Published On: Wed, Nov 16th, 2016

Mike Parczuk, Managing Director of Sternfenster

First job: I was pretty much born into the window industry, and started off as a self-employed retail salesman.

When did you join your current company: I joined the family business in 1994, working my way up through departments: sales, stores, production, and order processing. I had to learn and understand every aspect of the business, as well as earn people’s respect before I could manage it successfully.

Most useful/favourite gadget: Quite sad, but it’s my sit-on lawnmower!

Favourite/most useful website: Any travel site, one of my mottos is “work hard, play hard”, so I spend as much time as I can away with customers, friends, and family.

Business person you admire: It has to be our own Kev Wallis, who has been helping us look after customers since he joined in 1982, and we wouldn’t be here without him.

Recommended hotel for business: Any hotel with a bar!

Favourite UK restaurant: Any restaurant where a customer pays!

Best business decision: I have two; firstly employing my PA Lisa, she’s great and makes life a lot easier for me; and secondly, working closer with other Deceuninck fabricators, it makes you realise that we are all the same and should work together more.

Other interests: Burning the candle at both ends, life’s too short not to be enjoying it!

Working Day: I am a very practical person who benefits from, and enjoys structure. Having three young children (all girls) I try and start my day before any of them are awake, usually escaping the house around 7AM for the 45-minute commute. I suspect like most people in senior positions, I seem to receive an unhealthy amount of email traffic which I try and filter through as soon as I’m in. I’m a big believer in “what you can measure you can manage”, so we have daily KPIs that are published by 9AM each morning and once these have been checked and followed up on, it’s a catch up with the most important member of the team, Lisa – my trusted PA. The rest of the day is spent in meeting with my team, liaising with suppliers and speaking with customers, who still remain a big part of my daily “regime”, and something I really like doing. My contact details are sent to all our clients as I believe it’s important to have regular contact with them, although there are a few customers (Rob and Pat to name but two) who tend to use me as their PA, which at least keeps me grounded! With the new factory under construction, I also make sure the building schedule is on track and normally end the day with a walk round the site before heading home between 7-8PM to a houseful of women!

Working Location: Our factory and offices are located in central Lincoln, where we have a 6.5 acre site. My office is right in the middle of the “buzz”, but if I need peace and quiet I can always shut the door and get completely engrossed in what I’m doing. Over the past few years we’ve significantly increased the size of our business, and we’re now slowly but surely outgrowing our current location, which is why the new aluminium plant has been specified with 11,000 ft2 of modern office space. The best thing is we won’t have to move far, as the new factory is still on our current site.


starglaze-windows-mep-bw-1Sternfenster is a family business, set up by my folks more than 40 years ago and, like so many companies in our industry, we started off as a small retail sales and installation business before eventually moving into fabrication. We’ve never had any delusions of grandeur and always set out to build a solid, reliable business that was well run, dealt with nice customers, and supplied a range of good quality products. Over the years we have steadily grown into one of the largest trade fabricators in the UK, and one of the most influential companies in the Midlands. In fact, a recent report by financial advisers Grant Thornton and the CBI shows Sternfenster ranking 5th in a top of the best performing businesses in Lincolnshire.

Taking over any business, especially in our industry, involves a great deal of commitment, determination and responsibility. Having first joined Sternfenster in the early ‘90s, I spent several years working in various departments, including sales, installations, fabrication, purchasing and customer service, so I had a great grounding and understanding of the business, and what was required to take it forward, when I finally became MD in 2001. I’m fortunate to be working with some great people. I appreciate that everyone featured in here probably says the same, but without the dedication of the key team, including my younger (just) brother Simon, we would not have been able to successfully grow the business as we have.

There are three main directions we have focused on: new product development and operational efficiency, expanding and further improving our customer support, and providing a good workplace for our staff with everything it involves. One of our core beliefs – shared by everyone here at Sternfenster – is that a business cannot progress without sustained investment. We have seen so many rise and fall in our industry and almost without exception, the cause for decline rested on the management’s decision to focus on the temporarily profitable “here” and “now”, rather than future-proofing.

