The first 50 days as MD

Veka MD Neil Evans explains how the company has started the year with record breaking results.

Last autumn, when I was still sales director, we had a Veka board meeting to set out a new five-year plan for the business, which meant I was able to lead on a vision that we had collectively developed.

The last few months have been about building on this plan and rolling it out across the business; it’s about making sure our people believe in what we want to achieve.

The feedback is that this new level of transparency and long-term thinking is welcomed, as we’ve tended to communicate year by year.

We have just had our biggest January: sales were 20% ahead of budget, even though two of our largest customers went into administration last year. January would normally be our second quietest full trading month.

The fenestration sector is usually predictable, with single-digit growth and some set times of the year when you know demand is going to be high. But that has all been blown out of the water. We face new challenges daily, but the key is having our team focused on meeting the challenges of the here and now, and having a strategy that we can quickly adapt for the good of our customers.

As an industry we have all been fighting the challenges of raw materials’ availability and cost inflation, and this is set to continue for much of 2021. The scale of Veka globally, the culture of our family-owned business, and our focus on our core competence of providing customers with extruded profile for window and door systems, has ensured we have coped with it extremely well so far. However, we are not complacent as the challenges have not gone away.

The most important thing for us over the next year is to secure good, reliable day-to-day performance for our customers. We’re in the most unusual and challenging of times: supply chains are stretched; some suppliers are struggling to fulfil their contracts; and we need to work hard to make sure we continue to deliver.

We will be forward thinking too and invest in our people and the culture of our business – all aimed at ensuring that we out-service our competition, and that our customers out-service theirs.

One immediate decision I made was to have HR report directly to me. We’re putting an added focus on people, and we want to look after the people who look after our business.

We’ve got a good culture here at Veka and we’re well respected in Lancashire, but I think there is always room for improvement, and we can be an even better employer.

Across the business we’re redefining our values, and a key part of this is reinforcing ideas of trust and making sure that we are truly accountable to each other. There is an incredible amount of work done here to deliver the highest quality products and services reliably to our customers, and every one of us is critical to that.

I think consistency and good communications are key to good leadership, so people always know what’s expected of them. That’s where our five-year strategy comes into play. Understanding ‘how the work really works’ is critical, and that is best done by those who do the work day in day out in order to find better ways that make a real difference.

Selling isn’t just about relationships, personality, and a ‘you win some, you lose some’ attitude. It is about delivering against customers’ needs quickly and accurately and making sure it all works. Our relationships with our customers are vital to us and doing what we say we are going to do is the best way for that relationship to be healthy.

I’m naturally inquisitive, and I want to know how things work. So, while I’m on a learning curve, I will constructively question everything with a new perspective, which will be good for me and the business. Plus, I’m fortunate enough to have a strong leadership team, all bought into a shared strategy, so we will be able to reap the rewards and see our ambitions realised.