Business Leader Series: Durite – our growth and coronavirus journey

Close-up of partly rusty cogwheels of a transmission system on an old machine. Machine teeth are clearly worn out by usage.

Durite is an 80 year old company and the leading branded aftermarket distributor of auto electrical products for trucks and vans in the UK and Ireland. We distribute through over 2,000 regional distributors who in turn supply fleets, workshops and other end users. We operate in a relatively mature sector but are keenly focussed on how we continue to grow the business.

Steven Fobel, Director, Durite

The Strategic Business Growth programme helped us develop a detailed strategy and more particularly identify the business change required to sustain and accelerate the growth of our fast-growing vehicle safety product category.  This comprises around vehicle camera systems, in vehicle mobile DVRs recording those cameras and emerging safety and connected vehicle technologies.

The course provided invaluable insight and guidance into all aspects of our business and strategy to grow our vehicle safety business.  We ended our financial year to March 2020 with record turnover and profitability, having grown the vehicle safety category by 30% per annum since the course.

And then there was an almighty scramble to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and impending nationwide shutdown. So this is what happened:

  • We started planning three weeks before the official lockdown to address how we remain open, put in place home working for our 25 office employees and social distancing for our 45 strong warehouse team.
  • We significantly increased communications with our longstanding and loyal employees who were worried about their personal safety and the prospects for the business.
  • Following lockdown, we actively engaged our customer and supplier base to reassure them that we were committed to remaining open to support the vital transport infrastructure we serve.
  • We were concerned about the impact on our banking facility availability if our significant outstanding trade debtors did not pay. With the help of our supportive bank, we put in place a Government CBILS facility. In the event, most customers paid to terms and the extra CBILS facility won’t be needed.
  • We implemented very strict cash control, particularly around stock replenishment, whilst ensuring we continue to maintain high stock availability.
  • Along the way we were offered face masks and other PPE products by our supplier base which we started sourcing at cost for some care homes and subsequently started supplying into our distribution channel.
  • We have invested in improving our B2B customer website platform in anticipation of the increasing importance of e-commerce coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • And we have remained open throughout, with a core warehouse team, home working, daily management calls and remote collaboration across all functional areas.

So what did we learn from the programme: don’t underestimate the importance of growth, even in a mature business; this often requires significant organisational change and rigorous execution and it is important to bring the whole organisation along with you. Our business has proved itself to be resilient through the coronavirus crisis and is well on the road towards recovering to previous levels of activity. We are as always focussed on growth and new opportunities arising from the shock of the last few months.

Durite participated in the SME Growth Challenge programme (now named the Strategic Business Growth programme) in 2017/18. Find out more about the programme >

Steven Fobel

Steven Fobel

Steven Fobel is a Director of Durite Ltd and studied Engineering at St John’s College, Cambridge. He was previously an investment banker and fund manager.

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