What does your company do?
Within the construction industry, we provide design teams and construction companies with advanced industry expertise in the application of internal glass. We bring solutions to engineer the transfer of natural light to the very heart of buildings, creating internal spaces which underpin general health and wellbeing whilst achieving high levels of fire, acoustic and safety properties.
We are a trusted knowledge source in advanced glass technology and systems application. We support clients and design teams to demonstrate whole life cycle value for new and existing buildings within healthcare, education, industry and commerce from cutting edge, specialist research and laboratory facilities to heritage and conservation projects.
We forge close partnerships with our clients within the construction sector and have achieved ‘preferred supplier’ status with many of our repeat customers by aligning our accreditations with their high-level supply chain requirements in key areas including quality management, health and safety and environmental management systems. Our aim is to always exceed expectations and industry standards.
Our exclusive distribution and installation agreement of the DEKO product range of engineered glass screen system throughout the UK and Ireland provides the industry with a trusted and tested global brand and this impressive product range forms a backbone from which we can develop the specialist, project specific, bespoke elements of work which, I believe, differentiates our company within the sector.
If you started the company, what was the aha moment that led to the company founding?
Apart from a short spell with a large contracting company during the early 1990s I have always generated my own living and provided employment for others within the interior design and contracting sector. I started my first business the year after I graduated, an interior design consultancy in Edinburgh in the 1980s. I was part of the team which established Zenith Contract Interiors in 1992, a company which grew to a turnover of £8 million. No stranger to life as an entrepreneur or to the business set-up experience, I completed the management buyout of my current company in 2012. Since then I have completely re-branded the company, designed a new website and embarked on some product innovation to reflect the passion I have maintained throughout for promoting the vitally important roles daylight and interconnectivity play within the built environment. There’s been a few “aha moments” along the way.
Why did you re-brand the company?
Having formerly operated as an all-trades internal fit out company, in 2000 we launched DEKO Scotland to differentiate our service provision within the construction industry and communicate that our expertise would focus purely on the design, supply and installation of internal partitions with the global Danish brand as our key product range. The re-brand to Indeglas in 2017 reflects that we are a Scottish company, with our own special identity, proud of our past and defining an exciting future, targeting growth and innovation in internal glass system design.
Where did you get assistance when you started?
Credits are well deserved by a variety of individuals and organisations along the way for business advice, moral and financial support, however the most essential assistance a small business can get is the trust of the customer who places that first order, ensures prompt payment and keeps coming back and to those individuals, I will always be truly grateful…they know who they are!
Give us a brief history of the growth of the company
Nine years ago, I negotiated a management buy-out of a majority equity stake in the company. At that time, the economy was heading into recession and the construction sector faced uncertainty due to a vast reduction in activity within the commercial and financial sectors, a marketplace where we had relied on its workflow supply. Our annual turnover was £1.2 million. Making a concentrated effort at the front end to focus on glass within the educational sector was a key turning point. I engaged with architects and designers to inform the appropriate specification of glass systems within interactive learning spaces for new-build schools, colleges and university campuses, thereafter engaging with appointed construction companies to partner with them through the supply and installation phase of projects. This specialism led to our appointment to design, supply and install the internal glass screens for the largest single educational building project delivered in Scotland in 2017, the City of Glasgow City College. This single contract had a value of over £1million. We currently have a five-year strategy for further growth.
Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?
The launch of Indeglas was funded by carefully reinvesting the profits earned in the past five years back into the business. Scottish Enterprise awarded some support funding with the artwork and concept work to define and design the new brand. The funding of our trademark protection, the design and launch of the new website, complete refurbishment of our offices and the creation of a new store and workshop have all been self-generated.
So, what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?
Fourteen directly employed and 20 to 30 subcontract installation operatives, all contributing to a £3 million turnover.
What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?
