Gareth Jones is Managing Director of window and door profile manufacturer profine UK who market under the brand Kömmerling and is a board member at the GGF. Having been introduced via a mutual contact Mark recently placed in a building products Managing Director role, Mark jumped at the chance to meet with Gareth to discuss his role and all things fenestration. Here’s what they discussed:
Mark: You’ve certainly been entrenched within the doors and windows industry during your working life Gareth. A lot is made these days over the industry’s need for innovation to drive the market forward. What key changes are you witnessing and what have been the major “game changers” over the past few years?
Gareth: Innovation is absolutely key to our industry. Several years ago forecasters were predicting the demise of the market for PVCu window and doors quite simply because they have a lifespan of 40+ years. Therefore, we have needed to design obsolescence into our products so that homeowners wish to more readily change their window and doors. More colour options, wider spans, improved energy efficiency and enhanced security are the key trends. We are also seeing more smart technology being used on the products.
Mark: And are there any fabricators you feel are driving this change?
Gareth: If I am honest it is not genuinely the fabricators that drive the change. There are some that are happy to embrace new products and push them in the hope to offer consumers choice and earn greater margins but most supply to the demand. As margins are being squeezed ever tighter it is important to diversify into new product options, especially those that can be considered higher end. There is not much money left in the manufacture and supply of white windows and doors any longer – except of course if you are in installation! Consumers are now better informed and becoming more discerning with their choices. There is generally over supply in the market and if you cannot offer the product they want – someone else will!
Mark: Sustainability is becoming an ever-increasing requirement from both the residential and commercial markets from PVCu manufacturers. You’re very much championing this through your work with the GGF and other organisations. Do you still feel the wider industry is ignorant to the need / benefits and what more can be done to push this subject forward?
Gareth: I do. PVCu windows and doors can be fully recycled and this is not fully understood by consumers. This is a shame and also a challenge to the industry as any plastic based products are receiving negative press through increasing coverage of pollution of our oceans. The wonderful fact on the recycling of PVCu window and doors is not only can they be recycled, but the recovered PVC is used in the manufacture of new windows & doors so it is truly closed loop process. Recycling is not only essential from the point of view of sustainability but also it is something that will inevitably be controlled through legislation. The challenge for the industry is to improve awareness of the advantages of recycling but also to collectively solve such barriers to recycling such as the logistical challenges in obtaining the material. This is a good example of where the GGF can help broadcast the message to the wider industry and facilitate mutually beneficial dialogue between the stakeholders.
Mark: I hope you don’t mind me mentioning, yours is an interesting route into becoming a Managing Director, via Marketing Director of REHAU (albeit via the sales route). What unique qualities do you feel you provide Profine coming from this route?
Gareth: I always considered myself more of generalist in terms of business rather than a specialist in one particular field. That's the great thing about being a MD - you don't need to be an expert! However, as my background is more of a marketing & a commercial bias it has helped us meet some of the initial challenges that were evident at profine. A good product, a good team and a loyal customer base, that sadly was not marketed enough to build on those cornerstones. We recently won an award for our creative marketing campaign in the run up to the Fit Show (the industry trade show) which has already brought dividends in new business. We had an excellent creative agency that helped us but I also feel my background helped facilitate the delivery of a very clear brief. I expect our success in the promotion of our brand to continue with further campaigns in 2020.
Mark: Inheriting a business that was run by an operationally led MD, you did fabulously well to win the Creative Marketing Campaign at this years FIT Show. What was the specific campaign and how did you comprise it?
Gareth: We do not have our own marketing department within profine UK. Therefore, we work closely with chosen agencies. I enlisted an agency I had worked with at a previous company to carry out the brief for our campaign. The campaign was a success because not only did we have a clear brief, but this was fully understood and delivered by the agency, The campaign itself was aimed at revitalising the Kömmerling brand, reminding the market of the strength of the product and a new personality of openness and approachability with the relatively new sales team and management. The campaign was fully integrated, using video, social media, trade press advertising and PR, culminating in the Fit Show back in May. The #comealong to Kömmerling is still being used successfully and we intend to continue into the first half of 2020. We have since been chosen as finalists for the Promotional Campaign of Year Award at the industry awards (G19) in November.
Mark: I’ve worked with several German owned building product manufacturers who have been looking for senior leaders to head up a UK operation. Remote reporting can often be a tricky and somewhat lonely world. Since joining Profine, and reporting into a German owner, how have you managed this relationship and the expectations placed on you?
Gareth: In many ways this was going to be a challenge for me because in my previous role I worked very closely with the CEO and even shared the PA. However, I like to make decisions and take responsibility and feel totally empowered to do so. There is regular contact with Senior Management in the Group, including the CEO and I always feel the support is there if needed. The challenge I guess is not having someone immediately around to bounce ideas and consider options. My role in the GGF helps with this as I can mix with my peers in the industry and without breaking confidences, engage in useful discussion.