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Neil Evans On His First 50 Days As Veka Md

Neil Evans
Just 50 days into his new role as MD of VEKA plc, Neil Evans explains how the company has started the year with record breaking results.
The industry has experienced a remarkable upturn since the start of the year – how has VEKA coped? We have just had our biggest January in the history of the company. Sales were 20% ahead of budget, even though two of our largest customers went into administration last year. For context, January would normally be our second quietest full trading month.
Peoples’ view of their home has undoubtedly changed, and home is going to be more important now than ever before, whether as a place we want to invite our friends and family back into or as a new part of our working environment. The fenestration sector is usually predictable, with single digit growth and some set times of the year when you know demand is going to be high. But that has all been blown out of the water. We face new challenges daily, but for us, the key is having our team focused on meeting the challenges of the here and now every time and having a strategy that we can quickly adapt for the good of our customers. As an industry we have all been fighting the challenges of raw materials availability and cost inflation and this is set to continue for much of 2021.  The scale of VEKA Globally, the culture of our family-owned business, and our focus on our core competence of providing our customers with extruded profile for window and door systems has ensured we have coped with it extremely well so far.  We are not complacent though as the challenges have not gone away.
So, what’s your key area of focus for the next 12 months? The most important thing for us over the next year is to secure good, reliable day-to-day performance for our customers.  We're in the most unusual and challenging of times now - supply chains are stretched, some suppliers are struggling to fulfil their contracts, and we need to work hard to make sure we continue to deliver.
I like to take learning from any situation, and as a business we learned a lot from lockdown. We have emerged more agile now, and more efficient. 
What was the first big change that you made? One immediate decision I made was to have HR reporting directly to me. It starts to show how much we truly value people and how they are our magic ingredient. As a business, we’re putting an added focus on people, recognising that post pandemic that’s more important now than it’s ever been.  We want to look after the people who look after our business.
From a personal point of view, what has been your biggest business challenge? If I look back across my career, possibly the biggest risk anyone took on me was when VELUX appointed me as Sales Director after leading Customer Operations; they demonstrated incredible trust and belief in me and a huge and invaluable learning experience.  I remember when I was appointed people asking what I knew about sales (which was just about nothing) and those same people a few years later reflecting that knowing nothing about sales had been key.
And there are similarities with taking over as MD. Yes, I know sales and customer service at VEKA but that only makes up 10% of the business – there’s 90% that I don't have the same level of experience of. But I’m naturally inquisitive, I want to know how things work, so while I’m on a learning curve, I will constructively question everything with a new perspective, which will be good for me and the business. Plus, I’m fortunate enough to have a strong leadership team with a number of 'experts in their fields', all bought into a shared strategy, so we will be able to reap the rewards and see our ambitions realised.
Resilience in business is never more important than it is today. How have you ‘learnt’ resilience throughout your career? I was made redundant once, and at the time it was the most devastating time of my life but equally, on reflection, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. People around me helped, they showed me that I had transferable skills, they gave me perspective and I think that made me a lot more resilient. Endings are often beginnings.
The other thing is to realise that you cannot control everything, though one of the best ways to be resilient is to be focused on your plan to deliver and improve the things you can deliver.  Never get too high, never get too low and take nothing for granted.






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