Looking people in the eye

As we experience a fundamental societal change, The Window Company (Contracts)’s David Thornton argues that the 2021 FIT Show will be more important than ever in determining his company’s future trading partners

“When I look at search engines online I always get sidetracked: and when I go to the FIT Show, the same happens,” David Thornton. from Chelmsford-based The Window Company (Contracts), said.

“I always go to the FIT Show with a plan of what and who I want to see but always get sidetracked. There is so much there that even with a plan, I leave having laid the foundation for deals I didn’t know we would do.”

One of the south east’s leading commercial window, door and curtain walling installers, working for some of the region’s biggest contractors and social housing providers, David has steered the The Window Company (Contracts) to three Installer of the Year G-Award titles.

David has always been a keen supporter of the FIT Show because, he says, it works so effectively for him and his company that he carefully plans the visit not just for himself, but also for his executive team. One year, he even produced a brochure that profiled The Window Company to prospective sellers at the event, “to save time explaining who we were every time we stopped to talk to an exhibitor”, he said.

“A decent exhibition, and especially a business event, will allow visitors to see dozens of prospective supply partners and new products in a day or two, compared with weeks of trawling the internet. We go with a plan, achieve what we set out to do, see who we needed to see, but there is always so much more.

“You meet people face to face at an exhibition like the FIT Show and, as sophisticated as digital communications are, there is no substitute for looking people in the eye to discuss your needs and their ability to supply you.”

David planned ahead for the lockdown as much as was humanly possible.

“We have two weeks’ stock for every contract that we were working on when the lockdown was imposed, including for the significant number of social housing projects that The Window Company is involved with,” he said. “So when we are able to restart – which for social housing I don’t think will be earlier than mid-June – we will be able to commence work as soon as it is safe to do so, where we left off.”

While some will question if events such as exhibitions will be attractive to visitors, or even valid as a means of doing business, David feels that, business events like the FIT Show will have a more important role going forward.

“Although we have a difficult road ahead just yet, assuming that we are able to return to some sort of normality in the coming months, the next FIT Show, scheduled for May next year, will be immensely important for the industry,” he said.

“It will be a celebration, an outlet for the pent-up frustrations of being unable to work, of having to close factories, the struggle to survive. And in fact, I will regard any exhibitors at the 2021 FIT Show as companies that I am more likely to do business with, simply as they have not only survived but they can afford to be there both financially and logistically.

“By then they are likely to have rationalised their products and services and will have taken a lot of hard decisions during the lockdown that will make those companies leaner, fitter and simply better to do business with.

“The weaker companies will have gone. I want to see who is left, to see the shape of their businesses, how they intend to develop going forward; the May 21 FIT Show will be a filter in effect, one that highlights the more successful, better-managed and better-funded companies in our industry.

“But just as importantly, many of the challenges posed by the lockdown came from the basic need for human interaction – to talk, laugh, argue, discuss, negotiate – and that is probably why the FIT Show will be so very important, as we come out of this period, and why the pessimists that suggest the days of such events are over, are wrong. Because such comments do not take into account the one simple rule: people need people. I am looking forward to a great show.”