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GGP February 2017

COMPA N Y P R O F I L E Refresh, renew Change seldom comes easily to businesses and especially in entrepreneurially led firms. Not so at Yorkshire-based Kingfisher Windows, reports GGP magazine. Paul Beetham was in his 30s when he started Kingfisher Windows in 1989. His roots may have been in the motor trade (he qualified as a mechanic) but nonetheless, Paul’s strengths lay as a salesman. The secret behind his success? He cares what his customers think and has a strong commitment to ‘being straight’ with people – in fact conversations with Paul are laced with assertions about his principles. “He is a straight talker, is proud of Kingfisher and the values upon which the He is a straight talker, is proud of Kingfisher and the values upon which the company is founded. So when you learn of the programme of core changes that the company is going through from Paul and, crucially, from the man he brought in to run and review his business, you begin to understand a quite extraordinary mind-set. Balanced against Paul’s fierce defence of his core principles is his enthusiasm for the changes his business has been going through, a process that will manifest itself when the company moves to new premises this coming year. Neil Webster is managing director of Kingfisher. He declares himself ‘new’ to the industry, joining from the public sector where he was principle building surveyor with Kirklees council, essentially covering Huddersfield and the surrounding area. His responsibilities included control of public works, including major capital projects on schools, town halls and numerous other buildings. A significant lump of Kingfisher’s activities included local authority refurbishment and Paul and Neil got to know each other well before Paul invited him to join Kingfisher. It must have taken a leap of faith for Neil to leave the resolute officialdom of public service to join an entrepreneurially led business… “Not really,” he affirmed. “I got to know Paul over a number of years and whilst we may have had differences, I knew him to be a man of principle, something that was important to me.” With an increasing amount of Kingfisher’s business involved in commercial work for private and public sector customers, Paul understood that he needed someone with Neil’s expertise to help him steer through the mass of bureaucracy that this increasingly entailed. Neil joined Kingfisher around four and half years ago: “I liked the front and the back ends of the business,” he said,” but the bits in between needed some attention.” Paul’s version is tinged with irony and is typical of his banter: “He didn’t fully appreciate the miracles that took place here every day!” A comment that belies the success that Kingfisher has achieved, especially in its balance sheet which is a major driver for Paul. Neil added systems and procedures to Kingfisher’s entrepreneurial culture, which appears to have survived nonetheless – this core element so important for the company’s retail business which remains a profitable and important part of the firm: “To me a happy customer is everything,” insists Paul, something that has been a source of contention between the two; Neil has had some success in curbing Paul’s enthusiasm for settling the occasional customer’s complaint that his 14-year-old window handle has ‘gone a bit loose’. This is rare of course and, with the growth of the ‘claim culture’ affecting every aspect of British society, Kingfisher and every retail business has to be aware of its actual and perceived responsibilities to the customer and find a reasonable balance. The irony that Paul’s willingness to settle such extreme and even bizarre claims by long past customers can leave the company open to legal claims has curbed 84 www.ggpmag.com February 2017 company is founded” Continued on page 86


GGP February 2017
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