Interview with Richard Hagan, on Unity Radio, The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: Good morning this is the Logros Show in Association with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Each week we talk to entrepreneurs and business owners in the world of health and wellbeing. Today we have Richard Hagan who owns a business in Rochdale and it is called Crystal Doors. He is one of many businesses who is looking to become carbon positive in the future. How are you doing Richard?
Richard: Thank you very much for inviting me on your show; it’s fantastic to be here to shout out about Greater Manchester. I am fifty. I did a degree in Food Manufacturing. Then I had psoriasis and couldn’t go into the food industry so I started working for a company and twenty five years later I am now becoming a success nationally and winning awards. What we want is levelling up in England. We want Greater Manchester, the North West to become proud again and to become the solid North that it needs to be.
Lee: Okay, that phrase ‘levelling up’ has been all over the news recently this week. Today we are going to be finding out a little bit more about your company and how it was set up. We will be finding out about your passion to become carbon neutral and also how covid has impacted you. Give us a little intro about the carbon positive side that you are looking to implement within the business Richard?
CRYSTAL DOORS LEADING THE WAY TO CARBON NEUTRAL
Richard: All companies be they global, local companies, even individuals, as David Attenborough mentioned on his film, it is critical that everybody takes a radical change as soon as possible. It is the youth that is going to experience the high temperatures and the climate issues that we are going to have in thirty years’ time. It’s doing something today, being innovative. That’s what Crystal Doors has done. It has put all its efforts into doing a radical change so that we are carbon neutral by 2022 which is way ahead for everybody. It can be done and been proven by and me and that’s why we have ended up winning this year’s UK National award.
Lee: In terms of Crystal Doors give us a snapshot of what services you offer and what kind of company it is.
Richard: We are business to business so we deliver about three thousand doors, or kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms which are vinyl wrapped. What we specialise is that you can scribble on a piece of paper what you want and we could make it. That is very different from most companies. So we can’t compete on price but what we can compete on is giving that ability for customers to be very creative and have a fantastic kitchen and bedroom.
Lee: So are you telling me people can create the door that they want?
Richard: Not your front door but your kitchen, bedroom and bathroom door yes. We have done some amazing projects in the past including digital printing. We have done football scenes and then that has been in somebody’s bedroom! It’s incredible what you can do when you become creative and that’s the way that England has always been, certainly in Manchester. We have got a huge amount of innovation and it’s about being niche and specialising and hopefully it is successful.
Lee: That sounds great and without giving away any confidential information what are some of the more interesting designs that you have put into someone’s house please?
Richard: One that I posted on LinkedIn is that of a national footballer through Neat smith in London. They have just done three bedrooms and at the moment people want that it looks traditional. What people want is something that lasts so therefore it’s not in and out of fashion. That is to do with the green agenda. It’s not about buying 2020 fashion today. It’s about finding something that will look great today but will also look great in another ten years’ time. Hopefully the fashion industry will also pick that up. It’s not about getting todays fashion of 2020 it’s about making something that is going to last the next ten, twenty years.
Lee: What would you say is your distinction or your unique offer at Crystal Doors?
Richard: Our distinction was the speed of turn around. Ours is three to five days, the competition is a lot longer. What we have now is the Bespoke side but pushing through its going to be the green agenda for those companies who are on target to be carbon neutral or environmental friendly. The main one for us is our role in the community and how we look after our employees. That’s what is more important; it’s not about creating profit for the individuals; it’s about how we spread that to everybody else. That’s what good about the youth they understand that it’s together that we need to do it. It’s not for people to look after themselves; we have got to share what we have got.
Lee: How has covid 19 impacted you over the last six months?
Richard: It was frightening on the day of lockdown. It was essential businesses only so I was ringing round our major customers to say look we are going to close. One of the customers called Teal who supplied the national health and they got an order for six thousand over bed tops for the Nightingales.
Lee: What are over bed tops?
Richard: It is when you are in hospital and you want to eat some food you have a table in front of you that slides over the bed. This has to be antibacterial and anti-virus if possible. It isn’t at the moment but it can be sprayed down with lots of different chemicals. It’s what they normally use on the inside of aeroplanes and they are the only UK manufacturer and when the government ran out of the ability to be able to get these over bed tops we were the only UK company that could manufacture them. So we worked twenty four seven during lockdown which was great for us and a great story for Rochdale.
Lee: So you actually supplied the Nightingale Hospitals?
Richard: Absolutely, all of them.
Lee: What was it like when that order came through?
