When you think you’ve found a niche for a new business then you have to be brave enough to go for it, and that’s exactly what Richard Hose did back in 2010.
Having worked as a sales and service engineer for commercial dishwashers and glasswashers at Wishaw-based Custom Chemicals for over 8 years, he felt: “There was a gap in the market for dishwashers and glasswashers to be serviced by someone reliable in the Scottish central belt.”
Therefore he took the plunge and established what was then known as Intellico Catering Equipment from a premises in Motherwell. To begin with, Hose wanted to expand the company’s remit, but: “I quickly realised I didn’t have the skills to carry out gas work and refrigeration-wise it would have been a massive learning curve too.”
He had already taken and passed his 17th Edition electrical qualifications, and he was confident that he could continue to specialise in the sales and repair of dishwashers and glasswashers. Therefore in 2011 he rebranded the company into Intellico Dishwashers & Glasswashers.
This has proved incredibly successful, as each year the company’s turnover has grown by an average of between 35-40%. Hose thinks this is because: “We try and be customer focused; one of the mantras we go by is ‘Open, honest, reliable Intellico’. We are open to new ideas and we are honest with the customer – even if it is bad news. For example, if on a service call we can’t get there when they want us to, we will tell them and they can rely on us to turn up when we say we are going to.”
The service side of the business has consistently comprised around a third of the turnover, being the “bread and butter” of Intellico’s work. “Our reputation is spread by word of mouth and we’ve also got a great e-commerce website that attracts a lot of business via Google,” Hose detailed.
The site was originally developed around the time of the rebrand and this year has been updated onto a mobile-friendly format. Users can purchase glasswashers or dishwashers and accessories, as well as chemicals. Hose explained: “There’s a lot of information on there for users to carry out site surveys for themselves and find out about simple fixes through our blog. It can save them money and they can discover machine best practice to keep them healthy.”
Over the 7 years of operation the headcount has grown to three people. While Hose still does some engineering, as MD he now tries to focus more on sales and marketing. Around 2 years ago he hired Scott Kilpatrick as the service manager to allow him to “concentrate on everything else that goes along with running a business”.
Then a year ago he also appointed Lindsey Horn as office manager. “Getting Scott in allowed me to catch up with the paperwork as well as the sales and marketing, because there were a lot of sales coming through the website. And then that began to become a bit too much for me too, so we brought Lindsey in to manage the invoicing and chase payment,” Hose explained. “She’s also available to deal with online or telephone enquiries, as some customers want to hear a voice at the end of the phone to answer a few questions before purchasing. Because there were times when I was underneath a machine and I wasn’t able to answer sales calls so I was missing them.”
Currently the firm gets through 50-60 service calls a month and around 12-15 installations, with both figures steadily growing. It can partner up with other distributors to carry out warewasher installations as part of a full kitchen project too.
On the service side Intellico will repair and maintain any brand of machine but for sales the firm has close relationships with Hobart Profi and Ecomax, Smeg, Project Distribution and Comenda, now supplied to the UK through Hubbard Systems.
However, Intellico has one key requirement of the suppliers that it partners with, that they offer a drop ship service. This is due to 20% of sales orders coming from across the country, which would stretch the firm’s team if they had to deliver all the machines themselves. “We are happy with the number of brands we work with, and because of the partnership we have with these key manufacturers, we are looking at cementing those relationships going forwards,” revealed Hose. This will involve increasing sales and marketing through the website and emailing the customer database.
One of the company’s latest developments is that it joined CEDA in August. Hose commented: “We decided we wanted to be part of a larger body and to raise our profile in the industry, so CEDA was a natural choice for that. Tied into that, we are always looking to improve what we do, so I’ll be looking to put Scott into the specialist training CEDA does for engineers to keep him at the cutting edge.”
The decision has already paid dividends, as end users, suppliers and other industry bodies alike have taken note of the fact Intellico is a CEDA member through its listing on the association’s website, including contact from several councils.
Intellico is seeing increasing business through restaurants and hotels, and is beginning to focus on the restaurant side of things, although Hose underlined that many different venue types require warewashers – even a church. “It’s a massive market and it’s a real spread as to who we deal with, though it tends to be small chains and family businesses.”
He is also keen to be as green as possible and will be focusing on selling warewashing chemicals that are machine-, water- and environmentally-friendly. “We feel we have a responsibility to do this, and it will be in line with the UN’s Global Goal 14, ‘life below water’, the need to look after our waterways and oceans. Because we are a growing company, we feel as if we can give a bit back to the earth and this is one of the ways we can do that.”
Looking ahead, Intellico will look to recruit another engineer to enable Hose to further focus on sales and marketing. The firm will train the new recruit up in-house (testing machines on its premises), on the job, and with manufacturer-led training. A longer-term goal may be to move to a larger headquarters too.
Horn concluded: “We don’t see ourselves as competing directly with anyone else; we try and focus on making life easier for chefs and restaurant owners. And that seems to work for us. We are not a company that stands still, we are always looking to give a better offering to the market and disrupt it a bit.”