Home improvements is a vast industry where the competition is rife. Learn how one company stays ahead of the game …
Ensuring that you deliver high quality materials and service keeps you ahead of the competition. Stuart and Brad’s parents, Ray & Angie Dantzic founded the business 35 years ago and the brothers worked in the business before taking the reins officially in January 2017. He shares his vision with Business Matters.
What products or services do you provide?
Caribbean Blinds is the UK’s Leading External Shading Manufacturer and exclusively design and UK-manufacture the very finest external shading systems for discerning homeowners and businesses across the country, that transform the use, functionality and enjoyment of all types of spaces.
From contemporary patio awnings that provide instant shade and shelter to innovative external blinds that offer unbeatable solar heat and light control as well as our all-weather louvered roofs – Outdoor Living PodsTM – that enable year-round use of outdoor spaces. We provide the full service from first meeting through to final installation carried out by our own team of experts.
What type of businesses do you work with?
We work across all sectors: across the business sector we cover hospitality, commercial offices, office buildings with both multi and single occupancy – we work with contractors, architects and interior designers who specify our products on buildings. We also work across the education spectrum from nursery schools, primary, secondary schools to colleges and universities.
What problem does your company essentially solve?
Thermal and visual comfort.
This covers issues with buildings that are overheating, not just in the summer but all year round, or buildings with too much glare or light during the peak summer months. Also privacy issues, in particular buildings in built up areas or ground floor premises where people might be able to look in. We also cover the outdoor living aspect, making outdoor spaces usable all year round rather than just for the few days or weeks that we get of sunshine every year.
What is your USP?
We make all of our products here in the UK so our headline USP would be ‘Made in Britain’. Additionally we are dedicated to the field and have been for 35 years this year officially! We always aim to have the ‘best products at the best price and the best service’ so subsequently the best value proposition for our clients.
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so how have you dealt with it?
The company foundations are built around our four core values – Quality, Service, Value and Integrity.
Quality – the company’s products must combine style, function and durability
Service – dedicated purely to the field of external shading since the company’s inception in 1987, Caribbean Blinds provides an unparalleled wealth of genuine, expert advice and information to ensure the perfect external shading system is designed for every application, requirement and budget. Service is at the centre of everything we do and guarantees clients a seamless process from concept to completion.
Value – whilst our products may not be the cheapest, they will offer clients the best value for money, providing them with the outdoor living or solar shading they desire that performs day in, day out without problem, as well as unmatched quality, service and specification.
Integrity – for each stage of the Caribbean Blinds process, our knowledge and expertise allows us to provide genuine and honest information to ensure clients have all the required information they need to make an informed and confident decision. Furthermore given the ‘energy saving’ nature of our products, we also look to our environmental impact; using fabrics free of plasticisers, recycling all waste aluminium and re-using packaging to ensure an entirely holistic approach to the product offering and cycle.
Have we ever had our values challenged? We’ve never had the company’s values challenged as we stand by them and uphold them, and this is clear to our clients. The only element we’ve ever had challenged is customers not believing that we make our products in the UK – this is because this industry in notorious for products being shipped in from Europe because it’s a more mature market. So we invite those who challenge us to come and see out products being made in our factory.
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
We have a dedicated talent manager in-house who oversees all personnel ensuring our values are understood, upheld and to enable every individual to flourish. At the induction, the family values are clearly explained, the new recruits will meet with either me or my brother Brad and then they’ll be paired up with a long-term member of staff who’s been here for in excess of 10 years and that’s who they’ll work with for the first few months and shadow them. That person will instil the values, lead by example and show why they’ve been with the company for so long. They will also show them what makes the company great, how it’s changed and evolved but how it has stayed true to its values.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
Yes we are and we are currently providing a flexible solution, so part working in the office and part working from home. However because of what we do in terms of the manufacturing, it would be impossible to work from home. So the hybrid model really works for the office element but even within the office we do have a mantra that you have to be in as much as possible because we get better results when everyone is in. You’re more creative when you’re in the office, more engaged, more involved and as an individual you excel faster which helps to move up the ranks in terms of career prospects. The new recruits learn quicker when they are around the team but we do provide flexible working and have spent a lot of time and effort in making the office completely COVID safe so that our team feels completely comfortable to be in this environment.
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Communication – my number one tip is to communicate at all levels and deliver on your promises. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it. If there is going to be an issue then communicate as early as possible and keep the customer updated.
Communication is key through our entire process from pre-sale where the information that you are providing is genuine and realistic through to the point of contract where everything matches up. We then have to deliver on what we said in the contract in terms of the product lead times, function etc. If there are going to be any problems during the process, let the customer know as soon as possible so that they don’t have any nasty surprises at the end.
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
My only advice is to keep an eye on your numbers and monitor them constantly; I look at our numbers every week. Know what you need to make to cover your costs and check on a daily basis what orders you have in and how many more you need to get that week to cover your overheads.
As a new business particularly, get in to the habit of doing this daily so you can keep track and make changes when necessary. By doing this you are motivated when you can see you have covered your costs and hopefully made a profit on top.
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses, what would it be?
Legislation – the one thing that I would ask the government to change within my industry is legislation, particularly the legislation that has effectively come over from Europe. I realise that this is part of what Brexit is but fundamentally, most of our legislation is still old legislation that’s based on Europe rather than the UK and for us as a marketplace, we want it based in the UK and for legislation to be made relevant for what we do as an industry rather than for our counterparts over in Europe.
I am also certain that most of our endless piles of paperwork could now be done digitally.
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
I welcome my competitors because they give us a benchmark and allow us to evolve and move forwards. The more they evolve, the more we evolve and as we want to stay one step ahead of them it’s always good to know what they’re doing.
We particularly welcome those who market and sell their products correctly because this maintains a good name for the industry and helps to grows the size of the marketplace. As a company, if I have the largest percentage of the marketplace, which we do, and everyone is helping to grow it by marketing as well as us, then it’s a win/win situation.
The competitors that I don’t welcome are those who are selling inferior products that are not fit for purpose and subsequently mislead customers, casting shade on the industry – excuse the pun.
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
My dream is to evolve the company to being a lifestyle enhancing group of companies and to become a household name known for the very best at what we do. Through these companies, I would like to be able to enhance lifestyles from the outdoor shading perspective and then apply that to other similar businesses such as outdoor kitchens, interior blinds, outdoor furniture etc but being a premium luxury brand, an aspirational brand that people dream of having and want to work towards having, not just because it’s nice to have but because it really does make a genuine difference to their life and daily well-being as well.