Ladders manufacturer sees positives after responding to the shock of COVID-19 economic shutdown.

Family values can form the centre of a successful and thriving business.

Cardiff-based TB Davies is a fourth-generation family business, founded in the 1940s to make industry safer. The company manufactures and distributes a complete range of climbing products, including steps, ladders, scaffolding, and podiums for the professional and trade user.

Here, David Gray of TB Davies tells us about the company, how it's become a success, its pride at being a community employer and his plans for the future.

 

Tell us about TB Davies.
The history of the business dates back to World War II. Back then, our founder – and my great grandfather – Bryn Davies, was a veteran of the First World War and something of an entrepreneur between the wars. He became a warrant officer during World War II. It was here he met future managing director Colin Morgan. They struck up a friendship, and Bryn was moved by Colin's worries about life after the war. Colin was a much younger man, and it was obviously a worrying time for people with a lifetime ahead of them. To reassure Colin, Bryn made him a promise that a job would be waiting when the war was over. 

When the war was over, Bryn was in his 50s and sold his house to finance his fledgling business and keep the promise made to his friend. Just as a ladder is more than metal and rungs, Bryn understood there was more to his company than just the product. 

Our company has been around for more than 70 years now, and TB Davies has had a lot of wonderful people help build what Bryn, and Colin, started. Bryn would be proud to see how together that passion has created an epic past, a safer present and an exciting future. We're really proud that family remains at the heart of the company and our ethos. 

 

 

What are your proudest moments in business so far?
When we went into lockdown, we thought we'd have to close our operations. But as we prepared for the unknown, we started to receive calls from businesses contracted to work with the military in converting arenas around the country into temporary hospitals. They needed our products. The call from the hospitals was a turning point as we couldn't close entirely, but information on how to trade safely at that time was hard to find. 

We were fortunate to have a new site with a modern IT infrastructure, which allowed us to operate a lot of our systems remotely. With the administrative teams safely working from home, we quickly turned our attention to the shop floor, establishing safe practices with our most experienced staff as the backbone of a skeleton crew.

As the days passed and our commercial customers went into hibernation, we unexpectedly discovered a new shopper in the DIY sector. Homeowners were desperate to use their time off constructively and take advantage of the beautiful weather to work on renovating their homes. We saw a huge upswing in demand for leaning, combination, loft and combination ladders as DIY'ers talked about everything from small painting projects to installing loft ladders to make better use of their storage space.

This new stream of business allowed us to trade at significantly higher levels than anticipated. It enabled a speedier transition back to normality than we initially envisaged at the beginning of the crisis. In the longer term, the experience has shifted plans to include more careful consideration for the DIY and light trade sector.

 

If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
That's a difficult one to answer for a company like ours. We follow the founding principles of TB Davies, and they've afforded us the basis to grow and be a successful company. We have loyal and experienced staff, and they've been critical to our success through this period of enormous uncertainty.

 

 

How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
Business Wales AGP has been massively helpful, and we've taken advantage of seminars to help with a diverse range of issues from staff and customer communications through to how we can work more safely. 

The Welsh Government has also made funding available, and we have hope to be in a strong position to protect jobs here and continue on our growth strategy as part of the Business Wales AGP programme.

What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?

● Being dynamic and flexible is crucial in the modern economy. We found that to our advantage as the country went into lockdown and it's helped us in our outlook as we move back to some kind of normality.

● Experience is crucial. But nobody should be afraid to access help from outside. This can give you an essential new perspective on how you operate.

● Value your staff. Their loyalty and efforts can provide incredible energy to power your company's growth.

 

For more information on TB Davies visit here.

Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme

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