A familiar face to many in the industry, Craig Keighley has been part of the team at Ultraframe as man and boy, having worked in a variety of customer-facing roles across the business prior to his current position as Head of Retail Sales.

Craig spoke to GGP magazine about how he is totally focused on supporting Ultraframe’s retail customers in developing and growing their businesses, and what this entails on a day to day basis.

“Ultraframe is as much a part of me as I am a part of Ultraframe – having worked here for 21 years, that’s over half of my life. Since I first joined all those years ago to take up a role in the marketing team, I’ve never looked back and have been lucky enough to work my way through various roles, but the common denominator is that they have all been about helping and supporting our customers.

Most people say that I’m a people person and so working in roles where I can build strong working relationships and have a direct impact on the success of a customer’s business is hugely satisfying to me.

Within Ultraframe, helping our customers to grow is a key focus for us all, not just for myself. With the wide range of products and services that we are constantly enhancing and developing, it’s vital for myself and the rest of the Sales Team to ensure that our customers are fully aware of every aspect of our product range along with the vast array of support services that are available. I help our customers to use the full package to steer their business in the right direction for profitable growth.

My role as Head of Retail Sales is a senior management role with both external and internal responsibilities. Externally my focus is with our national and regional retailers - identifying opportunities to help them reach their potential using Ultraframe products and services so that they can be a success, not only in the performance conservatory market but also in the replacement roof market and the single storey extension market too. Our upcoming innovations will put them in the driving seat to be the homeowners ‘go-to’ providers for the best living spaces that money can buy, coupled with the lowest risk and a fantastic consumer journey. That’s the big one for me and what motivates me the most - the realisation that together, Ultraframe and its retail partners can own that growing extension marketplace.

Another critical element of my role is ensuring that we understand market trends and competitor activity as well as highlighting opportunities and weaknesses that could have either negative or positive outcomes. I then do my level best to motivate commitment to them, no matter how big or small they may seem.

Internally I support the Leadership Team with decision making and projects that will have a direct impact on our customers, products, and services. I like to keep my colleagues on their toes and ensure that we understand what’s happening in the marketplace. I also monitor customer satisfaction levels - sharing feedback and information that I pick up, be it from a consumer or trade perspective, competitor activity, product demand, new product development, and service expectations.

A key focus for me right now is helping our retailers to capture more value from the extension build market. We are laying the foundations (excuse the pun) for our retailers to own the single storey extension market with the best pipeline of product innovation our industry has seen for a long time, enabling them to deliver living space designs that are ‘bang on trend’.

Our Ultraroof tiled roof system is key to this strategy – it’s now fully configurable into any shape or size and has been declared the consumer’s favourite tiled roof system in recent research. As well as educating our retailers about the numerous benefits of this system, I’m also investing a lot of time into educating them about the opportunities in the extension market when using our Ultrasky roof. It’s a contemporary slimline system which allows for 6.5m unsupported spans for easy bi-fold door installation. Pairing Ultrasky with our super-insulated columns provides a fantastic opportunity to create on-trend orangeries and extensions with minimal hassle to the homeowner and all within the skill set of a conservatory installer. 

However, these products are only useful if our customers know about them and are confident and proficient in using them and so that’s where I come in. I do this by effectively becoming a part of their team – helping with the integration of systems such as Ultraroof and Ultrasky as well as playing a part in deciding their business growth strategy and helping to plan for how this will be achieved.

So the pressure is certainly on, but I thrive on the challenge of embedding myself within these organisations and helping them to achieve further success. While the size of these accounts means that they are already successful businesses, helping them to achieve further growth in the sale of living spaces really excites me and of course, being a part of their team means that we get to celebrate the successes together.

I’m fortunate to have strong, long-standing relationships with the customers I have direct responsibility for across all levels of their businesses. They motivate me daily with good news and bad news and that’s what drives me the most. It’s very transparent, allowing us to work together and turn any negative into a positive and make sure any successes breed more of the same and get repeated. I create a forum for honest feedback with my customers and work closely with their retail sales teams, motivating them to try new products and services to put clear blue water between them and their competition.

In terms of how a ‘typical’ working day looks for me, there isn’t really any such thing as every day is different and so varied. I spend a lot of time talking on the phone and supporting customers with queries of all different types – price enquiries, a favour, a visit, some sales training, a presentation or discussing an opportunity to develop sales with new or existing products.

I could be up and out early to beat the traffic if I’m travelling far or logged onto the laptop answering emails before the phone calls take hold and urgent situations arise that need to be dealt with. One day I’m presenting to a 15/20 strong retail sales team so they get the best out of our products and services and the next I’m attending a new showroom opening with a full of complement of Ultraframe products on display. All of this is alongside routine visits to ensure that we are working together in the right way and no stones are unturned for growth.

They say that variety is the spice of life and that’s certainly what makes my role interesting. I work for a fantastic company and have fantastic customers, and there’s nothing more rewarding than playing a part in their success.”