For us, it is this focus on continuous improvement that has seen Sternfenster become the first UK trade fabricator to adopt the newest and most technologically advanced manufacturing process for PVC-U, the seamless welding of the sash and outerframe. This has laid the foundations for the launch of our exclusive and innovative range of high-quality windows and doors, StyleLine, in April 2015. Shortly after launch, the change brought about by StyleLine has received widespread acclaim and industry recognition as a New Product of the Year finalist at the G Awards. Many of our existing customers, as well as new ones, have switched to StyleLine for their timber alternative offer, reinforcing – yet again – our commitment to constantly expand and improve our product portfolio. StyleLine is our response to a growing market demand for superior products, and is helping our trade customers to appeal to the aesthetically driven end-user. We’ve just launched a brand new 70mm flush sash window, StyleLine FS, and are now preparing to add more products to this collection in the following months.

But this is only one example of our capabilities – we have always strived to streamline our production and develop our in-house resources. Sternfenster is among a handful of trade fabricators to enjoy the benefits of an in-house sealed unit facility with a toughening plant, and one of the most advanced automatic glass lines in the UK. We have our own powder coating facility for aluminium frames and this year we’ve acquired a new BDM cutting and machining centre. Our focus on investment means we have full control over the products we supply, and enables us to maintain our prices at a very competitive level while never compromising on quality. It also means we can offer a complete product portfolio across PVC-U, timber-effect and aluminium, as well as a flexible service to our customers.

The market never stands still, and neither do we. Our next development is a dedicated aluminium factory which will be completed in November, and will add an extra 25,000 ft2of state-of-the-art production space to our existing 80,000 ft2 factory. There will also be 11,000 ft2 of brand new and improved office space for our staff, and a very sleek showroom. The plant will enable us to further expand and develop our product range and offer even quicker lead times on aluminium windows and doors. The new premises will see Sternfenster’s current headcount of 162 grow by over a third in the next three years.

Over the past few years we focused very strongly on growing our business by helping our installers increase their own volumes. This “modus operandi” is benefiting them, and us, in more than one way. While our trade customers have the support they need to develop and manage their business easier, we are able to grow our output, build loyalty and maximise customer retention, and it forms the base for a long and profitable partnership. Alongside providing installers with the right products at the right time, we also offer them the necessary tools to capitalise on market opportunities. This includes a -very wide array of marketing support to enable retailers to generate consumer leads and increase conversion rates, but our approach is a lot more sophisticated.

Sternfenster is one of the first fabricators to offer instant quoting, online ordering and contract management for trade customers through our Easy Admin facility, which has been entirely designed and written by us as a business management tool for installers. They can use it to manage their orders and deliveries, and generate profitability reports on each job, helping them increase efficiencies and take the right decisions for their business. Our Sternfenster Plus website is an online resource 100% dedicated to our trade customers, and can only be accessed securely with a username and password. SF Plus is full of information, from latest news from the company to product updates, technical data and more.

We’re currently also developing a digital initiative which will see the launch of a brand new Sternfenster “hub” website boasting highly effective user engagement strategies, including an “installer locator”. Homeowners looking for a supplier in their area will be encouraged to input their postcode and be redirected to one of our multiple retail platforms designed specifically for lead capture purposes. By utilising powerful interactive tools to engage with the visitor – quote engines for our range of PVC-U and aluminium products – we will generate consumer leads and feed them into a media centre managed by us. Sternfenster trade customers will be able to access and use our high-quality sales leads via a password-protected login.The initiative is only the latest example of strategic sales and marketing support we are offering, and is designed to deliver unrivalled competitive advantages – placing our installers firmly ahead of their competitors.

The extra capacity we’ll achieve with the new factory, and by moving our aluminium department out of the original facility, means we’ll also further expand our PVC-U and timber-effect operations. This will include the addition of a series of new products, such as the newly launched StyleLine FS window, and the slimmer profiles Residence 7 and Residence 8, soon to be available from Sternfenster. As the competition at the sharp end continues to increase, consumers will demand more value for their money, higher diversity of products and a quick and reliable service, and installers will turn to their supplier for support. I think the focus will shift even further on added value services, something we have anticipated and built on, especially over the past 5 years.