Published On: Wed, Jan 17th, 2018

David Richards, Chairman, Spitfire Doors, part of the Kaliber Group

First job: Infantry Captain in the British Army

When did you set up current company? Spitfire Doors was established in September 2015, so it’s my most recent baby!

Most useful/favourite gadget: I wish I could say my Namiki fountain pen but my Surface laptop goes everywhere with me, as it allows me to communicate. Obviously, my phone is essential, but it’s not my favourite gadget.

Favourite/most useful website: Amazon. I use Amazon because it’s a hassle-free way to click and buy all the day-to-day bits I seem to need. I admire Amazon’s approach and can see why they lead the retail world.

Business person you admire: Jack Welch, ex-CEO of General Electric. Jack was an inspirational, no-nonsense leader who challenged the status quo and built exceptional teams that delivered tremendous levels of profit.

Recommended hotel for business: You can’t go wrong at any Premier Inn hotel, they serve me well when I’m travelling around the UK visiting factories or our Design Partner network

Favourite UK restaurant: Probably Gusto in Alderley Edge, as they produce consistently tasty food with the minimum of fuss; there is usually a buzz and it’s just down the road!

Best business decision: Starting KAT in 1998. The business has gone from strength to strength, employing many great people and offering premium-quality products backed with excellent service.

Other interests: I love our truffle hunting dogs Zola, Echo and Poppy, with cars and motorcycles being a luxury hobby. I like to help support local organisations like the Silk Museum, The Blackfen Trust and Cheshire Wildlife Trust and I enjoy visiting my family at home in Wales. And red wine from Bordeaux should get a mention!

Working Day: My days vary week to week but I generally spend an average three to four days at Spitfire’s office/showroom or out travelling, meeting Spitfire customers and suppliers. One day a week is shared across our Kaliber Group’s companies (KAT, Ayrshire Aluminium and Universal Arches), either travelling to see them or working on the Group’s overarching marketing and growth strategy. Whatever I have planned, I wake at 6.30am and am usually in the office or travelling by 7.30am, finishing at 6.30 or 7pm, although last night was 11pm! Spitfire is a start-up and has a small team at the moment so I’m chairman, sales, marketing, quote processor and often receptionist! It’s a hands-on operation but an exciting venture that I’m proud to have set up.

Working Location: I have never really had a permanent office but tend to base myself at any free desk. Splitting my time between Spitfire Doors, the other Kaliber Group companies, visiting customers, European suppliers and attending exhibitions involves quite a bit of travel. I am forced to use my car or home to catch up on admin.


As a relative veteran in the fenestration industry, most peers and colleagues would likely associate me with our Group’s biggest company, KAT. What many may not know is that I took a sabbatical in 2006, where I spent six years in Switzerland and went off-piste to set up a luxury watch manufacturing business; this was to be a kind of business muse for me, that led to Spitfire Doors being borne upon my return to the UK.  And here we are, three years further along, proving that the wealthy UK consumer market is hungry for the very finest, top-quality doors and that the UK does have the skill to deliver this level of high-end innovation and service. My time in Switzerland taught me about wealthy consumers’ buying habits, which can be applied to any sector, and I spotted and as yet, a small gap in the UK market for the most highly engineered, technically advanced entrance doors.

We have certainly benefited from the sector’s mini boom, having had an outstanding 12 months. Our network of Design Partners has adopted Spitfire’s concept and taken it to the high-end markets with confidence. Our supporting door designer software and online marketing materials have allowed my customers to demonstrate the quality of the doors and provide a bespoke service, expected by the wealthiest of homeowners.  Our doors are being installed across the UK and Ireland, where we have seen a surprisingly rapid resurgence in the Irish economy, in luxury new-build homes and developments through to rural period homes. We’ve even supplied a door in Mayfair, London, to match the customer’s orange and carbon Lamborghini!  We have significantly invested in trade shows, which has paid dividends for us as a start-up, with 197 leads made at last year’s FIT Show and 225 leads to follow up this year. We are putting this success down to us introducing a genuinely unique product for our existing and prospective customers. Feedback from trade and end users has been a resounding “Hallelujah!” that we have introduced an aesthetically and technically innovative entrance door, which surpasses security and thermal performance expectations and offers high-end consumers an aspirational product. Everyone that sees the door systems is blown away by their style, the sheer substance of the high-quality components and the hi-tech features.

We have various other exhibitions lined up, Grand Designs, 100% Design in London and Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace, where we will capture the imagination of supercar owners directly, whilst they sip their champagne and feast on lobster. We’ve strategically targeted the top end of the spectrum because the market is proving that consumers do have money and will spend it on aspirational, bespoke products. Spitfire’s doors are the highest specification in Europe and equally have the desired aesthetic theatre.  Admittedly, it was a big gamble pioneering such big-ticket items in the UK and Ireland, but seeing first-hand over 350 of our premium S-500 Inotherm doors supplied to date – all built to exacting perfection, gave me the impetus to raise the game. Putting on my Kaliber Group Chairman’s hat, we are striving to reach the amazing quality and service standards set by our Slovenian partners, Inotherm, across our UK businesses. We will not fail in our mission because I believe in the skill and professionalism of our employees and of our partners in this industry. I want to help raise the profile, overall specification and quality of products sold in the UK home improvement market to demonstrate that we can all justify a higher price tag at consumer level, provided we deliver excellence in return. The market is there, we just need to step up to the plate as an industry.  The next 12 months look set to be very positive despite Brexit concerns, with researchers predicting a further hike in home improvement spending. The growth of aluminium has been an almost overnight phenomenon and that trend looks set to continue, with further developments expected to include slimmer profiles, enhanced thermal values and undoubtedly more front door ranges.

Our Group is targeting total annual sales of £25million in three years’ time. We are well on course and my role has been to recruit and develop a senior management team capable of taking us there. Across all businesses, at all levels, we are looking to upskill existing staff and recruit the best people out there, where there are vacancies. Our recent business acquisitions of Ayrshire Aluminium and Universal Arches and their natural synergy with the Group’s product and service offering, has already helped us to extend our foothold in the fenestration industry. With further investment, in aluminium profile bending and commercial aluminium and PVC-U products, we are entering a new era as a genuine one-stop-shop for aluminium and PVC-U windows and doors.   There are exciting plans specifically for Spitfire Doors in the next 12 months too. Part of my European travels is to seek new top-end products to expand our collections. We recently added a timber fusion collection to sit alongside our premium aluminium range. The doors are beautiful, made from red cedar and surpass Passiv Haus standards and are available with great security and hardware features. We are about to introduce pivot doors, which are a real trend setter with their offset hinges to create a huge and impressive entrance. We’re very excited to bring this level of innovation to the UK market. We are about to launch a new 3,500 ft2 showroom in Macclesfield, which will become a group flagship, aimed at consumers, for them to touch and feel all the Group’s product doors and visualise them in their own homes. Our partners will be able to send their customers to this hi-tech showroom and we hope it will help them close more sales. We feel there are very exciting times ahead for Kailber and our great customers.