Andy Mansfield and Mark Smith, Movac Group

It’s a rapidly evolving time in the world of distribution and one such company leading the charge is Movac Group Ltd. But as any good business will tell you, it’s not always about looking ahead, but sometimes reflecting on what has been achieved to date and making sure those milestones are enjoyed. bodyshop’s Mark Hadaway caught up with Movac Group’s managing director, Mark Smith and group sales director, Andy Mansfield to find out what 2015 means to them.

It looks set to be another busy year for distribution. What does 2015 have in store for the Movac Group?

MS: There is no secret in that we have expansion plans for 2015, the details of which are not yet for broadcast but suffice to say, if all goes according to plan, it will ensure the Movac Group continues to enhance its offering to a growing number of customers.

As the business currently stands, we have three separate divisions – automotive being the largest, which then sits alongside metal and wood coatings. Our automotive division is a member of both the ACIS and NIBS groups and we have eight sites across ‘Movac Land’. Movac is the fourth largest distributor in the UK and employs 130 staff. Our current status and future plans serve to highlight just how far the business has evolved in its 60 year history.

As just suggested, this year sees some major milestones for the organisation. Please tell us more.

MS: This year, in October to be precise, sees us celebrate our 60th year in business, something I and the entire team are extremely proud of. This business was started by my grandfather and his two brothers, originally selling glass. Following a buy-out during the 1950s, my grandfather went it alone and added decorative paints, amongst other bits and pieces, to his glass sales business. In 1955, following a family request for some automotive paint, he added automotive finishes to his line-up and became one of the first Valentines distributors in the UK. With that, Essex Cellulose and Paint Supplies (1955) Ltd was born from a single site in Southend.

We are also delighted to be celebrating the 40th year Andy has been an employee of the organisation – a major milestone for anyone, in any line of work. I am thrilled that Andy has been a massive part of Movac for 40 years and it is a testament to the strong family feel of the company that has kept so many staff here for such long periods of time.

So, how did it all begin for you Andy?

AM: I joined Movac in 1975, in a general office administration role under the watchful eye of Mark’s dad, Peter or ‘Mr Smith’ as it always was. I look back on those times with genuine fondness as Peter was like a surrogate father to me, a mentor and probably the most important person in shaping my career. Not only did he keep watch over me and point me in the right direction but he also gave me freedom to make my own mistakes, one such time being when I managed to put one of our delivery vans into a flooded ford during a lunch break – Peter’s simple response was, ‘get it out then’.

I moved through the business as it developed – from that administration role, to branch assistant at our Romford site – one of the first independent ICI outlets, becoming a sales rep at the age of 25, before being appointed Stock Guard project manager – a pioneering stock control programme – because of my keen attention to detail (a well-known personality trait of mine). I then spent 10 years as sales manager, prior to being appointed to my current position of group sales director.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

AM: Most of my time is now spent out on the road, visiting key account customers and continuing to strengthen our relationships with them. Without fail, the first three working days of each month are spent at Movac headquarters in Ipswich, where you will find me analysing, detailing and reporting on every customer account.

Our goal is to ensure all our accounts are operating at an optimum level by employing the correct equipment, utilising products to their maximum potential and streamlining internal processes. For us it’s about adding value and, crucially, helping our customers to manage and understand costs. I can’t influence the sale too much but bringing cost to the attention of customers is a key focus of mine.

I still get huge satisfaction from helping our customers develop and achieve their goals.

What sets Movac apart from the competition?

AM: As a business we pride ourselves on customer service, which I believe is one of the major factors behind our success. It might almost sound a bit old fashioned but our entire business ethos is built around service – understanding our customers’ needs thoroughly and delivering them a service to reflect that. There is no blueprint for success and everyone’s needs are different but we aim to provide a consistently high level of service and continue to build long-term, trusting relationships.

MS: We have also implemented a real team ethic across the business and want everyone to be part of our growing success. As an example, during the 2009 recession whilst most companies were making cutbacks, we did the opposite and recruited and invested in training throughout the organisation. We see that as paramount importance to our business.

We have also worked hard in recent years in establishing our organisational structure and our aim is to provide a transparent environment for our employees to prosper and grow within the business. We now have a new internal personnel development programme in place which is open to each and every employee, and we’re always looking for members of the team to take the next step in their career progression.

What are your current observations of the market?

MS: We continue to see some of the groups getting bigger and this is influencing the distribution of power within the market. I think we will start to see the distribution market split by sector. As I have already suggested, from our perspective we are looking to expand and that is our key focus.

AM: There is no doubt it is a tough environment for bodyshops. I believe our customers work seriously hard to do a great job in a highly competitive market. The sector is more professional than ever and it’s fair to say quality is a major driving factor – bodyshops often face so many audits they cannot be anything but quality driven, which is a good thing. For Movac it is simply a case of continuing to provide the ultimate service we can to ensure our partners continue to thrive and prosper.