Published On: Thu, Mar 21st, 2019

Joe Trueman, Managing Director of Stevenswood Trade Centres

First Job: I left school at 16 with very little academic achievement and went straight into the fenestration industry working for my Dad’s retail business which was called Valley Windows & Conservatories. I started in the factory, manufacturing a Selecta 60mm externally beaded system and worked my way through all areas of the business.

When did you join current company: I joined Stevenswood as the commercial director in March 2017 following its acquisition of my previous trade counter business, Truemans. I became Managing Director in March 2018.

Most useful/favorite gadget: Most useful or most used must be my iPhone but it’s far from my favourite. My favourite is probably a pair of Beats headphones that I wear while running.

Favourite/most useful website: Has to be Youtube – which allows me to listen to documentaries while travelling.

Business person you admire: This changes regularly, I spend a lot of time following successful entrepreneurs. At the moment I am taking a lot of inspiration from Elon Musk and his approach to reducing carbon emissions and accelerating space travel. I admire leaders who are able to think beyond profit and cash.

Recommended hotel for business: The cheapest option usually!

Favourite UK restaurant: I’m very fond of an Indian street food restaurant in Edinburgh called Tuk Tuk – tapas-style classic Indian dishes.

Best business decision: I think being one of the early individuals to recognise the shift towards window and door trade counters back in 2010 and changing the strategy of Truemans to accommodate for this was a good decision. And then taking the risk to open our second branch with very limited cash.

Other interests: Walking, eating, cooking, music, family, friends and my beloved dog Cocoa!


Working Week: I am not an early morning person and my best thinking time is often during the evenings, so I don’t typically stick to specific working hours. I’ll often be working on a project during the evening when I can think clearer with no risk of interruption; my best output comes from me working on something as soon as it comes into my head, and I enjoy this time. My usual working day is a split between basing myself from our Branch Support Centre in Livingston, Scotland, or visiting any of our 36 branches across the UK. It’s very difficult to describe my typical working day because I often allow myself to flow with whatever is going on at the time, I’m not overly structured and I enjoy jumping between projects – my productivity is usually better when I work this way.


Working Location: Although I’m often on the road, my base is at our Branch Support Centre (BSC) in Livingston, Scotland. Our BSC is where most of our central functions run including HR, IT, finance and marketing. It’s the engine room that drives reporting and process across our business and its where most of our strategical meetings take place. The offices are branded with our customer proposition as a constant reminder of why we exist. And, in case we forget, the BSC also includes our Livingston trade counter at the back of the building which enables us to stay close to the action.


The Truemans acquisition happened 18 months ago and since then I’ve been very quickly learning about the challenges of running a much bigger multi-site business. Truemans had just 5 branches with turnover of almost £10m, but Stevenswood currently has 36 branches, of which 5 have opened in 2018. We have plans to open another 12-15 next year alongside heavy growth from our existing branches. The business has experienced a sudden jump in size along with a lot of staffing and structural changes and it’s taken time for the senior management team, including myself, to steady the ship. 12 months ago, Stevenswood was a combination of 4 independently run businesses; Polyframe Trade Centres, Stevenswood, Truemans and Sameday Trade Frames. One of the challenges we have faced is merging these businesses together both culturally and operationally – we’ve achieved this now and have a solid base to grow from moving forward. I’m a strong believer that a good culture creates a fantastic business, so pushing for rapid growth before those foundations are in is pointless. 2019 will be our first serious organic growth year and I’m looking forward to it. It’s been evident for some time that smaller fabricators are closing down and the larger fabricators simply don’t have a desire, or the resource needed to deal with small local window installers. That lack of desire, resource and local ‘around the corner’ presence is what has created a space in the market for trade counters and it’s why we’re flourishing.

The fenestration industry feels buoyant at the moment, but it’s no secret that we have some uncertainties ahead of us with Brexit. However, there will always be local window installers, builders and joiners buying windows & doors. Our customers are the biggest disrupters to the national installers we see on TV and we totally believe in the fantastic work they do all over the UK for homeowners. Our mission is to support these local window installers through our growing branch network with a reliable friendly service, technical help and business growth support. They are undoubtably experts at installing windows, so it’s right for us to complement their business by offering other supporting mechanisms. It’s been pleasing to see so many of our customers grow from installing just a few frames per week, to having to employ additional fitting teams to deal with increased orders as a result of the business support mechanisms we have provided in sales and marketing.

There’s no doubt that at some point the ‘Amazon effect’ will hit the fenestration industry properly and installers will be ordering windows and doors online. There is a glaringly obvious space for a national trade counter that also offers an easy-to-use 24/7 pricing and ordering facility, combined with the support from expert local staff and a storage facility – a space that we are currently exploring with excitement. I hear a lot of noise that many of the small to medium sized manufacturers in our sector are feeling the pinch on quality and OTIF at the moment as we head into our busiest part of the year and this can certainly be an unwanted pain for customers. Manufacturers need to pay closer attention to forecasting and plan better for the October and November seasonality. My advice to trade counters seeking a reliable supplier at this time of year would be to go with the biggest manufacturers available who can offer you a choice of products and have made the investments in machinery that are needed to balance seasonality volume. The Customade Group has made fantastic progress this year and is in a position to reliably supply trade counters with a range of high-quality products from 7 manufacturing sites.

Looking forward, I’m excited about the next few years at Stevenswood and the growth journey that we will go on. Opening new branches is a lot of fun especially when we are able to explode into an area where local installers are crying out for what we offer. We have some truly amazing people among our 180 team members, and it’s fantastic to see individuals across our branch network and branch support centres developing new talents and understanding why we exist. From day one at Stevenswood, myself and the senior management team have tried to explain our vision clearly to everyone involved. I’ve always thought that a successful business should spend 10% of its time focusing on profit, cash and costs, and 90% of its time focusing on vision and culture. Of course, any business needs profit and cash to survive, but a correct vision and a superb culture creates cash. The future of Stevenswood is a bright one, although I’ll not be around forever. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll move on or what I’ll do next, but hopefully it will involve building another fantastic business that really adds value to customers.