Moving forward is not always easy or pleasant

June 24, 2020

Like many, the leadership team at VEKA Plc has had to navigate one of the most challenging periods on record. It has taken several actions over the past months to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 from suspending operations, to accessing financial support to putting all non-essential spend on indefinite hold, but now they face a new challenge…  Whilst most VEKA customers have come back stronger than expected some have been unable to weather this storm; one already in administration and others in a less than stable condition.

Despite responding to an initial surge from pre-pandemic sales, it has become clear that VEKA, like many other businesses within the construction and manufacturing sector, is not going to bounce-back to pre Covid-19 levels. Considering rescaling a business is always a last resort for any company, but an essential and necessary one to protect its future.

Here the VEKA Plc leadership team talk about how they’re taking the business forward in a responsible and secure way:

 

If we don’t keep moving forward, we’ll move backwards

Dave Jones, Managing Director, VEKA Plc

In business you have a choice of which way to go, backwards or forwards, breakdown or breakthrough.  Standing still is not an option for VEKA, we operate in a competitive environment and to remain a leading business in our sector, we must adapt our thinking. Moving forward is not always easy or pleasant, particularly as the world’s leading economists can’t predict what the future holds. It’s important to be proactive, to create a sustainable yet adaptable strategy and continually review that strategy as we currently face rapid and unprecedented change in everything we do.

 

We are yet to face the true impact on our economy

Graham Fitton, Finance Director, VEKA Plc

We’re hearing the phrase ‘the new normal’ a lot, as the world tries to rebuild itself after the biggest impact since World War 2. But the harsh reality is that we will only be moving from a medical emergency to a financial one, fully recognised by Rishi Sunak, Chancellor who has warned the country was facing a recession “the likes of which we have not seen”.  It’s never been more important to run a tight ship financially, to question every pound spent and protect credit and cashflow. Good financial housekeeping is essential for any successful business, but the months ahead demand a higher level of control and continual sight of the full picture.

 

To protect any company, difficult decisions must be made

Gabriela Hammond, Head of Human Resources, VEKA Plc

We often say with pride that our people are our greatest asset. That’s not an off-the-cuff comment, we rely heavily on the skilled people of Burnley and  beyond and there is a strong sense of family at VEKA. So, when the business is forced to make decisions that affect the lives of our people, they are not made lightly. Our temporary closure was necessary both to protect the health of our workforce and in response to our customer trading. In our phased reopening we have assessed every area of our factory, offices and work practices to minimise the risk of infection. It genuinely saddens us all that we must now begin a process which may result in job losses and we are so grateful that the news has been received with the understanding that it is vital for the sustainable future of VEKA. It is key for us to work with our people and teams to minimise the effects of this review process. Integrity is a cornerstone of our culture and maintaining an honest and regular dialogue with our people is a priority.

 

There is always something valuable that comes out of change

Neil Evans, Sales Director, VEKA Plc

The true test of any organisation isn’t what it does in times of prosperity, but what it does in times of uncertainty. We are fortunate to be part of a global family run business with over 50 years’ heritage in the industry, known as a trusted brand with quality products and services.  This reputation and an accelerated focus on positive change will help us navigate through these stormy waters. Our business has been built on strong relationships with our customers and it’s essential that we keep having honest conversations so that we can adapt our service and product offering in line with the changes in our macro environment. Even in times of adversity, we can find and deliver the benefits of a new way of working. New opportunities are born from experience and insight, because it’s in our nature to evolve.  It’s about being fit for the future.

 

Adaptable planning is key for all manufacturers

Paul Armstrong, Operations Director, VEKA Plc

‘Business as usual’ will be a distant memory for all manufacturers as we adjust to the long-term effects of the pandemic. A new layout for our factory and offices, taking in to account additional safety measures, enabling working from home where possible, and many of our team still on Furlough have all impacted on how we run our business. But all these measures are there to ensure we keep our teams safe. In order that we focus on meeting optimum service levels while not compromising the safety of our people, we’ve needed to adopt a more focused and simple approach to our product offering.  Predicting demand and stock levels will be a challenge for every business for a very long time and we are particularly grateful to our customers for helping us to forecast and for being patient with us while we continue to adapt to an ever-changing landscape.

 

The impetus for accelerated digital transformation.

Dawn Stockell, Marketing Director, VEKA Plc

It is certain that there will be a greater focus on digital innovation than ever before Covid-19. The pandemic has forced businesses to embrace digital technology, whether that be to facilitate communications, collaborative remote working or driving process efficiencies through greater connectivity. Even though VEKA is continually investing in its products and services to bring customers innovations and digital solutions, we have prioritised some projects that will make it easier for our customers to do business in a new way.

We are currently working on ‘WinDoPlan’, an exclusive online specification, planning and virtual presentation tool that will be available to Fabricators, Architects & Specifiers in September.  This online tool will empower customers to plan VEKA / Halo profile windows and doors, delivering all required calculations and providing access to live technical information, in the format they need it, 24/7. Cross sectional views can be cut and rotated as a 3D view to assist in impressive virtual presentations. All calculations can be saved so they can be tweaked, and a pdf report can be generated at the click of a button.

Recognising that in a post COVID-19 world, we may not be as reliant on face to face meetings, we will also soon be updating our print portal to facilitate greater customer adaptation / personalisation of assets and have these available in both digital and print formats as required.

 

Learning from an experience like this comes from reflection.   We will talk about what worked, what didn’t and how we progress. At VEKA we are all about being authentic, open and honest; we tell it as it is and that’s won us friends across the industry, from competitors to customers to suppliers. It’s these relationships that are going to help us continue stable and sustainable growth for now, for the future, for life.

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