Lorna Fellowes: enthusiasm and experience.

10 years at the top of Triton

Published:  26 May, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: Lorna Fellowes celebrates her anniversary by answering 10 questions about her work, motivation and company.

Ms Fellowes has been the managing director of Triton Showers for a decade. Here, she talks about life in the fast lane.

Who has been the strongest influence in your working life?

Over the years, a host of people from within and outside the industry have influenced my working life, but nobody more so than my sister. She has worked in many parts of the world for GE, a company with world-class standards in business management, so I have often asked her about management techniques and procedures.

My sister left GE four years ago and is now on the main board of three of the top 20 Danish quoted companies, as well as two in Stockholm, Sweden; so she still has many tips to pass on and is a great role model.

How has running a company shaped your management skills?

It has certainly been interesting to look back at press coverage from 10 years ago and compare my comments then with my feelings now. One thing has not changed though, and that is my enthusiasm and love for the job – although I am clearly more experienced now, not least in the areas of human resources as well as production and sourcing.

My practical management style is very hands-on and I like to understand the detail in the business. I suppose my 'trademark' is perseverance and it probably always has been, what has changed is understanding the speed of which you can drive through management skills in a business, you need to establish what you feel are the business disciplines and then ensure and persevere with getting those into every corner of the organisation.

Fairness and especially the perception of fairness is a very worthwhile management skill to have in a large organisation, especially an organisation like Triton, where you have so many different aspects of employees, who can get demotivated if they feel they are not being treated fairly.

Triton has two massive strengths – the brand and its employees – and each of the two needs to be nurtured and developed to make sure they continue to work together.

There are probably very few companies who do not have to rely on their employees to deliver success to the business. Treating people well, and very importantly fairly, is one of the items that has always been at the top of my agenda – I know I am a hard taskmaster, but hopefully all employees working at Triton would say that I am a fair one.

Why are there so few women in the supplier side of the construction industry?

Although there are still relatively few women in our industry, there has been a massive change in the last 10 years. As we go forward, perhaps we will see even more women at the top, selected quite simply because they are right for the job.

The fact that there are not already many women in a particular industry can be a hindrance, as some women simply do not want to work in a male orientated world, but prefer to work with lots of other women. This can be improved by having 'women projects' - a group set up by women to attract women into the industry at a higher level.

We do not really take any initiatives in this industry to get women in at the top level; everybody talks about wanting women in their company, but it is mostly at the lower end, or at best the middle level of the structure.

I have very often endorsed the advantages of having a mixed sex team working at any level in the organisation.

Women can bring a different dimension to any subject or challenge that the business has. In turn, it gives a team or company a better perspective of the market and how best to maximise its business potential.

How can Triton capture even greater market share?

We have always prided ourselves on being at the forefront of the industry in terms of product innovations that actually make a difference right across the market. From the introduction of the first chrome finish, which appeared on the Aspirante range back in 1999, to the more recent 'world first' introduction of the Safeguard Care Pumped electric shower with BEAB Care accreditation, we have always strived to push the boundaries.

I believe that innovation is one of the drivers for greater market share. Yet this only works because we have, and continue to, make it our business to listen to what all of our customers want or need; whether this is through advances in technology, making installation easier for those installing it or developing solutions that will save hours on each job.

What is the single most important thing that makes Triton products stand out from other types of shower system?

The Triton brand association is absolutely key to Triton's success.

Product innovation, quality in everything we do and customer services have certainly gone hand in hand to secure real strength behind the Triton brand over the last decade. We have worked hard and invested on an ongoing basis to make sure customers immediately link the brand with these positive associations.It is no coincidence that Triton is sponsoring the 'Customer Service' category of the Builders' Merchants Awards for Excellence and has done so for the last five years, to consistently recognise companies placing great weight on developing in its customer reputation and customer experience which, particularly in the current economic climate, is so vitally important.

We have found that this strong back-up and 'fit and forget' messages associated with Triton instil a confidence and a trust right through the customer chain, and we are proud to say that our customer service has often been highlighted by stockists as being the best in the industry.

