The Craigavon business Craigmore was set-up by its managing director Geoff Baird in 1990, when he realised the family business he was a member of was not for him.
“I had a business idea and at the time I was working very long hours for my father’s haulage company – and as a young man, I didn’t feel I was having a lot of fun doing so,” he explains. “I realised it was not what I wanted to be doing.”
Geoff took on agency arrangements with various suppliers of industrial cleaning equipment, bought a van and went on the road to find customers and sell them equipment. That business expanded over the years and now employs 12 staff. Craigmore is today an agent for industry leader Karcher, 3M and SIP.
“Gradually I took on sales staff and then moved into selling cleaning equipment and then took on engineers to service the products we sold,” Geoff recalls.
The business is now in expansion mode, having taken on an extra staff member this year and it intends to recruit another two people in 2014. Geoff is keen, in particular, to employ a graduate with strong IT skills who can improve the business’s website capacity and appearance.
“We built a new website and it went live over the last 12 months,” explains Geoff. “We demonstrated there is a demand for it, but no one here can develop it. So we are looking for someone who can develop it.”
The core business operates through a direct sales staff, who sell across Ireland, with service and maintenance back-up available to customers. But the website sells to other markets, offering a simpler business model as the service and maintenance back-up are not included. Some 70% of existing web-based sales are outside Northern Ireland, mostly to Great Britain. The business is not targeting other geographic markets, because of the nature of the agency contracts it holds with manufacturers.
Craigmore is now well positioned, says Geoff. “We are coming out of recession,” he argues. “We are leaner and more prepared for what is ahead.” One person left the business because they were getting older and wanted to work less, but the business is also leaner in other ways.
“We are leaner in the sense that we have a new computer system and we are better at what we are doing and are better equipped, more switched on,” suggests Geoff. “The recession has made a lot of us more focused.
“In the next 12 months I believe we will move out of the recession and people will be more confident, so there is an opportunity to sell more of what we already sell. The more we scratch below the surface the more we find new customers and opportunities. This year we have seen our sales grow by 33% over the last year. That growth in our industry is good.”
The business is fortunate with the agency deals it has, adds Geoff. “Karcher is one of our main suppliers. We can ride on the back of their success as their main distributor in Ireland.”