Published On: Mon, Jan 9th, 2017

John Adams, Customer Service Director at the Customade Group

First job: Trainee manager at Wickes Building Supplies.

When did you join or set up current company: I bought Customade in 2006, together with my founder business partners John Lightowlers and Nick Gibbons. Customade was a well-established business and it was fairly unique as it was both a PVC-U and aluminium fabricator. We saw this as a great opportunity for growth, particularly as demand for aluminium in the domestic market was beginning to rise and was being poorly serviced.

Most useful/favourite gadget: Everyone says this (and for good reason), but it is my iPhone. I have thousands of contacts on there and it does everything I need in and out of the office. I would be lost without it!

Favourite/most useful website: I definitely use our new REAL Aluminium website – – more than any other website. There is so much useful, real-time information on there.

Business person you most admire: Steve Brown of Development Plastics was an inspiration when I joined this industry more than 25 years ago. His approach to managing a business and people motivated me in my career. He also understood the importance of a healthy work/life balance.

Recommended hotel for business: I don’t favour chains so I always seek out smaller, private hotels. For me, I like places that have character and offer good service.

Favourite UK restaurant: I love Italian food and there are too many great places in the UK to mention, However, for me, none of them compare to the Nautilus restaurant in Kilifi, Kenya. It’s in a breath-taking setting on a lagoon and the food is sensational.

Best business decision: To make the move from Homesafe Doors 10 years ago and buy Customade. We’ve turned the group from a £5 million business into a £35 million business and it hasn’t stopped growing yet.

Other interests: I am active so I spend lots of time cycling, sailing (dinghy and yacht) and hill-walking. Every year, I set myself a challenge to accomplish something new. I got my skipper’s licence for sailing this year and last year I did the Three Peaks Challenge with colleagues from Customade.

Working Day: I’m predominantly office-based in my role and I usually start the day at around 7.45am after a half hour commute to work. I’m lucky that my drive to work starts in the beautiful Cotswolds, with the added bonus that there is not a single traffic light on the way in to slow me down! I’ll often take calls from customers on my way as many of them like to speak to me before the office opens. When I arrive, I review any customer issues or requests that have been raised the previous day and ensure they are being properly dealt with. It’s my job to ensure that our communication and the product and service we provide for customers are what they expect. This makes for a full day with me liaising with customers and all departments within the business, There’s not much ‘down’ time as I’m constantly on the phone and/or meetings – lunch is usually taken on the move.

Working Location: I’m based in our new premises in Stonehouse, Gloucester. It incorporates a purpose-built 34,000 ft2 aluminium factory, a customer showroom and generous office space. I like the buzz of an open-plan office. I can easily see the flow of work and, with direct access to the factory, I’m close to our production manager to plan schedules and react quickly to customer needs. Our REAL Aluminium customer focus days take place here. We talk about the REAL Aluminium concept, which completely de-mystifies the process of buying aluminium, and show customers the range in our showroom. Customers also see the new factory, which exclusively manufactures our range of REAL aluminium products.


dscf3225The last 12 months have been busy, but fantastic for the Customade Group. Whilst output in PVC-U has remained relatively steady, aluminium has turned in an amazing performance for the business. In the last 12 months, the scale of our operation has expanded significantly and we have achieved 100 per cent growth in aluminium, which is tremendous. The group supplies a complete range of fenestration products and currently fabricates over 1,000 PVC-U windows, 300 aluminium windows and standard doors, 80 aluminium bi-folds and 150 aluminium Atlas roofs a week. Our specialist glass division Hourglass Seal also produces over 3,500 glass units.  Thanks to some great products, a fantastic team of people and very favourable trading conditions, the Customade Group achieved a £32 million turnover last year. We have ambitious plans to build on this success and are on target to reach £36 million this year. It’s been an incredible year so far and we have yet to reach what is traditionally our busiest period between September and November. A fantastic highlight for us has been launching the REAL Aluminium concept to our customers. Its launch has cut lead times for aluminium to just two weeks and has already helped dozens of installers to grasp exciting new opportunities and earn bigger profits.