This is an exciting time to be involved with the design and application of glass. Computer enhanced production technology and engineered processes are continually bringing to market exciting, new, high performance glass types which present development opportunities to suit construction application. Having worked with glass since I graduated many years ago, the variety of glass types available for construction application have increased tenfold: the effects of daylight and its enhancement of people’s attitude and performance, particularly in the workplace, has become an applied science and the technology of glass screen system application at construction stage has become a specialist trade. Well-applied glass internally allows the creation of high performing spaces whilst maximising daylight penetration and interconnectivity. We now have scientific evidence to prove that contact with natural daylight and our co-workers are key contributing factors in supporting human performance levels. Human resource and ensuring peak performance account for most employers’ most significant financial outlays and having solutions which contribute to successful performance and reduced absence due to illness makes for rewarding outcomes.
What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
Our clients include construction companies, property developers and facilities management providers. We work directly for healthcare organisations, universities, colleges and schools, also selling business-to-business within the commercial and industrial sector.
What is your background?
Previously, I held the position of Design Manager with a leading construction company and a directorship with an interiors company. I also hold a Diploma in Interior Design from Napier University and am a trustee of a Registered Charity and founder of a Community Interest Company.
Thirty-three years of experience in the field of interior design and contracting span the journey from my first company, Into Design, to the forming of Indeglas. I am also passionate about founding and running a Community Interest Company. I am currently on the Governance Board of the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre. In 2018 I was appointed a UK Construction Week Role Model to help promote careers in construction to a more diverse range of people, especially females.
What are your goals for your business?
Indeglas comprises a team of amazingly talented individuals committed to the strategy we have designed together to steer us forward. Key goals include the following:
- Demonstrate increased profitable growth towards a turnover of £5million
- Evidence increase in percentage of repeat business with our existing customer base by continuing to service delivery expectations
- Continue to develop the diverse and flexible team we have built, thereby showing a new dynamic face of construction company to the market
- Develop a dedicated glass screen and door maintenance service for clients, building occupiers and facilities management companies for all completed installations.
What are your biggest current challenges?
As an SME in the construction sector late payments and the collection of retention payments make for regular challenges. The complexity of contracts, exposure to levels of risk which are not proportionate, coupled with the demands of tight construction programmes and challenging construction site conditions, make for a work life fraught with complexity. Being the eternal optimist, however, we are a well-organised and experienced team and, most days, I feel exceptionally blessed to be doing a job I love surrounded by committed, talented and enthusiastic people.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Negotiating my way through the management buy-out was challenging as the economy was in recession, the financial and commercial market sector we had relied on was diminishing and most professional advice completely contradicted the risks I was taking. There are several good books and success stories demonstrating best practice for management buy outs but unfortunately I only discovered them afterwards.
What do you do outside work?
I love spending time with my family, we try to take lots of short breaks together and I especially love spending time at our cottage in Balquhidder. On a clear night there you can see every star in the sky as there is no ambient light. I also serve as an Elder at our local Church and am currently Property Convener for the collection of buildings there.
What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?
How and where to seek expert advice when required and to listen carefully, especially to the things you least wanted to hear.
What’s the secret to good leadership?
To remain true to yourself and your core beliefs and communicate with passion the direction you want to take the business and why (with much emphasis on the WHY), to empower your team to own decisions and tell it as it is, listen well and inject clarity into what others require to do to support that journey and to remove any fear of failure (failure being where real learning happens). It is important to remember that your actions speak a whole lot louder than your words.
Where do you see the company in five years?
We want to be the name on everyone’s lips when they think of applying glass internally within a building. We want architects and designers to engage with us to help them push the boundaries of what is possible with glass, using the flow of natural light to create interior spaces which fully promote the wellbeing of their occupants. We want our construction partners to consider us as their preferred and trusted specialist subcontractor by bringing an unparalleled level of expertise to achieve truly spectacular buildings using the safest construction methods.
How can the Scottish start-up/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
All SMEs within the construction sector are exposed to high levels of risk due to comparatively poor payment terms and cash flow problems resulting from late or withheld payments. Both governments could set and monitor higher industry standards in this respect by taking greater ownership of the procurement process, appointing qualified advisors to ensure good practice and building life cycle budgeting, regulating supply chain purchasing processes and payment arrangements through their engagement with the Hubs and Tier One Contractors. Attention to detail within the construction sector has the potential to underpin success and good practice for every other industry sector.