We never assume that there is nowhere to progress. The Customer Service department, which employs more than 100 people in its Call Centre, Spares Centre and external service on the road, is constantly evolving, improving and ensuring it remains effective.

In your 10 years as managing director, what would you have personally liked to have launched (if you haven't already done so)?

My business (and personal) style is such that I do not spend time regretting what I did not do. There are lots of opportunities that Triton has had in the past, which could have taken the company in a different direction, however, it may not have been a better direction, so who knows?

Where do you see the business in 10 years' time?

"When you read the papers and listen to the news it is difficult to imagine that we shall recover from this credit crunch any time soon. Of course, we'll see an upturn in the market at some stage, and I think most people believe that this is going to be sometime in 2010-11.

In previous recessions, where the shower market has dipped substantially, we have seen an equally up beat recovery with pent up demand delivering strong growth. This is usually driven by acceleration in housing market and new build properties as well as a good dose of consumer confidence.

There is a genuine link between the ups and downs of the shower market with the general GDP rise and fall, so we are not very different from the White Goods Industry or other durable markets. I guess we just need to wait and see.

2019 is a long way away and the current economical situation will slow down 'normal' progression.

We have seen the strong emphasis that consumers are putting on their bathrooms. Very much like we saw with the kitchen market in previous years, the bathroom is now not just functional but somewhere people want to make an impact; they want to bring designer flair to the bathroom and the shower with it.

Having said that, where digital showers and shower columns may be the aspiration, the majority of end users are looking for an inexpensive shower with what I call 'affordable style'.

With that in mind, I predict that we shall continue to evolve the design of both electric and mixer showers with affordable features and a variety of finishes that will continue to be attractive to our discerning customers on design, performance and price points.

What further kind of innovation can showers undergo to make them even more efficient?

In 2007, we saw the introduction of Triton's eco shower range with the ability to cut water consumption by up to half, and featuring the industry's only electric eco shower alongside two stunning chrome mixers. With an affordable price tag these showers certainly remove the 'you have to pay more for an eco product' argument, demonstrating that saving water in the bathroom is not simply for those who can afford it but is a wider responsibility in general.

Awareness has increased towards our intensive water consumption, and will continue to do so, particularly as we move closer to Government specifying that water meters be installed in every home. It will be interesting to see what effect a policy such as this has on the buying public, perhaps forcing more people to consider the eco credentials of products in more depth before committing to buy.

Recycling shower water is definitely a desirable feature in every home, just as capturing rain water is, however, it is still expensive to install this feature but clearly something newbuild and refurbishment schemes will focus on, especially in the public sector.

All shower manufacturers are working at better water utilisation through sprayheads; this is relatively simple on mixer showers but not without challenges on electric showers, where one has to be aware of the safety aspects involved with consumers shutting off the flow of water through the showerhead.

When it comes to competition, what would you like to say to your rivals?

The bathroom industry is not good at collectively focusing on the big issues and in spite of the size, in both turnover and in number employed, we have not managed to get "a voice" that can be heard in government.

It is so important now to have a voice to influence legislation and to gain support for projects, both in terms of financial and active support. That's not easy to achieve because self interest and egos get in the way, but it's not impossible if the will is there.

What advice can you offer merchants seeking to sell higher volumes of Triton products?

When asked, consumers state a preference for Triton products because of the before mentioned brand association. So when a merchant stocks a Triton range of products they know that they can sell these products and they will not simply be stuck on the shelf.

A merchant will make good margins on selling across the range of Triton products and that surely is a key incentive for them to sell bigger volumes of Triton?

Triton's delivery service is fantastic, 'place an order today and get delivery next day', a real incentive to get the working capital down and get frequent replacement for your Triton stock.

The after-sales service for the merchants customers is great, so your customers can truly 'fit and forget' another incentive to sell massive volumes of Triton.

Triton has many promotions, well-backed with strong point-of-sale and incentives for merchants, this should be a key incentive to focus on the brand leader and get the volumes up.

Triton has a very wide range of electric, mixer and power showers, a product for every situation and every pocket. The quality of the products are superb, the service exceptional, so why would anybody want to buy anything but a Triton shower?

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