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP
Richard: It was crazy! This shows what small companies can do and what leadership is about. The telephone call was about eleven o’clock and by three o’clock we had started to manufacture. Half the employees said no, we would rather be at home and get the eighty percent money and the others were up for it. They said we’ll work twenty four seven, whatever it takes. Then we had the others that had to do remote working so I was one of the people that were pushed out. So I said Richard you are not coming back. We not had at covid case during the lockdown. We’ve had a case recently, but it didn’t impact that much which was great. That is the difficulty, so you have to navigate on a day to day basis and that’s what has changed. My parents thought this is how life is and its tradition. The youth of today know that it is a very rapidly changing world. Technology is moving quickly. Everything is moving quickly and leadership and setting up a business is about innovation and coming out with something that nobody else has thought of and then pursuing it with all your passion.
Lee: Out of interest how did you manage the different responses when you said you had that big order and some people were saying they wanted to stay on furlough, some wanted to get stuck in? How did you manage that?
Richard: It’s just a one to one conversation. Different people have different expectations and a different understanding. It is frightening and nobody knew what covid was about or how contagious it was. Even now we are still learning so it’s a case of respecting your employee’s decision. If all my workers turned round and said they were staying at home that would be me ringing up saying sorry we can’t do it but fortunately we had a strong team who were absolute heroes and worked as hard as they did on crazy shifts. Even I ended up doing one of the weekends, I couldn’t do the night shifts but it’s a case of we all muck in. That’s what is great about a small company; if you work for a large company then you are just another number. If you work for a small company you can be a big player and obviously your achievements are really recognised.
Lee: Richard tell us what you were doing when you were younger say sixteen, seventeen? Tell us your journey?
Richard: If anyone listening is thinking it is a straightforward road to start a business and become a billionaire or being successful – it sure isn’t and I think my story is about as typical of how it usually is. Doing my A Levels my aim was to become a dentist but I didn’t get the grades. On clearance I went to do food manufacture because I enjoy food. Then I got psoriasis so I couldn’t work in the food industry so I started working for a company but they went bust. I borrowed a load of money off my parents and from there it’s taken twenty five years so at the age of fifty I’m successful. At the age of sixteen I hadn’t a clue what was going on!
Lee: I’ve not put this question to you before but the word success means many different things to different people. It can often mean your journey, where you have come from. What would you say for you is a good rounded definition of success?
WHAT IS A DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
Richard: Success for me is to be able to support other people. It’s about family and the ability to say you have a lifestyle that is acceptable. I would say mine is comfortable and it is to be able to offer that to other people. I do a lot of volunteering now for a trust in Rochdale for the homeless. I support other charities such as Jolly Josh for disabled children. Once you have created success in the sense of the wealth it’s about being able to pass that success to other people to make sure that everybody is included. It’s not about the jet set holidays the fancy cars and the rest of it. It’s about how everybody is on that journey with you and that to me is success.
Lee: Fascinating, that’s a good answer. We’ve spoke before here on the Logros show about mentoring and coaching particularly for business owners and for young people setting up in business. Do they reach out for mentors and coaches to help them? What do you think about mentors and coaching to help you along that success journey?
Richard: Absolutely brilliant. You can’t do everything in a little room on your own. Talking to other people is the biggest benefit and it’s about not inventing the wheel again; it’s about learning from others and from their experiences and then building on that and bouncing ideas off other people. To have a mentor or a coach as a sounding board is good. Everybody has great ideas but its then for somebody to give you feedback on those ideas. That is what is most important. My mentor is my operations director. I can open frankly and spout whatever I want and be angry – I can’t say that to my employees, it needs to be in private at board level and then for it to be delivered correctly . Having that mentor coach allows you to get your emotions and feelings out and that’s important, certainly at the moment during lockdown. We need to talk a lot more and really say how we feel.
Lee: On that point how do you look after your mental health and wellbeing?
Richard: At the moment it’s a big issue. Seven months ago when lockdown started and because I can use all the machines basically they said it was if someone gets covid you are going to have to come back and run those machines. I was pushed out of the company as such and that was a big mental issue for me because I own the company but I wasn’t allowed to go back to the company because I obviously could pick up covid. For me I tried walking and listening to music. I tried going to the gym but that got closed down. The one thing that I did do was ring my parents every single night at six thirty to be able to have that conversation and it is about talking to friends and getting through it together. Don’t be on your own and I think that is the hardest thing in our society at the moment for people that live on their own and that is where the youth have picked up and realised that we are social animals. We need to be talking.
Lee: What is the correct expression – is it carbon positive?
