Two That Can’t Be Stopped
RECKLI has been quietly soldiering on behind the scenes in Great Britain for two and a half decades. That is until two new additions pulled up their sleeves and really got things going. An interview with RECKLI UK sales managers Joe Russell and Wayne Sewell.
When Joe Russell started his new job on September 1st 2011, the branch was in crisis mode. The recession had been affecting all of Europe for two years, and Great Britain was also dealing with the consequences: in 2009, the British construction industry shrank by 13.2 percent. Building projects were brought to a halt, commissions were rare, companies fell into existential crises. The precast factory, where Joe Russell worked, couldn’t keep business afloat. He began looking for another job in the middle of the euro crisis.
He found a new job at RECKLI. Russell was employed to support the longstanding head of sales, who established commercial representation on the UK market in 1985. After 25 years of solid results, newcomer Russell was to safeguard the British market representation’s revenue in the crisis.
RECKLI also began to feel the recession: “There weren’t many commissions, as architects had to keep designs very simple. This meant a lack of architecture projects,” remembers Russell. The industry started to regain momentum, but slowly. It took a lot of persuasion to get new commissions. In this time of tight budgets, unique façade design using elastic formliners was disregarded as a lavish luxury.
As well as dealing with the tense economic situation, Russell also had to introduce himself to a new audience. During his 14 years in the prefabrication industry, he had worked with technicians – now he had to give presentations to architects. To make sure he could convincingly present all aspects of all RECKLI products, Russell repeatedly travelled to Herne to see how the formliners were made and to discuss possible uses with RECKLI technicians. Armed with this knowledge, he soon embarked on his first project, a photo engraving project for a garden that he still remembers fondly to this day. Eight 3.5 meter formliners were used to create two 8 tonne prefabricated elements. “It gave me a great sense of achievement, as I was completely involved from the design to the creation of our photo engraving formliner,” said Russell.
The construction industry began to recover, thanks to the Olympic Games in London in 2012. The planning, preparation and realization of infrastructure for the games cost over 10 billion euros. RECKLI UK was involved in building the Olympic Village, providing formliners to create bridges with render-effect breastwork. The formliners – some arched – had to be cut precisely down to the millimeter, adjusted and sometimes applied to the concrete as a mirror image. After this prestigious project, the client book continued to grow: in the year after the Olympic Games, RECKLI UK’s revenue was triple that of 2012.
As the longstanding head of sales for RECKLI UK retired in 2014, Russell brought his former colleague, Wayne Sewell, on board. Sewell had been managing a prefabrication facility and working with the most important suppliers in Britain. He also had practical experience with using RECKLI materials. He too had to rise to the challenge of changing from a factory management position to selling to a wide range of clients. Presentations, trips, new contacts – Russell gave Sewell plenty of important tips. “Thanks to Joe’s work, RECKLI already had a good level of recognition in the industry,” said Sewell. He followed Russell’s approach and, together, they used their experience and contacts from the prefab industry to acquire new customers and build trust in RECKLI products. They expanded trade show activity and made personal contact with customers a priority.
Their practical experience proved especially useful when it came to complicated construction projects. They were able to estimate the consequences for use on site and come up with solutions with architects during the planning phase. Sewell still remembers one of the most challenging projects where RECKLI UK supplied tailor-made board-effect formliners for an office building. He coordinated customer requirements and the RECKLI team back in Herne from planning right through to application. He flew to Germany with the architect and later advised the construction team on using the formliners. “For us, customer service is the top priority. Whether it’s a small business or a large company – every customer gets complete technical support and advice about what possibilities are opened up by RECKLI products,” said Sewell.
This power duo ensured that 2015 was RECKLI UK’s most successful year yet, and quadrupled revenue compared to 2012. The British economy has managed to recover, meaning more positive developments can be expected: the British Construction Products Association has predicted that the construction sector should return to pre-recession levels in 2016.