Published On: Tue, Sep 4th, 2018

Tony Craggs, the Managing Director of Virtuoso Doors

First job: I started here in 2004 when it was WB Group, which was my dad Kevin Craggs’ business.

When did you join current firm: I joined the business straight after my A Levels, aged 19. My dad wanted me to work my way up, so I started in the factory. I learned all the processes and operated the machinery, which was a fantastic grounding for me.

Most useful gadget: It has to be my iPhone, I literally couldn’t survive without it!

Favourite/most useful website: Amazon. It’s trusted, logical and user-friendly, with seamless ordering and you can buy literally anything from it.

Business person you most admire: My dad, who built a very successful business and inspired me to join it. He taught me some really important principles that I’ve never forgotten.

Recommended hotel for business: You can’t beat Premier Inn. They’re clean, well-equipped and always value for money.

Favourite UK restaurant: I love Italian food and Bistro Romano is the best one near me. I go there a lot with my family and customers.

Best business decision: To launch our aluminium alternative door, Virtu-AL, last year. It combines the best features of an aluminium door with those of a composite door to nail the premium look of aluminium but without the premium price tag.

Other interests: I am a die-hard Sunderland AFC fan and never miss a match. I like to play football too as well as spending as much time as possible with my children who are growing too fast!


Working Day: I like to start early so my working day typically begins at 7am, unless I’m on the road any earlier for meetings with customers. My first task is to review what needs to be done and make a plan for the day. I speak to the other directors for an update on production and walk around the shop floor to make sure everything is running as it should be. I spend much of my day in meetings to discuss production, customer care, accounts and new product development – it’s important for me to know exactly what’s happening in each department to ensure that we consistently deliver the highest standards of service. I’m also in contact with customers and suppliers throughout the day. The pace of my working day is fast, but I do always like to be home by 6pm to spend time with my two boys – although I’ll often respond to emails when they’re in bed!


Working Location: I’m based at our 80,000 ft2 site at Birtley in the North East, where we have been for 25 years. We have 120 people working in the eight units on site. Our modern offices are located above our showroom, which displays a complete range of composite and PVC-U panel doors. The offices are open-plan to encourage interaction between the team. I like to be in the middle of the action so my office is close to the other directors and the admin team. It’s an efficient way of working for me and it means I can immediately touch base with anyone in order processing, customer support, IT and human resources. This helps me to address any customer needs quickly.


The last 12 months have been phenomenal for Virtuoso Doors since becoming part of the Customade Group. We became one of the industry’s fastest growing composite door brands and achieved an impressive 35% year-on-year growth, which we attribute to rapidly rising demand for our products and also extending our reach nationally. We’re now on a very exciting path of even further growth, which has been paved by a recent £750,000 investment in machinery, IT and people. Like many firms in our industry, we’ve been affected by Brexit with material prices rising because of the weakness of sterling. We’ve worked closely with our suppliers to become as lean as possible and shield our customers from the effects. The start of 2018 has been very good indeed and we’re building on the solid foundations we’ve established with Customade Group. We’re well placed for strong volume growth this year thanks to our recent investments, which have created unlimited capacity for the future.

Customer focused – This upward trend is not just about Virtuoso Doors though, it’s about supporting our customers and driving long-term growth for their businesses too. We’re doing this by giving them all the resources they need to attract more customers and sell our range of doors. Our marketing package, for instance, is geared to helping installers generate leads and convert more sales, whilst our online door designer software – Gateway – enables them to quickly quote and order doors 24 hours a day. We’ve invested around £100,000 in Gateway and the customer feedback on it has been extremely positive. Customers rate how convenient it is to quote, order and track doors at a time to suit them, which gives them much greater independence and control over their businesses.

People in the industry talk about ‘flat’ market conditions and it’s true that many firms are suffering the ill effects. The composite door sector has become polarised with value at one end and high end at the other. Whilst the budget end is shrinking, the premium sector is performing well. We’ve been fortunate to be insulated from many of the tough conditions because we have differentiated ourselves by placing a huge emphasis on product quality and service. Our range of fine-quality composite doors are manufactured with the perfected technique of ‘crafted precision’ which teams cutting edge machinery with the hands-on expertise of master craftsmen who create exceptional doors every time. We take pride in making the very best quality products right down to the last detail and that appeals to customers who appreciate the dedication we put into every stage of the manufacturing process.

Tapping into opportunities – Innovation is a driving force for our business and we were very proud to launch Virtu-AL last year. This product opened up some fantastic new opportunities for those forward-thinking installers who wanted to extend beyond standard composite doors and take advantage of the growing consumer appetite for modern, aluminium style products. Demand for aluminium is showing no signs of slowing down and this product helps installers to become part of the growing aluminium sector, which typically affords higher profit margins. When customers see and feel Virtu-AL, they are really impressed because it’s so sleek and modern. It’s virtually indistinguishable from an aluminium door and our installers have said that, on looks alone, this door can compete with an aluminium door. Virtu-AL was developed for those aspirational homeowners who want to trade up from a conventional composite door and achieve a consistent aluminium look on the exterior of their homes. Judging by their response (and the fact that some manufacturers are now trying to mimic it), we know that we developed the right product for the right people at the right time. There is definitely a very strong market for this door and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s fast becoming one of the most popular products we manufacture. You can be sure that we won’t be standing still this year and we have lots of exciting plans to follow on the back of Virtu-AL. There are other new product developments in the pipeline too, which we’ll be sharing with the industry soon.

Team talent – Our aim is not just to be one of the biggest nationwide manufacturers of composite doors and PVC-U door panels, but to be the best. Even though we will substantially increase our manufacturing output this year, it will definitely not be at the expense of the exceptional levels of service we’ve become known for. That’s why we have worked hard to build a team of talented people who are all committed to forging loyal partnerships with customers to support them and add value to their businesses. We do go the extra mile for our installers and we ensure that all quotes are completed within 24 hours and we maintain our OTIF (on time in full) record of 99%+ on our range of doors. We run on a five-day lead time, which I know may not be the quickest, but it is very fast when you consider the quality of the door you get in that time.

The most important measure of any company, of course, is what its customers think. I think it’s fair to say that our customers are impressed with our products and service and they have rewarded us with their loyalty. We’re not interested in simply adding more installers to our customer base, we want to establish solid partnerships with our existing customers too by giving them the products, level of service, sales tools and marketing support to help them grow at a pace that suits them. In my 15 years in the industry, I’ve learnt that fortune favours the brave – you have to be bold to stand above your competitors and succeed in a highly populated marketplace. As far as entrance doors are concerned, consumers expect far more than good looks or performance and installers need to differentiate themselves from the noise with products that are unique, aspirational and not necessarily price led. Spending on home improvements is predicted to rise this year, despite Brexit, and installers need to be ready to take advantage of this opportunity. Our focus therefore is very much on bringing innovation to the industry with products that deliver the quality that consumers want whilst bringing strong and sustainable margins for our customers. Innovation, of course, is much faster when you’re part of an operation like Customade Group and, since the merger, we’ve gained from the enormous skills and experience of the rest of the senior management team in the group. With decades of experience in the industry, the wider team brings a wealth of knowledge that every company in the group, including Virtuoso, is already benefiting from. Virtuoso Doors has the resources and the capacity to grow and I’m excited about a new era for us and our customers. We’ve developed an industry-leading brand, which is underpinned by some fantastic products and a very comprehensive support package and we’re ready for the future. Just as importantly though, our customers are ready for a busy and profitable year ahead.

Tel: 0191 410 9333