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Case studies | Aug 23

Why being the biggest is not always being the best

Case studies | Aug 23

Without any marketing, D2E has become the largest independent vertical transportation consultancy in the United Kingdom. This has not happened by chance, but rather a unique approach to measuring success.

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D2E International VT Consultants Ltd (D2E) is a specialist consultancy within the construction industry with a focus on vertical transportation and façade access. Founded at the end of 2003 by Bill Evans (CEO), the company has steadily grown to a team of 32 with an annual turnover of £4m by providing their clients with lift, escalator, and façade solutions.

Evans, unhappy with the direction of consultancy in the industry during the 90s, decided that D2E’s mission statement during its formation was going to be a commitment to becoming the most knowledgeable consultants in the sector. And this is how they were going to measure success.

Two years after the company was founded, Mark Fairweather was brought into the fold by Evans. Fairweather excelled in the company and by 2020 was the Managing Director and a shareholder. Having previously worked with Evans, Fairweather knew he shared in D2E’s unique vision and wanted to help propel the business to achieve its goals.

‘D2E’s vision has always been to be the most knowledgeable consultancy in the industry, and we’ve picked that because being the biggest doesn’t really mean anything. Biggest just means more employees or a higher turnover. However, the best is hard to measure as we’re not selling products to anybody, we’re selling our knowledge and experience. Knowledge is our commodity. More money and people are just products of what our idea of success is.’ Mark Fairweather, Managing Director.

A unique approach to developing talent

Knowledge of the industry you operate in may seem like an obvious requirement for all employees, but how do you ensure that you have it in a niche market like vertical transportation that is constantly evolving? Fairweather argues that the unique, fluid nature of the industry is exactly what facilitates learning and innovation.

‘It is crucial for us to have the right people with the right skill sets. Part of that is on us. You’re never going to find the perfect person, so educating them up to our standards once they’re in is essential. One of the big things we do is invest a minimum of 10% of our profits each year back into our people’s education.

‘We’ve currently got five employees at Northampton University, and many more who have already graduated, which is the only place in the world that does lift degrees. They can do an Undergraduate, Master’s and even a PhD in lift technology. We also do internal training, factory training, trips around the world to visit the highest buildings and the fastest lifts, and business training like the Help to Grow: Management Course so our people are where they need to be. We accept that some of these people will move on but that is our contribution to the wider industry.

Fairweather enrolled onto the Help to Grow: Management Course in 2021 after being recommended it by one of his senior team members. The programme gave him an opportunity to step away from the busy day-to-day running of D2E and focus on some of the areas the business was lacking.

‘We do so many courses as a company that cost a fortune, so when I came across the Help to Grow: Management Course and saw how cheap it was for the content, it was a no brainer. Some of the content I was already familiar with, but as we went deeper in there were modules like Marketing and Winning New Markets that gave me the skills to focus on new areas of the business we were deficient in.’

Guiding principles

In addition to education being positioned front and centre, D2E leans on four principles to guide learning and retain a quality product. Those principles are:

  1. Ethics – strong independence with those D2E collaborates with and respect for individuals, both internally and externally. Ethics also extends to the product and offering a service that is never subpar.
  2. Health and safety – it goes without saying that vertical transportation is a dangerous industry, people’s lives are at risk if the proper care and attention is not taken. Everyone should go home safe and well at the end of each day. Over the years, D2E has extended this to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of their employees as well.
  3. Quality – in this instance the quality refers to the product which is the knowledge and the people dealing that knowledge. Ensuring clients receive consistently high-quality deliverables and expertise.
  4. Sustainability – being conscious of the building materials, architecture and internal processes has become a more pressing issue in recent years but now takes a significant role.  

The guiding principles of D2E have also led to them being somewhat fastidious when it comes to choosing who they work with. Identifying companies that align with your guiding principles allow you and your team to produce your best work which pays dividends when it comes to referrals, something D2E relies heavily on.

‘We didn’t want to work with just anybody. We wanted to work with blue chip companies that really respect their assets. They really want to build beautiful buildings, and we would in turn be associated with that level of quality, increasing our standing within the industry. So, when we started out, we wrote on a white board all the companies we wanted to work with, all the companies that reflected our principles as a company.

‘One of those companies was Landsec. We eventually won that contract and they have fuelled our development. We’ve been with them 20 years and every three years we retender, and they ask us what we’re doing now and how are we reinventing ourselves. We can’t be complacent.’

Measuring success

The way D2E measures success has been a constant since its formation in 2003. In many industries, being the biggest is the best. Fairweather argues that D2E could go out and achieve this if they wanted by accepting every contract that is thrown their way, but this would not align with their principles.

Being the best when it comes to business is a loose term. It is defined by something far more specific, a parameter that you as the guiding force in the company sets. For D2E, that is customer satisfaction through the knowledge they provide, not arbitrary comparisons of other companies on turnover or employee count within the industry.

Most SMEs are continuously chasing growth. It can be difficult to remain objective when presented with new opportunities. But as D2E has shown, chasing every contract does not lend itself to the growth, sustainability, and integrity of the business. It is better to work with companies that align with your principles to maintain a stable trajectory.

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