We're taking tough line on improving products
A HULL businessman is urging other thriving firms to shout about their achievements after leading his company to its most successful year to date.
Owned by managing director Derek Russell, manufacturing business Witham Glass supplies glass products, predominantly to trade businesses, with the bulk of clients coming from the caravan industry.
Mr Russell said that, year on year, the turnover has increased despite the recession and the turmoil the caravan industry has undergone.
Last year, Witham Glass had an annual turnover of about £730,000 – its best year yet.
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It has two factories, one in Reservoir Road, Hull, and the other in Holderness Road, where it also has a shop, selling products such as picture frames and mirrors to the public.
The businessman praised his workforce for the positive results the business continues to see. He also thinks businesses need to celebrate their successes.
He said: "I've got a very loyal workforce who stand by me. They are key people who know what is required for the job. Without them, I wouldn't have a business.
"I think it's important local businesses shout about what they have on offer. We are in a cul-de-sac of the country and it is nice to shout about good companies.
"I believe in supporting local companies when I need to. Look on your doorstep before going further afield.
"We are not boasting but it is important to highlight that there is a lot going on in Hull and East Yorkshire and a lot going for this part of the world."
To continue its growth, Witham Glass has invested £150,000 in new machinery to progress the company and have more control over its own destiny.
The business has spent the lump sum on a glass toughening machine, based in the Holderness Road site, to give it the chance to strengthen its business by having more to offer for customers.
Mr Russell said: "To have our own toughening plant gives us more control of our own destiny. I have always wanted to develop the company and we have been able to increase our customer base and we are now doing more with the caravan trade than we have ever done before."
Toughened glass is a safety glass and if smashed, breaks into small, squareish pieces rather than sharp ones.
Mr Russell took over Witham Glass from previous owner Harry Anderson nine years ago.
Once settled running the firm, he decided that in order to grow it, he needed more space.
This is where the 8,000sq ft Reservoir Road factory came in eight years ago as the first step of expansion.
Mr Russell said: "When I took over, I realised I would like to move to expand the premises for bigger, better ones to operate from. When I found this place, I thought it would help us move the business on and it has."
Since acquiring the additional factory, Mr Russell has been committed to reinvesting in new equipment and expanding the company, which was established in 1947 and buys raw glass from UK manufacturers before working with it at the factory.
Mr Russell decided that investing in the toughening plant was the way to move forward and win more business and it is successfully progressing. The business used to employ four people and now has a team of 13.
It will look to employ more people to work in the plant with another two jobs set to come in the near future.
Mr Russell said: "A gradual progress has bought in new business for us and we have been able to build up the workforce.
"The big change for us going forward will be in the toughening plant and it is really helping to increase business.
"People have heard we are toughening our own glass now, so we are getting a lot of enquiries.
"The future is to expand the workforce. I can see that going forward but I want to get comfortable with what we are doing at the moment. I don't want to run before I can walk.
"We supply the majority of caravan manufacturers in town and the toughening plant is a big investment for us. It has to be a success.
"It will help us increase the service we can offer and it increases the facilities we have got available. It gives us more control in-house rather than depending on someone else."
According to Mr Russell, there has become an increase in legislation rules that builders and shop fitters have to adhere to when fitting glass and must use safety glass, therefore increasing the need for this product.
Previously, when the business had an order for this safety glass, it would have to produce the glass, prepare it for toughening but then subcontract it out.
Mr Russell said: "This meant we lost quality control and pricing control of the product and some manufacturers were having to go out of town to get the safety glass."
Witham Glass provides glass to manufacturers Victory Leisure Homes, Arronbrook Caravans and Willerby Holiday Homes.
Mr Russell has a background in the petroleum industry and admits he did not know a thing about the glass industry before taking over Witham Glass.
He said: "The previous owner Harry Anderson was one of my customers and he had wanted to retire for a while, so we got talking."
Six months later, Mr Russell had bought the business.
He said: "I didn't know a thing about glass but I have always taken the view that it doesn't matter if you are selling a box of matches or a Rolls Royce, you use the same principles when running a business and I have proved that by running Witham Glass."
Witham Glass is also a member of the Hull and Humber Chamber Of Commerce.