The inspiration for perspiration

Business is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration Jane Walker, managing director of flooring contractor, 2Install, tells CFJ.

JANE Walker, managing director of flooring contractor, 2Install, based in Paisley, just five miles from Glasgow city centre, is a businesswoman who keeps her ear close to the ground as she maintains a willingness to adapt to, and meet, the needs of the market.

In her years in the trade, she’s made a point of proactively looking out for new opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. As she says, ‘I started out 30 years ago in the north of Scotland running the flooring department for a large kitchen company. When our family decided to relocate back to Glasgow in 1991, I went on to become the sales manager for Scotland for a national company providing flooring and interior services to all of the major players in the
new- build sector.’

Jane says she’s always had a keen eye for design and has a real passion for flooring finishes. It’s this zeal that led her to starting her own business in 2001. She saw how ‘investors at the time were buying up new-build properties from plan to meet the booming demand for rental sector and it was clear that every one of those apartments would require flooring and blinds’.

Quite simply, she took the opportunity to fulfil her ambition to become her own boss. 2install was born.

A changing brief
From there Jane developed the business into a what effectively became a ‘one-stop-shop’ that offered her clients a fully furnished service that ‘provided everything down to the last teaspoon, mainly throughout central Scotland’.

A couple of years later saw another change in tack as Jane saw a cooling in one of her markets. As she explains, ‘I altered the direction of the business slightly as I could see the fully furnished market was diminishing in popularity.’

It appears that through a few good contacts in the new-build industry who liked her approach to business, the company secured its first major flooring contract (for what Jane terms was ‘one of the industry leaders’) to supply and fit flooring throughout 200 apartments in Glasgow city centre.

This led to the business specialising in flooring as it ‘offered clients some of the newest innovative products that were beginning to become increasingly popular in the marketplace’.

2install expanded its horizons so it extended its reach across the UK by adding designers, architects, hotels, housing associations and main contractors to the client base.

As we’ve seen in previous contractor profiles, success tends to follow those who are proactive and open to new ideas. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why Jane developed her own training courses ‘to ensure that no matter the product being fitted we were consistently offering the highest levels of workmanship at all times’.

To bolster this drive for quality, Jane’s company also took on apprentices who’d be mentored all the way through their training and as they honed their practical skills on site. It’s quite telling of her confidence placed in the programme - one of the apprentices was her son James.

‘It was amazing to bring him into the business and watch him grow along with the other fitters that we set out to support. This was over 15 years ago now and the relationships we have developed has seen us, to date, having some of the most skilled fit out teams with a real sense of family spirit and loyalty.’

Business is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration
Some in the sector prefer retail and others contract. And as Jane explains, her business never offered retail, instead, it confined its activity to business to business sales. Her reasoning is based on a belief ‘that while the products can often be the same, the environment and challenges being faced by our clients on site are somewhat different. Things for our clients can change rapidly so we chose to keep our complete focus on our clients, working in partnership to ensure the successful completion of their projects’.

As might be expected of someone with such a strong sense of purpose, reputation is very important to Jane; she likes to do business through strong project management and with fit out teams trained specifically for commercial environments.

Of course, working hard means working safely. And on this Jane is very hot. She says that ‘onsite health and safety management and environmental issues have never been more key in the industry; effective health and safety management is an integral part of our business’.

2install is CHAS Premium Plus accredited and as Jane notes: ‘We value our fitters – they’re an integral part of our business. Their safety and that of those around them is paramount to us at all times.’

Jane is keen to say environmental issues are important to the company too: ‘It’s very high on our agenda. We keep our impact on the environment to a minimum and reduce it wherever we can.’ As part of this process, the company seeks to source and purchase materials from suppliers who ‘share our environmental principals using environmentally friendly, biodegradable and non-toxic products wherever possible’.

The effect of coronavirus
No matter how much of her heart and soul that Jane pours into the business, there will always be supervening matters that are beyond her control that affect how the company will perform. The most obvious examples are the coronavirus pandemic and the economic dips over the past 12 years. However, Jane seems accepting of the fact that while ‘certain project sectors will decrease in demand, others will grow.’ It’s interesting that 2install has ‘already seen an increase in clients liaising with our design team looking for budget led solutions and alternative products to push forward their project in relation to cost and timescale.’

As to how coronavirus has affected the company, Jane says that ‘like many businesses, without doubt it has impacted on our business, particularly during lockdown where all of our work onsite came to a complete standstill.’ But to restart business, she sought out advice from health and safety specialists and is following government legislation to be able to return to site and commence fitting again. She adds that ‘we very much put the safety and wellbeing of our fit out team, customers and the communities and sites at the heart of everything we do… we carried out detailed risk assessments and issued fitters with all of the required PPE and method statements to ensure safe practices.’ This, she says, included increased hygiene, cleaning frequency and social distancing whilst on site. Going further, the company consulted with all employees, prior to returning to work, over their current health and those within their household; any feedback or concerns were discussed, considered and taken on board. As Jane explains, ‘we wanted our team to feel safe and ready to return to work and so, wherever possible, we have installed flooring in unoccupied properties, where it is safe to do so.’

It’s all in the genes
2install is very much a family business, a point Jane drives home as she proudly talks of her daughter Jill who joined the business two years ago to take over marketing and managerial aspects of the business. Jane adds that Jill is being groomed to take over the company: ‘It’s a role she fell into easily as she had previously spent a year with us as part of her university degree in sales and marketing; she has a number of years of experience in the industry.’

Jane’s hard work has clearly made a rod for her own back: ‘My plans to semi-retire later this year may have to be put on hold for a couple of years due to the volume of work we have coming up in the near future.’

It’s just as well that she still has such a passion for both her family and her job. That said, she says that she looks forward ‘to my much-loved walking, reading and travels hopefully in the not so distant future, whenever, or if ever, I do get to my retirement.’