Total Installer puts the questions to Alex Mutch, Commercial Director at Express Bi-folding Doors.
TI: What was your path into the glazing sector and to your current position?
AM: By chance really. Express is a Father & Son partnership and I went to Leeds University with the son! It wasn’t my intention to get into the glazing industry but the opportunity arrived in 2007. At the time, bi-folding doors were very new to the market but seemed like a great product, and UK manufacturing wasn’t mainstream with many products being imported from European countries. Having worked within the business from the start, it has been great to understand all aspects of the business.
TI: If you had one piece of advice about starting a glazing installation business, what would it be?
AM: Concentrate on a specialist product with good USPs. There are too many manufacturers who are offering exactly the same product ranges. The retail sector is driven by trends and designs, so try and stay ahead of the game.
TI: Tell us about a current project you’re working on…
AM: A block of nine luxury flats in Buckinghamshire. It is a prestigious project with a huge mix of different products including products bought in from other suppliers, so trying to keep on top of the project with timing is essential. It will be worth it in the end!
TI: You must have worked on some difficult projects over the years. Does one in particular stand out?
AM: Yes many! I still look back on a project in Sheffield fondly. There were 8 luxury houses, ranging from £700k-£1million and each had approximately £50k of glazing, but each was a different design, had different requirements and timeframes. It was complex and stressful at the time, but great to see the project at the end of completion.
The trickiest thing with the retail sector is that everyone’s expectations are different and therefore educating a customer of what is ‘acceptable’, and ‘industry standard’ is hard
TI: What about difficult customers? Any situations that stand out that you can tell us about?!
AM: Yes, there have been certain situations! The trickiest thing with the retail sector is that everyone’s expectations are different and therefore educating a customer of what is ‘acceptable’, and ‘industry standard’ is hard to portray at times. An extension or new build is a busy time for clients and often any issue, delay or defect to their build can be very stressful, so a calm manner and level head is essential.
TI: What’s the most frustrating thing about your job?
AM: The week not being long enough! Probably not being able to get involved with clients and projects more. I love looking at a customer’s set of plans or ideas and tweaking those to make the best use of glazing. If I could do that all the time within the working day, I would be a happy man!
Instagram and Pinterest are both great. With our line of work being such a visual and hands on product, these two platforms are a great way of creating desire and imagination for clients
TI: And the most satisfying?
AM: The most satisfying has to be working with a client from seeing their dream turn from inception to completion. Working with a client through a set of plans, changing ideas and seeing how glazing can change that customer’s build. Although that sounds corny, glazing can transform how a house is lived in and perceived to their friends and family.
AM: Some of the lifting equipment that is available now is superb. As the market is leaning towards large sliding doors and big expanses of glass, it is important to have lifting equipment that makes the job as easy and safe as it can be.
TI: What’s the best social media platform for your business?
AM: Instagram and Pinterest are both great. With our line of work being such a visual and hands on product, these two platforms are a great way of creating desire and imagination for clients of projects undertaken and gives them ideas about how the build could look.
I won’t say the ‘B’ word, but projects in my opinion are stalling. There seems to be many projects that will happen, but I believe the retail sector is being cautious
TI: What’s the biggest issue currently affecting you as an installer?
AM: Uncertainty. I won’t say the ‘B’ word, but projects in my opinion are stalling. There seems to be many projects that will happen, but I believe the retail sector is being cautious because of the uncertainty of what might happen after 31st October, which is understandable.
TI: How has the start of the year been and are there reasons to be positive for 2019?
AM: 2019 has been positive for us so far. The weather at the start of the year helped as builds were flying up because of the non-existent winter we had, where as the retail sector can be dependent on the weather if a bad winter rolls on. The remainder of 2019 for Express will be continuing to push our new products to the market and trying to predict the next trends coming through.