At age 15, Alan Robson left school and apprenticed himself to an electrician. By 21, he was managing a small electrical contractor. Robson spent the next 25 years running a series of contracting businesses before deciding, “it’s about time I ran my own.” Five and a half years ago, he purchased 50% of a former employee’s electrical and mechanical contracting company and became its managing director. Founder Ian Rennison, who had been a management trainee under Robson, welcomed his former boss’ 30 years of experience and industry contacts. Since 1994, Rotrax Engineering has grown 149% year-on-year, with sales rising from £698,000 to £10.7m in 1997. Fast growth has come, in part, from repeat business from major contractors, often generated by frequent visits to client headquarters. Rotrax managers visit clients before, during, and after every project. The last visit is not simply an excuse to get a pat on the back. “In this industry we’re typically not clever about customer care,” explains Robson. “So we go out of our way to get customer feedback to see how we rate in their eyes.” Business development director Ken Copsey-James meets monthly with key clients on a rotating basis to learn about upcoming projects, offer help during the pre-tendering stage, and get more feedback. Learning that they could increase sales by becoming ISO 9001 compliant in both installation and design, Rotrax employees spent a year working around the clock to become certified. Robson says this gives the company an advantage, as accreditation in design is rare among its competitors and it no longer needs to rely on outside architects for its design work. Headquartered in Yorkshire, it has regional offices in London, Derby, Newcastle and Leeds. Major customers include Rolls Royce, British Telecom, and the University of Leeds.
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