The morning that Catering Insight steps into the Farringdon offices of Instanta’s parent company Zip Heaters, Graham Crisp is on the phone to a sales person that he has offered a job to.
The good news, he reveals as he ushers us into a meeting room, is that they have accepted the position.
It’s a timely reminder of the rebuilding exercise that confronts Instanta’s new national sales manager as he seeks to replenish the company’s sales ranks and make his own mark on the business after taking over a post previously held by Nick Neal.
Fortunately for Crisp, while the catering equipment sector represents virgin territory, he has been suitably exposed to the world of Instanta for the last eight and a half years by virtue of working for its owners, the Australian company Zip Heaters. Starting off as an area sales manager in London, he was promoted to a regional sales role before eventually taking charge of its activities in the public sector market.
But he admits that when the opportunity arose to take on a new challenge within the group, it was something that appealed straight away.
“Instanta has been around for more than 50 years and it is well known and respected in the market place, and I think that is one of the reasons why I decided to take it. I thoroughly enjoyed working at Zip, don’t get me wrong, but this is a new challenge. The potential is there for Instanta to grow considerably and if we can get everything in place that we want to get in place then we should really do well.”
One of Crisp’s first tasks has been to get to grips with Instanta’s channel strategy. The majority of Zip’s business goes through plumbers merchants and electrical merchants, whereas his new employer is predominantly reliant on independent catering distributors.
“There are great relationships out there that I have got to build on and that Nick [Neal] had with people. He was here a long time, so it is a case of me being the new boy who hasn’t really worked in the catering sector as such. But that comes with its advantages as well — it comes with a fresh outlook because there are certain things that I particularly wouldn’t do that we have done, and that is all to be reviewed over the next few months.”
The dealer market has always been intrinsic to Instanta, and that won’t change under the new leadership. But Crisp is convinced the Southport-based company’s prospects will be better served by a more focused approach to who it deals with and how it deals with them. For example, he says there are clients which spend such a small amount with Instanta each year that it is simply not feasible to account manage them in a way that Instanta might have done in the past.
Instead, he suggests they might be better served through master distributors of some description.
“How customers purchase is what we have got to look at,” he explains. “Everything has a cost and actually maintaining an account costs money internally. What we are looking at is expanding the support of what we classed as ‘super distributors’ in Zip. They supply the supplier, as such, because we can’t call on every one and if minimal spend is involved it is not cost effective to do so. But we can only do that when we have reviewed all the accounts, the commercial terms and a whole raft of other things, which we have got to do. That is going to take time but we have got to get it done sooner rather than later.”
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It is clear that Crisp is determined to analyse every facet of Instanta’s business, and by the time this article comes out he should be well on the way to doing that. “We want to have a review and fix what needs fixing and what doesn’t need fixing you just let run,” he says.
Crisp is adamant that placing greater emphasis on customers that truly want to work with the brand will provide it with a stronger platform to grow the business.
“It is all about the relationship-building with supporting dealers. We want to work with people who are spending with us and who want to look after the equipment as well, as a lot of them have their own service guys,” he says.
As it happens, three training managers from Zip are currently being put through their paces on Instanta’s range of autofill boilers for the benefit of dealers and end-users.
With new Zip facilities and showrooms in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, dealers should find they don’t have too far to travel to undergo the latest training. This new set-up also means that Instanta’s sales staff won’t have to carry the burden of training customers and can concentrate on the immediate job in hand instead.
With Peter Brindle continuing to look after the north, Crisp managing the south, and new recruits coming in to look after the east and west sides of central England, he hopes the team will be firing on all cylinders in no time.
It all sounds like a new start for Instanta and Crisp is certainly confident that he can inspire the company to grow the business. “Nobody is saying that anyone who has been here previously did the wrong thing, but you have got to change, times change, you can’t do it all the same way. You have got to look at different ways of going to the market and different ways of evolving.
“We’re taking a fresh look at it and obviously there is new blood coming on board. It is going to be a steep learning curve for all of us, but I think everyone is up for the challenge.”
“We want to create the market for the Instanta product as we did with Zip. To be fair, people buy — unfortunately — what is cost effective rather than looking at the quality of the product, so I think we need to push the benefits of being British-made and the quality of the build, and really drive those home.”