The personal touch
It’s been a busy few years for the team at Super Rod with plenty of new product innovation and a string of awards. I caught up with Managing Director Malcolm Duncan to find out what they have been up to.
You can’t fail to have heard the name Super Rod, not least because over the last few years it has been linked to many awards including The Best Product of the Last Fifty Year in 2006 and the prestigious Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2008. But that isn’t where the story ends because the company is now the proud recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its success in international trade which just adds another feather to the company’s cap.
On paper it looks like just another company with a range of cable routing products for the installer. But there is something quite special about this Blaenavon based company which keeps them in the spotlight and that is their desire to work with their customers and respond to the needs of the industry.
Malcolm says: “There isn’t any great secret so if you are expecting me to divulge a startling new way to do business then I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. Our success basically comes from the fact that we listen – it really is that simple.
“Since I first became involved with the company in 2001 (initially as a customer and now as the Managing Director) our values and aims have been very simple – to exceed the expectations of our customers on every level, and it is this commitment which has helped the company go from strength to strength.”
It may seem like a very simple concept but it clearly works and Malcolm’s friendly and easy-going team have proved that listening to feedback, asking questions and showing a genuine interest in the customer is the key to being a successful business.
Malcolm says: “Innovation starts with the installer because they are the ones who will be using the product and regardless of how great we think a product is; if the installer doesn’t like it then it won’t sell. This is the main reason that we work closely with the installer and quite often new product innovation comes as a response to a product which an installer has suggested.
“We have a Forum Group made up of volunteer installers from several different industries who feed us with ideas and who field test new products before they are released to the market. This has proved to be very successful because it means that by the time we release a new product we already know what the installer thinks and we have made any necessary adjustments to ensure that it is just right.”
Best of British
This approach to innovation is not necessarily unique but I have to say that it is refreshing as too many companies simply launch products because they think there is a need rather than because they have done their homework properly.
But I think the underlying thing for me is that all of their products are made in the UK and this commitment to British manufacturing really does make a pleasant change.
Malcolm says: “We have always been committed to manufacturing our products in the UK and this isn’t likely to change.
“Over the past few years we have seen many companies move their manufacturing plants out to the Far East…and many are now moving them back because prices have risen and this is no longer a cheap option.
“What is sad is that as a result of this process we have lost a lot of manufacturing skills which we will find hard to replace. Manufacturing should not just be about the cost because although this has a major part to play, I firmly believe that of equal importance is the ability for a company to react quickly to customer demand.
“By manufacturing all of our products in the UK we can respond quicker to innovation. So for example if an installer came to us with an idea for a new product we can have a prototype built ready to trial within ten days. If we manufactured in the Far East this could take weeks or even months and in the electrical industry this just isn’t acceptable.”
Since the company first started trading in March 2001 they have built up a reputation for being specialists in their field and as a result of this the company has continued to grow. But they haven’t lost sight of what matters – the personal touch. Malcolm says: “Regardless of what happens in the future we cannot afford to forget that our success has been as a result of the way in which we do business with our customers.
“What many people fail to recognise is that everyone is different and therefore what works well with one customer doesn’t necessarily work well with another. In many industries it is possible to develop a business model that will work with every customer but one thing which I have learnt over the years is that the electrical industry is very different.
“Personal contact is very underrated but I personally believe that this is the way to do business. You also need to be flexible and accept that if you want to do business you must do it in a way which suits the customer rather than imposing unnecessary restrictions which make it difficult. The fact that we manufacture in the UK does make this much easier for us as we can react to industry demand with new product innovation, but it is equally as important to know your customers and how they work rather than just treating them as a faceless person on the other end of an email.
“I am a great believer in the use of social media and making the most of what it has to offer but it will never replace the personal touch. People like to do business with people – not with a faceless computer screen.”
The awards continue to stack up for Super Rod but it is good to see that it hasn’t gone to their heads. Their commitment to customer service and UK manufacturing is still very much at the forefront of the business and while it is no great secret it has certainly contributed to their on-going success.