Turning adversity into opportunity
Simon Monks, managing director at VBH, gives an insight into the company’s decision to stay open for business during the Covid crisis and how product development has benefited as a result
Much has been written about how companies have dealt with the issues facing all of us over the last few months.
The Covid crisis effectively caused the UK, and the wider world, to shut down at the end of March as we battled to contain and defeat the virus. Of course, that struggle continues and we must all be eternally grateful to the NHS and other key workers who have performed miracles to keep most of us healthy, fed and safe, and continue to do so.
Our own industry was impacted terribly with most installers having to down tools during lockdown, with the result that business for most of us fell off a cliff for a few weeks.
Different companies reacted in different ways. At VBH we are fortunate to have a wide mix of customers ranging from fabricators, installers, re-sellers, and repair and maintenance specialists.
Many of our customers continued to work, whether manufacturing and installing for vital projects, or repairing windows and doors that had failed, leaving properties insecure. We took the decision to remain open to support these customers, initially with a skeleton staff of just 11 people working from home or, in the case of the three-man warehouse team, working safely at VBH Gillingham when orders required.
We have since reopened our other sites and are bringing more people back into the business as demand dictates.
As well as supporting customers immediately by giving them access to product, we kept most of our UK based product development team active during lockdown and this has proved to be extremely beneficial.
They have taken the opportunity to use the quiet time wisely to really push on with a large number of new product developments.
Our UK team has been working with our VBH colleagues in the far east and across Europe, largely via online meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype, to bring to life a host of new greenteQ products for PVCU, aluminium and timber windows, doors and Lifestyle elements (our catch-all name for large element sliding patio doors).
The second half of 2020 will see us unveil most of these new products, starting with the greenteQ ClearLift lift and slide door hardware range in August.
ClearLift is the latest product in our Lifestyle range, joining the popular greenteQ ClearSpan bifold, and Invisifold slide and fold hardware systems.
It is a heavy-duty system that allows large and heavy doors weighing up to 300kg to be operated easily. We launched our greenteQ Aspire lift/slide handle range last year with great success, and we expect customer take-up for ClearLift to be just as positive, bearing in mind the growing popularity of lift/slide doors and the growing reputation for quality that greenteQ products have in the UK and in Europe.
This is just one of our exciting new products that we have pushed through during the crisis that will help us and our customers get more orders in what is, of course, a very tough business climate.
Rather than battening down the hatches, we chose to hit the Covid storm head on, and while it hasn’t been an easy ride (our April turnover was a little over 10% of budget.) May was much healthier as more customers took the first tentative steps to return; and June is, at the time of writing, going very well.
Some hardware companies chose a different route to VBH, and we all made our choices for all the right reasons based on our customers’ needs.
However, staying open, staying in touch, and staying innovative, all while staying safe has proven to be the correct decision for VBH and our customers.