Justin Williams, Sales & Marketing Director for Modplan, has formed a close partnership with Collingwood’s client VEKA UK over recent years. Having met a number of times at various events, Mark Goldsmith (Head of Building Products) has always enjoyed Justin’s views on the industry and so approached him about developing a “Five minutes with”. Here is what they discussed:

Mark: I last met up with you at this year’s FIT Show Justin. A lot of the noise around the show revolved around innovation from the market. Interestingly, however, upon speaking with some of my contacts there are now limited opportunities for manufacturers to genuinely drive or disrupt the market. What’s your view on this and how have / are you innovating?

Justin: I visited FIT with 2 goals. Firstly, to see smart ready technologies, and secondly to seek out customer facing sales software. In terms of market disruption nothing seemed ready to be a game changer. Disruption for me is Uber taking over how we expect taxis to operate or Blockchain transforming transactional interfaces that banks and solicitors perform. That said, smart technology does have the potential to be disruptive but as it seems to be driven by multiple hardware manufacturers disruption will be reduced. Unless one technology dominates it will be fragmented, go along system house lines, and consumers will be inundated with all kinds of solutions and messages that won’t inspire or radically change their behaviour, so therefore, not truly disrupt. From a software viewpoint I actually believe that is where disruption can and should be focused. As an industry we spend so much on customer acquisition throughout the supply chain but I see very little use of technology (compared to other industries) to ensure we nurture customers long term and convert quotes when they happen. At Modplan I oversaw the innovation of building in-house software for our export customers. This meant they are able to design and build conservatories in front of the customer in their showroom. It helps qualify customers as they have to book appointments and take a couple hours to go through what they want. This had a direct result of improving conversion rates and reducing administration costs all round. Finally, I would say visiting FIT, most exhibitors focus on innovation as being product driven. I believe innovation that focuses on how we support our installers, how we better serve them and how this flows through to the end users is equally important. For example, one of Modplan's divisions uses an App that is part completed by the installation team complete with photos of the finished install, which the customer then signs to say they are happy. Once the customer signs this off they are emailed their warranty and all the other required paperwork. Simple, but how many installers do this?

Mark: There seems to be hugely differing views on sustainability within the industry, too, in terms of end users’ interest in where, what and how products are made. What’s your experience of this?

Justin: Sustainability is something that all businesses in our industry have to embrace. I don’t just limit this to environmental factors, which the systems house has to take the lead on. For example, common with most things VEKA do, sustainability is not something they talk about but is in their DNA. A dedicated UK recycling plant; closed loop recycling with excellent service is great support for our installers. It makes the story easier to sell to consumers. Making sure our industry isn’t caught up in the single use plastic backlash needs to be addressed throughout the supply chain. Other sustainability factors I believe as an industry we shy away from is passing on price increases. Too many times I can see price increases being absorbed and that is not sustainable either. Annual price increases are common in many industries but seem taboo in fenestration. The amount of time wasted on arguing and trying to defer or deflect price increases don’t make for sustainable businesses or supply chains. Consumers now get the best windows, doors and conservatories that have ever been offered and should pay more than they did last year and the year before.

Mark: Much of the early part of your tenure at Modplan involved diversifying into new markets with new products.  Can you explain why you chose to do this, the purpose of it and how you achieved this?.

Justin: I joined Modplan with the brief to build a UK market for some of our niche products, but was soon given the export division to develop too. There had been a couple of previous attempts to build the UK market but nothing had gained traction. I started with re-branding the division and building a small team of passionate people, whom I’d convinced of my vision to do things differently and most importantly of all recruit like minded distributors and dealers who also believed in what we were trying to do. Pricing was a critical success factor as we had complicated it and built in too many options. We built a retail price formula that consumers could understand (which could be applied to our export business too) that our customers could make great profit from.  This was all underpinned by bespoke web sites linked to our CRM and that meant we didn’t need many admin staff internally. This also allowed us to build long-term nurture programmes to generate leads for sales people to close. In 2019, £300,000 sales have been converted from leads Modplan generated. The multi million-pound turnover of that division is now managed by the same number of staff as when it was £80,000. We built a truly scalable business unit. When I moved over to look after the entire Sales & Marketing activities at Modplan I started with the same goal.  We are just 18 months into that journey and with a larger team and more customers to inspire and support what we do.  Collaboration with Veka has been a key part of the journey, with Matthew Adaway and Sally Ranger always on hand to get involved with our internal teams as well as with new and existing customers.  We are focused on delivering great service to our customers and to growing our business. With two new field sales staff joining our team this summer we are getting stronger too.