Windows Active Magazine meet with Darren Waters, to have a about what his role of CEO at ERA involves.
Typical Working Day:
I spend my time travelling between our six UK sites and visiting customers, although most of my time is spent at our new Wolverhampton site on i54. If the M6 is kind to me I’ll get in around 08:30am and aim to leave before 6pm. We have a great canteen facility that we outsource to a company called Blue Apple. They do a fantastic lunch menu that changes every day. As a self-confessed foodie being able to have a freshly prepared hot lunch is a great incentive to get away from my desk.
No two days are the same, as we always have a lot of plates spinning. Being part of Tyman plc, we work collaboratively with our other Operating Divisions, AmesburyTruth and Schegel-Giesse. I sit on Tyman’s Management Committee and our Corporate HQ is in London, so I’m normally there at least once a month. The new offices are open plan so I get to have a lot more informal interaction with staff which I really like.
Facts and Figures:
First Job: Sales Engineer for Mobil Oil, selling lubricants
When did you join or set up current company: 2012
Most useful/favourite gadget: ERA DoorCam
Favourite/most useful website: ERA Everywhere or Tidal (love listening to music)
Business person you admire: Easier if it was ‘least admire’ in which case Richard Branson! I like market disruptors. At Mobil, I use to sell marine fuel to wealthy Greek Shipowners and I was impressed by Stelios Haji-Iaonnou and what he managed to create with Easyjet. They are the best low- cost airline in my view. As a shareholder, I hope they continue to do well!
Recommended hotel for business: We tend to use Premier Inn, although they’re no longer always best value for money.
Favourite UK restaurant: Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons for a very special occasion. In terms of food/dining experience it’s the best and I find Raymond Blanc’s love of food and focus on seasonality inspirational.
Best business decision: Moving ERA to i54
Other interests: I’m a qualified FA Referee and keen amateur chef.
My office is based in our new HQ on the i54 business park, close to Junction 2 of the M54. It’s a great location that we share with some of the UK’s leading manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover. I have some really cool wallpaper of a Jet Engine as the backdrop. We decided to use British Inventors as the theme for our rooms and as an aviation enthusiast, I got to adopt Frank Whittle! I ran Mobil’s refuelling facility at Gatwick Airport in the early 1990s and used to gaze at 747s taxiing passed by my window. I’ve almost recreated that without the turbine noise. We invested £10m in building the new facility and everyone that’s visited has been blown away. We spent a lot of time thinking about the layout and décor to create a modern environment that would optimise the workplace wellbeing of our team - I think we got it spot on.
2018 has, so far, been a very exciting time for ERA. Not only is this our 180th anniversary year, but it has also seen the official opening of our brand-new premises at the prestigious i54 business park just outside of Wolverhampton.
A new home
We have worked tirelessly to ensure that the 135,625 sq ft new facility, which brought together three existing facilities in the West Midlands, provides us with the perfect platform for future success in the design, development, manufacture and distribution of high quality home security products and is also a fantastic environment for our workforce to thrive in.
Our brand-new home is a great fit with our long-term business strategy and will help to differentiate our brand, both as an innovative supplier and as a responsible employer, and will help us to accommodate variations within the marketplace from a firm position.
State of the market
In the post-Brexit era, the market has been tough and we have faced huge volatility in our input costs. Despite some recent improvement in the sterling / dollar exchange rate, the rising cost of raw materials mean that our costs are currently still 16% higher than pre-Brexit. Regarding general market conditions, most people I speak to are expecting the market to be flat to down throughout 2018, mainly due to the fact that there is not enough ‘feel good’ out there to fuel demand plus consumers are prioritising big ticket items.
An innovative approach
Although times may be challenging, at ERA, our relentless focus on innovation has helped to offset the downturn in some of our core markets.
Our design team, working in our state-of-the-art research and development hub, strives constantly to produce the high quality, innovative products that the market demands. Identifying customer needs is key and then developing our ideas using the latest technology ensures we invest resources where they are required. New products in the pipeline include SureFire (an auto-fire MPL), ERA Air (an all-new spiral balance) as well as TouchKey (a keyless smart lock) and DoorCam (a Wi-Fi video door bell) which will form part of our ERA Home range of smart security products.
