Suffolk's Young Business Person of the Year offers his top tips for business success
PUBLISHED: 12:39 02 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:50 02 September 2019
Stuart Dantzic of Caribbean Blinds put others in the shade when he was recently named Young Business Person of the Year at the Suffolk Business Awards.
Along with his brother Brad, Stuart Dantzic is a director at Caribbean Blinds, a family-owned business in Sudbury, west Suffolk, that designs, manufactures and installs luxury external shading systems.
Its products range from stylish patio awnings that provide instant shade and shelter, to innovative external blinds that keep buildings cool and award-winning louvred roof areas that enable year round use of outdoor spaces.
The business was established in 1987 by Stuart and Brad's parents, who then handed over the reins to their sons at the start of 2017.
Since that time the company has seen extraordinary growth and is expected to more than double its turnover to £2m by the end of this year.
The brothers are now looking to the future with plans to extend their production facility by almost 40% - a move they hope will facilitate further growth and play a part in an ambitious strategy to quadruple the size of the company over the next five years.
Both worked in the business prior to taking over the running of it. Today, Brad oversees the operational side of the business - the manufacturing and installing - while Stuart occupies the outward-facing side of activities, passionate about building the company's brand and profile in the competitive home and garden space.
This drive and focus has brought success, not only in terms of sales growth but also industry recognition, and earlier this summer Stuart literally put others in the shade to be named Young Business Person of the Year at the Suffolk Business Awards.
Since taking over the business from their parents, Mr Dantzic says he and Brad have put in place a clear strategy, designed to grow the business.
The first priority was to construct a show site outside the company's offices, where potential clients could come and "touch, feel and see the products," he said.
"We spent a lot of money setting it up and creating an experience for clients - rather than simply looking at our products online, people can spend time with them and imagine how they might work in their own gardens."
By partnering with a maker of outdoor furniture called Bridgman, which also targets the mid to high-end residential market, the company also has a presence on another two show sites beyond Suffolk, one in Enfield and another recently in Surrey.
A second facet of the brother's strategy has been to strengthen its online presence and develop its brand, so it is seen as more aspirational.
Mr Dantzic continued: "We brought in a in-house photographer/videographer specialist who has enabled us to feature more lifestyle content, so clients can see the images and imagine it in their own gardens".
"A trend we have seen is that people are staying put and improving their properties rather than moving home. We are very active online, so that people are aware that there are lots of options in terms of making the most of your home and garden."
When looking to improve their gardens, people tend to go towards the more traditional glass verandahs or conservatories, says Mr Dantzic, which "doesn't put you in the garden, it puts you in a glass box."
He added: "Its not actually what people want, so it's about making sure we are appearing when people are searching online for home extensions and making them aware that what we offer is what they want,"
And it would seem a lot of people do like what Caribbean Blinds has to offer. Notable customers include footballers Sergio Aguero and Michael Carrick, as well as comedian Jimmy Carr.
The company's shades and awnings can also be found on the roof terrace of London's most elite Private Members Club, The Conduit in Mayfair and at major shopping centres such as Westfield.
The final strand to the brother's strategy has to do with staff engagement. Since they took over running the company, head count has swelled from 12 to 19 employees.
"We sat down and spoke to every member of the team about what they liked and disliked about the company," continued Mr Dantzic.
"We wanted to get them involved in our vision for the business, and not only how they can help, but also what we could do to improve their role. As a result we have rejigged the factory around in terms of some of the set ups and processes."
Improvements include a £250,000 investment on advanced machinery including automatic sewing machines and cutting saws, which ensure millimetre perfection. A new open plan office has been established along with refreshed processes "to ensure efficiency and clear communications with clients at all stages of the journey".
Mr Dantzic added: "Some of these changes may be only small things but it is the difference between enjoying your job and really enjoying your job."
Stuart's top five tips for business success
Love what you do and every day you will be motivated to excel and push new boundaries both in business and personally. Your passion will also be infectious to your team and give confidence to your clients.
Set targets to achieve. This will keep you on track, moving your company in the right direction and allow you to measure your success along the way plus adapt when needed to reach and exceed your goals.
You can't do it all yourself (as much as you may like to). Surround yourself with a great team who are specialists in the job roles needed to grow your business. Ensure they understand your brand values and share your vision. Listen to their ideas and inspire them to excel, supporting them in their roles.
Know your numbers - this is key. What are your overheads, what does it cost you to produce your products/service and how many of your products/service do you need sell to cover your overheads, break even and most importantly make a profit? This is vital to goal setting and growth. Keep an eye on your costs and don't get discount too heavy - the more discount you give the more you need to sell to make the same money.
It seems obvious but work hard, never take your finger off the pulse and seize every opportunity. If you are putting in more hours than your competition, continually innovating and being creative, trying new ideas and concepts, you will stay ahead of the competition and your business will thrive.