Published On: Tue, Nov 21st, 2023

Chris Reeks, Managing Director of Fentrade

Facts and Figures:

First job: My first full-time position was a trainee purchaser for a Caterpillar replacement spares company. 

Set up current company: August 2018 

Favourite Gadget: Apple watch 

Favourite/most useful website: Google – always the first place to start!

Favourite restaurant: Three Mughals in Rogerstone, Newport. A local award-winning restaurant specialising in Indian cuisine who won the national curry award for 2019. 

Business person: Sir Richard Branson. His approach to business principles of transparency, customer service and staff empowerment offer the core values that every business can learn from.

What lesson have you learnt about business over the last 12 months?: Don’t over-complicate things, keep processes and systems simple and easy to administer for better efficiency. 

Best business decision: To start one! When we set up Fentrade in 2018 it was the realisation of a personal longstanding ambition to create a fabrication business that delivers on its promises! Having been in the fenestration industry for over 30 years, I knew there was a real appetite from installers, trade counter businesses and contractors to have a strong supplier they could rely on to provide high quality products which are delivered on time and in full.

Other interests: I enjoy a lot of countryside walking, golf, dancing and also being a city councillor in Newport, which brings me into contact with many people locally to me. 

Working Day:

I’ve always been an early riser and I like to be in the office for 6.30am. My first job is to meet with the factory manager for a “morning prayer” meeting, checking we’re on track with production and reviewing any quality issues that may have arisen. The sales and admin teams are generally in by 7.30am, when we review the previous day’s sales and discuss any new customer enquiries before following them up later in the day. The rest of the morning will likely consist of a mix of cross-checking quotes and sales orders before a walk-through of the factory. The afternoon is quite fluid, with sales calls to customers before leaving around 6pm. I’m fortunate enough to have my wife as part of our team, so tea-table discussions often focus on the business, but we make sure we make time for our hobbies too. 

Working Location:

Our modern fabrication and offices are based in Newport, Gwent a short distance from where I live, which makes the morning commute a lot easier! I started the business with a single laptop on a camping table in a small office. Today, we’re a networked business in a large, open plan hub that encompasses all departments. Our fabrication centre has grown by expanding into adjoining premises. In doing so, it’s created an open, friendly and efficient environment that meets the needs of our growing business and our customers. 


The good news is that the market has settled down after the pandemic and it’s behaving more like it used to do in terms of cycles. The even better news is that it’s performing much more strongly than anticipated given the constant prediction of recession we had throughout 2022.  We’ve geared up for continued growth through 2023 and into 2024 with the introduction of three new product ranges that will enhance our existing offerings. I believe all three of these will become strong revenue streams in the coming months as the market continues its switch to high-end products. 

 The SD70 Aluminium Heritage Door is the ideal solution for projects requiring art-deco or industrial styling for external doors and internal doors with screening.  The ID30 Internal Door and Screening System is perfect for creating bespoke glazed interior partitions, dividers or walls of glass.  Both these product lines will sit comfortably in our range of aluminium windows, doors, curtain walling and shop fronts from industry leaders such as AluK, Reynaers, Jack Aluminium Systems and VBH Greenteq. 

 Having built our name as an aluminium fabricator, adding the PVC-U Residence Collection to our range is perhaps the most surprising decision. However, it’s a range that complements our aluminium products perfectly, both in terms of its manufacturing methods and its positioning as a high-end product. Not only that, we’re the first Residence Collection fabricator in South Wales, which gives us first mover advantage, especially since we’ll be manufacturing all three systems: Residence 9, Residence 7 and Residence². All these reasons, combined with our strengths in quality and service, mean I have no doubt we can make it a successful product line. 

Diversifying our product range expands our opportunities but also, I believe, boosts our workforce because it keeps the focus on learning and evolving. This ethos is central for us. 

 Of course, as we all know, it can be a challenge to find a good, reliable workforce keen to learn, especially in the current climate. To help us find the people with the instinctive skills and growth mindset we need, we’ve developed a series of aptitude tests when we’re interviewing.  We also have a good internal training system and I actively encourage our people to undertake training courses where possible. I believe training enhances them as people and, in turn, has intrinsic benefits for the business as a whole. 

 I’m also absolutely clear that they’re people first and employees second.  I make time to walk the factory daily. I want to discuss the workflow and product quality with our fabricators, but more importantly, talk about their family life and well-being. I make myself very approachable to everyone in the company and ensure they know we can talk about things outside work that may be impacting their lives and offer help and support wherever I can. 

 All these actions have helped to build a rounded and engaged workforce that rises to the challenges in front of them. I’m proud to see my team go above and beyond every day.   As a result, we get a lot of positive feedback from our customer base around our quality and service, and I always make a point of feeding this back to the sales team and the shop floor. It’s important for them to know their hard work and efforts are appreciated and gives everyone a great sense of pride in their work. 

 This is even more important because quality and service are the cornerstones of our business and the major USPs we sell on.  When it comes to the products we sell, the rule is simple. If I wouldn’t have it in my home, I wouldn’t force it on someone else, and the team all know the standards I work to. 

 Beyond that, quality and service depend on three things.  Firstly, continuous improvement.  In the same way as I want my team to grow and develop, the same applies to me. I am always looking to learn and improve my understanding of the way business works.   I followed the Help to Grow management scheme in 2022, for example. It gave me valuable insights into lots of areas such as finance, digitisation and processes, as well as the opportunity to meet regularly with other course participants and discuss common issues and problems and their solutions in overcoming them. Getting this diversity of thought helps me be a better leader and build a better business.  

 We also proactively invest in new systems and processes. For example, we’re rolling out bespoke upgrades to our LogiKal software operating system from BM Aluminium. The upgrades will result in an even faster turnaround time on quotations and order acknowledgements, along with easier to read paperwork. From a production perspective, the system will further integrate our supply chain to provide more efficiencies across the fabrication process. 

 Quality and service also depend on attention to detail – I consider myself to be a methodical and organised person. When we’re assessing orders, I tend to look at them from a whole supply chain perspective, from fabricator to fitter. Whether it’s highlighting notes to the fabricators or looking at weights and sizes of products to ensure they’re manageable for the fitter to handle on site, I want to make the whole process as easy as possible to deal with. Every little thing contributes to making sure the end user gets the “wow” feeling with their new purchase. This adds value to our customers’ businesses, which therefore adds value to our business. 

 Finally, it’s about commitment – Like everyone else in the industry, we’ve faced many challenges over the past few years. I’ve always felt the best way to overcome the challenges is to tackle them head-on.   Supply chain issues, for example, can be troublesome because they are beyond your control. However, my team and I work hard to minimise the delay and inconvenience to our customers.  

 Whether it’s driving to Swansea to collect hardware rather than wait for it to be delivered or organising profile to be powder-coated locally because our usual supplier has delayed lead times, the priority is in not letting our customer down.  

 Our approach works – Our figures have always showed good growth year-on-year and have always exceeded our expectations. I believe it’s an approach that is far more sustainable than a race to the bottom with prices, which benefits no-one. And I certainly know it’s helped me to build a business and a team that I’m proud to lead.