What Are Your Five-Year Plans?

by | May 28, 2024 | Viewpoint

Cornwall Group’s chair Mark Mitchell, reflects on the last half a decade, and why taking a longer view propelled the business forward.

This time five years ago, we were on the cusp of forming the Cornwall Group of companies, made up of Manufacturing, Glass & Glazing (retail and installation), and merchanting business Mackenzies.

It was an exciting time, and not without risk. Essentially, we were handing more control to each individual board, giving them greater flexibility to target new markets, offer better service to their customers, and grow the business on their terms.

In 2019, there was nothing to suggest that we shouldn’t pursue this course of action. Little did we know that we were going to have a global pandemic in 2020.

People often see Cornwall Group as an organisation that invests when other companies tighten their purse strings, and I’m often asked what the strategy of the business is. I suppose the million-dollar question is: would we have continued with our restructuring plan – which involved a lot of investment – if we saw the pandemic coming?

Mark Mitchell

The fact is, we often have to try to second guess what is going to happen, because when we borrow money, the lender will ask us what our projections are for the next three to five years.

And every time, we put together credible, intelligent figures, based on our view of the market, expected raw material cost and availability, and target margins.

They key here is that we are looking about five years ahead of where we are. And now that we are five years on from where we were when we were putting together our restructuring strategy, then now is a good time to reflect on that strategy.

So, if you’d have asked me in January 2020 where we would be in 12 months’ time, I would have got it very wrong, because between then and now, it has been volatile and difficult to predict.

But we rolled with those challenges, and we worked closely with our partners, with whom we have worked for 35 years in some cases – our bank, glass manufacturers and component suppliers.

Not only did we come out of the other side unscathed, but we created stability and valuable opportunities for our customers, we invested further in machinery and fleet, and we acquired a glass company in Birmingham – Forward Glass.

Could we have done that if we were only responding to market conditions at the time? I don’t think so.

You can always find reasons to be cautious if you look for them. Look at the state of the economy in 2024, for example. It’s not something we can be excited about, and we are experiencing slow sales like everyone else.

But we’ve got an eye on investment that will take us well into the second half of this decade. And we are confident because it is a tried and tested strategy. We are not looking for short-term gains. Instead, we are looking for long-term stability, which will give our customers confidence to look for new opportunities.

Without this longer-term view, would we have invested in new high-speed IGU lines, a new heat soak oven, new cutting tables, new fleet, or indeed new colleagues? And if we didn’t have those assets, would we be as prepared as we are for an expected uptick in work in the first half of 2025?

And if you are looking for stable business partners to support your plans for growth, do you choose one that has been drawing down profits as dividends, or do you choose one that has ploughed profits back into the business to keep it one step ahead of demand?

Let’s see who’s here in five years’ time.

www.cornwallglass.co.uk

 

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