Richard: It’s very difficult when you get into the semantics! What you have got to do is reduce your carbon as much as possible. What you can’t reduce you offset but some of the carbon credits are fraught with issues. What we want to do is work with the City Of Trees in Grater Manchester. They want to plant three million trees. They have already planted half a million and that is where we are going to get our carbon offsetting from to be able to make us carbon neutral.
Lee: So for every time you are effectively putting a door in someone’s house you are planting a tree in a very simplistic way.
Richard: Very simplistic way.
Lee: For those just joining us could you just give a quick snap shot of what Crystal Doors does please?
Richard: Crystal Doors is the manufacture of vinyl wrapped doors such as your kitchen, bedroom, bathroom doors, and the cupboard doors that you open. We supply a lot of businesses throughout the UK and also abroad. From Rochdale we employ thirty nine people and it is growing rapidly with the issues of covid 19.
Lee: How have you been affected from an employment perspective by covid 19? You did speak about potential opportunities for people listening. Where would they send in details?
Richard: We have got three positions open at the moment which is great. We have taken on six people since lockdown. What we are doing is working with the Infogroup in Salford. What they have got are postgraduates who then want to do projects to be able to get their foot in the door with businesses. We have got a three month project with five grads and they are going to show us what they can deliver which is much better than the CV and two minute interview and then having to take somebody on. It’s to be able to have that longer period of understanding of what they can offer and how they actually operate. It’s interesting at the moment that some companies have completely bombed out like the airline industry, car industry is struggling. Brexit is coming up but through covid it has also generated a huge amount of new businesses, PPE and hand sanitising. The business that we are in doing kitchen, bedroom, bathrooms, that market has increased by about thirty five percent. There are a lot of people now working from home as myself where they want to upgrade their kitchens or their bedrooms which obviously is great for crystal Doors.
Lee: What were the three roles that you mentioned? How could people apply and where would they see them?
Richard: You can go direct to Crystal Doors and just put in sales and they will be on our website. The main one that we are looking for is drivers and we are also looking for two people on the night shift. The website is www.crystaldoors.com
Lee: So you have been running a business for twenty five years and what would you say to those people wanting to set up a business?
HOW TO SET UP A BUSINESS
Richard: The first thing I would say is you have to have a passion for what you want to do. If you have a burning passion inside you that you want to make music and it’s a different type of music that you think the market is ready for, believe in your dreams. The second one which is a harder one to swallow is you have to have patience. Nothing is going to turn up fast, you have to put long hours in, work really hard and make no money. Expect that for the first year or first few years. The final one is innovation and even for a company setting up or a company like mine you have to just develop all the time. It’s about changing your business model. This is where your coach and mentor really comes in. If you have written a business plan the first thing you have to do is get it checked out by somebody else. Sometimes what is great in my head and I think is possible, when I pass it over to my programmer he will turn round and give me kick in the head and says that’s reality. That sometimes needs to be done because what I think is great isn’t necessarily true until you have spoken to your team or other people.
Lee: So we have passion, which is always a top one, patience, that’s more difficult and innovation. What would be some practical tips for running a business in terms of team, finances, operational?
Richard: To set up a business you need a business plan. That is understanding what your aims, objectives, are what is the strategy, where is the funding coming from. At the end of the day business is about money and about having the cash flow to keep going. That’s the reason company’s fail – they run out of cash flow. They might have a fantastic, successful business but they have tried to grow too quickly or do something that has ended up taking their cash. For me the biggest advice is believe in yourself. On the journey that Crystal Doors has had in the last five years to do with carbon neutral -for the first two to three years hardly anybody believed in what I was trying to do – they just thought I was mad! It’s only now that we have won an award that everyone says, wow you had vision. Young people have vision and that passion and they are full of energy. It’s great to be in that position to be able to say I believe I can do it.
Lee: Great words of inspiration there to finish the conversation off. What’s happening for the rest of the year for you and Crystal Doors?
Richard: I don’t think anyone knows, including Boris himself! We are looking at what lockdown is going to bring. It’s going to continue with the same and it is about how we’ve changed and what we have taken on that is new. For Crystal Doors we will be issuing our carbon neutral, we’re getting that out. The website is full of our transparency of what we are doing and trying to achieve. Crystal Doors is a great success and it is about reinventing ourselves, keeping on being positive and pushing ourselves forward. Also working as hard as we can each day.
Lee: Brilliant. Thank you very much for joining us Richard. I wish you the best of luck for the future and good luck with your vision and ambition for the rest of the year and 2021.
Richard: Thank you very much indeed Lee, it has been brilliant. All the best.