A smart move
Smart security is a fantastic opportunity for ERA as we are perfectly placed to combine our extensive security expertise gained over generations with cutting edge technology to satisfy a growing market.
Not long ago, having remote-controlled systems within your home was a rare occurrence, yet today, smart heating, lighting and entertainment systems are an everyday reality for many people. With home security next in line to undergo a tech transformation, consumers will begin to experience previously unattainable levels of convenience not usually associated with security products.
It is estimated that the smartware market will be worth £307 billion worldwide by 2020 so we have invested significant money into our new ERA Home proposition which will provide customers with an integrated ‘at door’ security solution that connects with other smart home products such as the recently launched HomeGuard Pro, the first cloud-based alarm system of its kind operated by a single smartphone app.
Being cloud-based brings a plethora of benefits such as the ability to monitor multiple hubs from one account, real time alerts to all contacts and the delivery of upgrades quickly and easily directly to the hub.
With future developments in mind, HomeGuard Pro works with Lightwave to fully integrate with ERA’s forthcoming new products, including DoorCam and TouchKey to create a state-of-the-art total smart home solution.
We pride ourselves on putting our customers first, which is reflected in the brand-new customer suite we have incorporated at our headquarters. Whilst we already enjoy exceptional service levels throughout the business, we are always looking to improve. It was important for us to provide a space where customers could see our full range of products in action, including our recognised and well-respected quality brands like Fab&Fix, Giesse and Schlegel.
In addition, our new fully-equipped test house facility ensures that each and every ERA product meets with our high standards, giving confidence and reassurance to our customers, whilst our in-house training and development suite allows us to not only make sure that all our employees are fully equipped with up-to-date product knowledge, but is also a great opportunity for our customers themselves to learn more about our products, via tailored training sessions, thus strengthening their own sales proposition.
Our strong relationships with our customers is amply demonstrated by the success of our entry into bi-fold door systems; it is our ability to partner with system houses on major turnkey projects that is a massive differentiator for ERA.
Quality for profit
When asked what lessons are to be learnt from the market, I would say that there has been a lot of commoditisation and discounting in recent years, which isn’t sustainable in the long term. In my opinion, chasing volume is a fool’s errand, whatever product you’re selling. With this is mind, and specifically related to this industry, the old adage applies ‘as with everything in life, you get what you pay for’ and fabricators and installers should avoid scrimping on perhaps cheaper commoditised hardware if they want to avoid unhappy customers.
Our Fab&Fix decorative hardware is a great way of delivering end customer satisfaction, the ultimate package of quality, style and variety. We now have three distinctive ranges, Classic, Architectural and Heritage with over 200 perfectly matching hardware items that can cater to any door style. The strength and durability of the Hardex finish also goes from strength to strength. We moved on from neutral salt spray testing (NSST) a long time ago as it isn’t representative of real world conditions, instead, we use far more rigorous Prohesion testing to put Hardex through its paces. This combines an electrolyte spray sequence with drying cycles at high temperatures to concentrate salt deposits on the hardware. Hardex can sail through 1000 hours of this barrage, confirming it’s still the most durable finish on the market. There’s still no replacement for the rigours of the field though and Fab&Fix products have racked up plenty of test hours there too – the brand is 30 years old this year.
We have a lot to do: within our business, we’ve changed massively within the past five years alone. Our new premises will change the way we work, for example, although China remains the ‘go to’ for hardware manufacturing, we expect that to diminish over time and as such, we are progressing a number of near-shore projects that will utilize the space we have designed into our new facility.
We are customer focused – we provide support in person via our sales manager, through our customer services team, through ERA Expert for technical queries and of course, through our extensive ERA Everywhere e-commerce website.
We have 180 years’ experience in keeping homes secure as well as a ‘can do’ attitude that runs through our entire organisation, especially product innovation. We are transforming ERA into the UK’S leading trade security brand and at the core of this is our trusted team – they make it happen.
Security is a serious business and by building on our heritage, and leading innovation, we are committed to providing the best total security solutions possible.