Published On: Tue, Oct 17th, 2017

Steve Milham, Whiteline’s Group Managing Director

First Job: Running a dairy herd of Jersey cows and Hereford beef cattle.

When did you join Whiteline: I joined as a consultant in 2009 becoming Managing Director some 6 weeks later.

Favourite gadget: I couldn’t be without my Surface PC. The thing goes everywhere with me and is always in sync with my main PC in the office. It means I can half write a letter at work and simply finish it off when I get home.

Useful website: I am a ‘youtube’ fanatic as you can find the answer to anything on there and the film to prove it!

Business person you admire: Richard Branson. He seems to have made easy work of building a brand that can be associated with almost everything you can think of. With around 400+ operations carrying the Virgin name, it’s hard to think of a match.

Hotel for business: Hotels are nothing more than a place to sleep when you’re done for the day. I rarely get interested in food or a rooms’ surroundings when I’m not at home, so as long as the bed is comfortable, I’m happy. Premier Inn has Wi-Fi, the beds aren’t bad either and they are the same wherever you go – the McDonalds of the hotel industry.

Favourite UK restaurant: I still enjoy a good steak and there’s no place better than the Two Bulls Steakhouse in Eastbourne. Well, maybe their sister restaurant in Hastings?

Best business decision: Was deciding at the very beginning of my career, to go it alone and rely on no one other than me to get to where I wanted to go.

Other Interests: These include following children’s football & rugby teams which I sponsor through my businesses, walking, music, history of WW2, computers, cars, creating things with my hands, spending time with my family and seeing as much of the world as possible while I still can. All said and done, I still enjoy developing my businesses and love nothing more than getting in front of a homeowner selling windows.


Working Day: I’m normally awake by 5am and use that time to go through emails, check the previous day’s performance and then prepare for the coming day. My time’s divided between getting out to existing clients for catch-ups, seeing potential new ones, with the remaining time being spent in and around the office or on one of the factory floors. I still prospect for business when I get the chance, as well as jumping in a truck and delivering products on the odd occasion too – it keeps me honest! Being renowned for innovation, finding time to come up with new products and ideas is essential and one of the best parts of my job. With a two shift pattern working from 6am – 10pm, three factories, ten trade counters (and counting) to take care of, there’s never a quiet moment and I rarely leave the factory before 7.30pm.


Working Location: My Office Is located within the main manufacturing unit where all the office staff preside. It’s this building that houses all the main machines used during the manufacturing process and it’s spotless. Whiteline has spent its entire history within these buildings, starting off with single units and then adding/combining others as it grew. I don’t really do ‘sitting at a desk’ though, so my office is relatively untidy, sparse and dotted with bits of profile, trims and hardware that I am playing with in some way or another – in fact, it’s the exact opposite of the factory!


Last year was almost certainly the most testing year that I’ve ever experienced. Right from the start, we knew that we were going to need first-class staff dedicated to the cause and reliable to the ‘nth degree. The plan was set the previous year, the orders placed, the contractors booked. 2016 was going to see a year of disruption that has almost certainly not happened to any company other than a new start-up. 2016 was the year of change and a change that would see almost every piece of machinery that currently presided within the building, be moved, sold or disposed of to make way for an entirely new range of machines that had been built specifically to our exacting standards. From corner cleaners to welders, complete sash lines to fully automated CNC machining centres, Whiteline was about to undertake the entire replacement of them all throughout the factory environment and we were to do it without extending our normal 5-day lead times once!

It was worse than that – having a business that operated for 16 out of 24 hours a day, including overnight frame distribution, there wasn’t even the option of using the hours of closure to achieve it either. I had a team of people, including sub-contractors that had worked everything out to the last minute detail. They would ensure machines left Germany on certain days, lifts and hoists would be available over weekends and sufficient members of the right labour force were available over pre-booked weekends. Each new batch of machines turned up at the right time and everything was installed as per the written plan and it all went off without any client being any the wiser! Yes, there were things to overcome – the floor was out of level for a start, but nothing stopped them from staying on track, nothing! With this all going on, we also undertook to install a new stock management system, along with implementing a full bar code scanning system that would see an end to the ‘paper’ worksheets that constantly moved around with every window and door on the shop floor. So, we undertook quite a tall order for 2016 and as a consequence, we knew that the growth that had happened for the last few years on the trot would be difficult to sustain. However, things are not always as you think and we soon realised that our customer base, regardless of what we were doing, were still seeing growth and quite frankly, why wouldn’t they? As a result, Whiteline saw a 7% increase to its turnover last year and we never missed a beat!

With all the new machinery in place by the end of December, the return to work in 2017 has been really exciting. We’re still to get to grips with the new stock system and the bar coding system is a further retrain for the entire factory floor before we can truly announce to the world, that the environment is ‘paper free’ – but we are getting there. Our machines have brought about an ability to upsell into an ever increasingly competitive market and one that relies far too heavily on the simple fact of who can do cheapest wins! Well, that’s far from true in almost all current markets, with trends showing that consumers don’t want ‘cheap’, they want good quality, at sensible prices. And this is precisely where Whiteline is with its product portfolio and quite honestly, always has been. We are renowned in the industry for not simply offering a basic product, but one that has unique qualities, perks or enhancements over ‘run of the mill’ offerings. Our clients want choice, they want the ability to sell a homeowner what a homeowner wants and they want the opportunity to ‘up sell’ to that process if and when its required. With our own unique products on hand, in addition to the more normal offerings, we have a product choice that really can cater for every pocket, in every walk of life. Uniqueness is being able to offer your own slim window sash, it’s being able to specify a flush window with a more authentic deep bottom rail or a more robust and authentic outer frame and mullion section, such as our Revival window and then, to be able to sit that product on a cill section that is as authentic as the product itself – our own Revival 57mm platform cill. It’s knowing that you’ve got a manufacturer behind you that can deal with the unusual, not just the normal and one that fully understands the problems you face when you deal with retail clients on a daily basis and that I know – I’ve spent 30 years with my own retail company to understand just that!

And we haven’t finished yet. We’ve got Document Q done throughout the range of PVC-U and we’re now embarking on doing precisely the same with our range of aluminium products. There’s a new unique Whiteline way to incorporate ‘dummy sashes’ within your windows that both comply to Document Q and can be fitted by an installer easier than any other method of dummy sash you’ve ever seen. We’ve taken on more new products and we’ve recently invested in yet more factory space to help increase our product range still further and produce it better, quicker and more efficiently than ever. And we’re not done yet either – there are also further plans to create new showrooms, training facilities and conference rooms to host more retail gatherings where customers share resources, trade secrets, or simply find out how each other is doing in the current marketplace.

The feedback we receive from our customers has always been the driver for me – heaven knows I was trying for so many years myself as a retailer to be heard, that it would be idiotic to not listen to them, now that I have the ability to do something about it. We will continue to look at ways to improve the service we give, the products we offer and the way we deliver it all to the retailer at a time and place to suit. Products evolve and we are very keen to build on the success of the Revival product that has been accepted so readily by our clients. It’s not about for the sake of, it’s about making something that is truly unique, yet marketable to an end user. It’s about making the job of the professional installer easier, making them more efficient and as a result, more profitable. Let’s be honest here – you don’t see Boeing or Airbus selling inefficient engines on their aircraft because they’re cheaper do you. You see them selling better built products that can go further on a tank full of fuel because in the long run, that’s the real added value. And that ladies and gentlemen is Whiteline in a nutshell.