Production boom – As we make REAL Aluminium more widely available, we’re anticipating that production rates for our aluminium range will reach a new all-time high. This has led us to one of our biggest recruitment drives and we’re taking on shop floor operators and administrative staff to help us cope with the demand for aluminium. Launching REAL Aluminium was the biggest ever landmark investment that the business has made and it came about because we constantly heard that installers were fed up with all the headaches associated with sourcing aluminium – complicated pricing, painfully slow ordering and long product lead times. We decided it was time to shake up the supply chain. REAL Aluminium breaks through all those barriers and makes sourcing aluminium as easy as PVC-U. Quoting and pricing aluminium is far simpler and there’s a vast array of products in the range. We hold the profiles and components in stock in four colours, so lead times are much faster than average at just two weeks for products within the REAL range. Our investment into REAL Aluminium had to be ambitious to give installers complete confidence in it. We increased our capability with a dedicated aluminium factory and new machinery; we guaranteed to hold more than 100 miles of aluminium extrusions in stock to satisfy those shorter manufacturing lead times; we developed a completely tailored and extensive marketing package and we took delivery of new vehicles to transport our products throughout the UK.

Customer-centred – Our focus within the group is on continuous improvement and helping our installers to grow their businesses. Of course, there are some challenges for a high-volume fabricator and mistakes can happen from time to time. Whilst increasing output is important, it must never be at the expense of good service, so we have invested heavily in developing the right suite of products at the right price, with the right promotion and, crucially, the right customer support behind it. There is a huge commitment within the group to build loyal partnerships with customers and to add value to their businesses. Now, we’re concentrating on helping our installers (both new to and experienced in aluminium) to tap into our expertise in aluminium and to increase their volumes and profit margins.

We work extremely hard to give our installers a high level of confidence in this offering so we ensure that 98% of quotes are completed within 24 hours and we maintain our OTIF (on time in full) record of 99% on the stock range of REAL Products. I firmly believe that one important measure of a company is how it deals with problems so we are always proactive if issues occur at any time. Customer feedback is important to us and we recently carried out an in-depth telephone customer survey among a mixed range of 50 customers. The results were extremely positive and we have taken all the feedback on board to improve our offering even further. REAL Aluminium brings one of the widest ranges of aluminium products available from a single source and, to keep up with demand, we are already extending the range. A new slimline aluminium tilt and turn window and an aluminium-framed composite door will be launched soon.

Investment ‘through the roof’ – We have always re-invested back into the business and this has enabled us to make some bold decisions in the last few years to drive group growth. A pivotal time for us was when we re-launched the Atlas brand. When we bought Atlas Glazed Roof Solutions in 2012, we set ourselves a modest short-term goal to make 15 roofs a week. We smashed the target, and three years on, we’re producing ten times that quantity! Our decision to invest in Atlas paid off and it has strengthened our group offer, enabling installers to source all their products from one well-established source. Unmatched in looks and performance, the Atlas roof was the fastest growing conservatory roof system last year and it will achieve further growth this year as consumer demand for traditional conservatories dwindles in favour of smart glazed extensions. We made a great deal of noise in the industry about the Atlas Skyroom when we launched it in 2015. Our new flat rooflight and the contemporary lantern were unveiled at FIT this year and we were overwhelmed with the number of leads we received for them. Quite simply, they are the kind of products that installers want to fit and consumers want to buy.

Shiny outlook – My advice to installers is to be brave but calculated in your decisions. The exciting and lucrative end of the market is definitely aluminium and installers shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of the enormous opportunity it offers. It’s important however to select the right supplier and to be sure that they can deliver both on the product and service. Demand for aluminium is rising and, thankfully, the supply chain is catching up with PVC-U. Those installers who embrace the chance to branch into fresh territory and take the time to understand aluminium will be successful. I’m excited and optimistic about the future as we build on these brave commercial aspirations. It’s fantastic to be part of a great team of people who share these ambitions and I’m really looking forward to seeing the Customade Group go from strength to strength.

Tel: 01453 826884