Cornwall Group’s Chairman, Mark Mitchell, argues that we should be looking beyond 2024 for real opportunities.
The year ahead will be characterised less by trends in products, and more about how companies manage the complexities that come our way.
It is a General Election year (which always causes a certain amount of instability in the markets); inflation is still double what it should be; the cost of borrowing is high, energy costs are still double where they were two years ago; the cost of labour is set to rise considerably; and many companies will be approaching the end of their tax years uncertain if they have made any serious profit.
Top of my list for 2024 is maintaining a strong relationship with our partners – up and down the supply chain. Everyone will have to keep an eye on cash flow, including payment terms and input costs, so we can maintain a strong balance sheet. If we want to borrow to invest, we are all going to need a positive track record to convince banks to invest.
It’s going to be difficult for some, especially those who are indebted to private investors – those who want a handsome return on their investment and are looking for a healthy exit strategy. Unfortunately for them, we are not going to see records for sales and profits broken in the next couple of years.
But the important thing to remember is that things will improve. The Cornwall Group of companies – Cornwall Glass Manufacturing, Cornwall Glass & Glazing, Mackenzie Glass, and now Forward Glass in Birmingham – have a unified approach to strategy, which is that we will be looking ahead to 2025 rather than 2024.
What’s the point of not investing, and trying to weather a difficult patch, only to be unprepared for when the increase in demand materialises?
We’ve invested heavily over the last year with an eye on the future – a new sealed unit line, a new heat soak oven, and a new cutting table, to name just a few. If you order a new toughener, then it will take a year to arrive, and a new purpose-built lorry will take at least nine months. So, you’ve got to be one step ahead.
We’ve also recently acquired a new business – Birmingham-based Forward Glass – which is a great fit with the Cornwall Group culturally. They are independent, family-owned, and very profitable because they concentrate on getting the basics right. As a result, they have a reliable offering and a loyal customer base. We are looking forward to working with them immensely, and stretching our wings beyond the South West.
One of our first moves will be to extend our very successful apprenticeship programme to Forward Glass. The future of our industry depends on us training the next generation, and we know that investment in apprentices really does work. Did you know that one of our group Managing Directors joined Cornwall Glass & Glazing via an apprenticeship?
2024 in a nutshell? Invest in people and keep an eye on cash.