Bradford-based ventilation canopy manufacturer and installer Mansfield Pollard is throwing out the rulebook on the traditional supplier/buyer relationship, as it believes it has found a better way to do business.
Rather than being based on a single transaction, the company wants to build long-term relationships with its clients. “The focus on that single transaction tends to drive the parties to only look at cost, as opposed to a holistic view of the relationship,” said Andrew Glen, Mansfield Pollard’s sales and marketing director.
As it carries out completely bespoke installations, the firm is talking to its clients about how it can help them develop their businesses as well as quoting for individual jobs. “From discussions with one client we found that their unique selling point is speed of response,” explained Glen. “They look to be onsite to quote for a kitchen design the day after they receive an enquiry.
“That’s great for them but not us, as there’s a significant geographic distance between them and where our expertise is based. So we’re now talking to that customer about embedding a member of our team in their business to provide that capability at a local level. There are opportunities they miss out on because they don’t have the required level of ventilation expertise but with one of our staff based permanently in their office they would be comfortable about pitching for more business.”
Mansfield Pollard believes that by employing this creative strategy, this removes the adversarial nature of the relationship and both parties can grow their businesses together. “An adversarial relationship is all about who owns the margin, arguing what proportion each side gets – and there is a finite margin on each job,” said Glen. “A far better way to do business is to ask how we can create value and discuss how we can share the value between the two of us.”
The organisation is rolling out its joint business planning process to its major clients, creating bespoke relationships by tailoring service level agreements to each client’s needs. “We are looking to match our priorities to our customers’, and help them serve their customers better,” Glen said.
He believes that the firm’s expertise means that it can totally project manage air conditioning design, manufacture, installation and commissioning in-house, which reduces project complexity for kitchen designers and distributors. For example, in 2013 the company undertook a series of ventilation system refurbishments for about 130 schools run by North Yorkshire County Council over that summer.
“Essentially we fix people’s problems and we are flexible enough and have the breadth of skill to be able to take on those broader projects and add value, save costs, reduce complexity and deliver on budget and on time,” said Glen. “Tailor made solutions are a challenge but if it’s not challenging then we don’t get to demonstrate why we’ve put all this capability in place.” [[page-break]]
Its strategy is paying dividends, as in its last financial results in July 2014 the company was worth £17m, a growth of 30% compared to the previous year. “We are growing as our brand develops and the recognition of this is increasing in the consultant and contractor community,” Glen commented.
Overall the business employs around 150 people, with around 60 office-based staff and the other 90 in manufacturing and installation. Its sales team is primarily home-based and is spread throughout the UK. The company’s growth has seen it looking to recruit further, with Glen himself a fairly recent joiner, as of last September. Its latest hire is Mark Dowell, who became operations director in March, after spending 20 years in various roles at competitor Airedale International Air Conditioning. “We are increasing the amount of sales and customer support resources in line with the way the business is growing,” said Glen.
Its main manufacturing site covers 80,000ft2 and in the past few years the firm added a new 20,000ft2 facility nearby to cope with its rapid growth. Glen detailed: “We often take our customers to our factory and the almost universal feedback we get is that our workers are passionate about what they do. We are fortunate to be part of a community that provides us with a really good workforce.”
The firm boasts significant experience with ventilation regulations, ensuring that all its installations are compliant with the Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association’s DW172 specifications for kitchen ventilation systems.
Indeed, Mansfield Pollard is also helping to draw up the regulations’ successor, DW173, which is currently in the consultation phase. “Being involved in this process gives us an understanding of the thinking behind the guidelines and an opportunity to influence the way they develop,” Glen explained. “We are absolutely committed to the benefits of a well-regulated industry.”
In the pipeline currently, in terms of product development, is an odour control initiative which will be launched later this year, as well energy efficiency drives, with a couple of them also due for launch this year.
Mansfield Pollard also has an international agent in the Middle East, with around 70% of the food outlets in the Dubai Mall using the firm’s kitchen ventilation solutions. The UK headquarters supports the work in this part of the world as and when required, with Glen surmising that it is “a sizable chunk of business for us and there is a lot of opportunity there”.
Glen has experience of this region as he previously worked for Virgin Health Bank in Doha, Qatar for 5 years. “I joined Mansfield Pollard because I saw an opportunity to do something different. I enjoy adding value, building organisations, capabilities and the people within them,” he said. “I think Mansfield Pollard has fantastic assets with which we can continue to build this business going forwards.”