relevance,” Nathan says. “As we are the main supplier for many of our customers, it is vital our portfolio is bang up to date and modern.

“For example, we recently launched Quickglaze, a new knock-in glazing bead with co-extruded gaskets for our Visofold 1000 bi-folding doors following in-depth discussions with window companies. This was developed in partnership with Smarts Aluminium after our customers told us they were spending too much time on site glazing the doors.

“On traditional aluminium bi-folding doors, fitting the gasket separate to the bead is a faff and can result in lost components. Knock-in beads with co-extruded beads means there is no time spent hunting for parts, and hours can be shaved off a job.

“Thanks to a quick delivery and the new Quickglaze knock-in bead, our customers can spend less time on site, which means getting paid quickly.”

Nathan says that nothing should be off the table when it comes to picking up the phone to your supplier, and that everything should be up for discussion, including delivery times, payment terms, and even accounting support.

“Our success is directly influenced by the success of our customers,” Nathan says. “This was highlighted during the Covid pandemic, and we built online tools as a result. For example, we launched Sternfenster Plus, an online portal that gives our installer customers access to a huge amount of information, designed to help them run their business more efficiently.

“In addition to a regularly updated news feed, they can check the status of all their quotes, contracts and deliveries, access training and marketing materials, and even tap into a live production feed that provides real time data on the capacity of our PVC and aluminium factories.

“But we also opened up our back office to our customers, so they can access services like accounting.

“For example, cash flow may be a problem, in which case we can help put processes in place to help balance to books, or a big project may have just landed which would require extending credit terms.

“In both of the instances, if our customers don’t pick up the phone to us, then we can’t help.”

Ultimately though, good communication between Sternfenster and its customers have resulted in some very successful partnerships.

“We turn 50 next year, and many of our customers have been with us for a very significant part of that journey,” Nathan says. “Much of that success is a result of regular communication.

“And while lots of companies hid in their fortresses during Covid, we made it easier to talk to each other and kept the dialogue going. As a result, we kept disruption to a minimum – something we want to keep doing, even as Covid becomes a dim and distant memory.”