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CR Smith chief tells how Rangers and Celtic catapulted the brand.

18/04/24

Earlier this month, the chairman of CR Smith, Mr. Gerard Eadie, was interviewed by ‘The Herald’ to uncover the man behind the home improvements company with roots dating from 1917. Here, Mr, Eadie, tells how he was almost waylaid by a cycling career and how a simultaneous deal with Rangers and Celtic ‘changed everything’.

Read on to find out what was discovered in the interview.

Name

Gerard Eadie CBE 

What is your business called? 

CR Smith 

Where is it based? 

We have offices in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Cowdenbeath, as well as our head office in Dunfermline and a custom-built manufacturing plant, also in Fife. 

What does it produce/do? 

We’re Scotland’s longest-running home improvement business. We manufacture and fit windows and doors, and build living spaces. We also have expert technicians who are highly trained to repair, replace or upgrade any window, door or conservatory regardless of who fitted them.  

To whom does it sell? 

Anyone looking to improve their home. Everyone in Scotland is a potential customer. While our core business is windows and doors for residential homes, we also serve local authoritiescommercial properties and builders. We have products suitable for conservation areas and listed buildings, and we cover the whole of Scotland from the borders to the Highlands. 

What is its turnover? 

We’ve grown year on year since Covid and anticipate significant growth in the coming year driven by our low-cost repair service, FIX, and significant local authority contracts. 

How many employees?  

We currently have over 340 team members. I anticipate this will grow beyond 400 in the coming year. 

We’ve been able to grow our team and maintain the excellent customer experience we’re famous for, thanks to our investment in training and our culture; we have incredibly high standards and always have done. 

Why did you take the plunge?

I spotted an opportunity: a new generation of homeowners were being encouraged to invest in their home. 

At 20-years-old I had a decision to make  – I was either going to go to Belgium and try to make it as a competitive cyclist or I was going to start my own business there and then in Cowdenbeath. 

I was a young man in a hurry. Ultimately, I felt I couldn’t afford to spend 10 years chasing a different dream – starting a business was too appealing. I would spend my weekends on the bike instead! 

As a trained glazier, it made sense to start in that field, but I often think whatever I started my career in I’d have spotted something as an opportunity and made a business from it. 

After I sold my car for £150, I bought my own van. I had a few jobs lined up but I got into cash flow problems right away and had to borrow £50 from my mum, which was a lot of money to us at the time, to keep going. That was the last time I ever had to borrow money.

I knew the trade, I knew I’d do a great job, and I knew I’d get recommendations; that’s what fuelled our growth in the beginning and it still does. We never cut corners and are focused on doing the best possible job every day. That approach is instilled in our team and is why we are where we are today. 

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What were you doing before?

I did four years as an apprentice glazier with Fife Council. It was a great experience, and I’ve got the scars to show it. 

What do you least enjoy? 

The honest answer is if I don’t enjoy it, I’ll find someone to do it who does. 

There are often problems, but I enjoy solving problems. As soon as I hear something is not going as it should, I look forward to finding a way to fix it. 

I’ve had plenty of offers to sell the business over the years but I was never tempted, as I love what I do. 

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We want to grow – but we want to do so while providing the very best customer service. 

We’re currently rated 4.9 out of 5 on TrustPilot. We have an expert team that truly cares about our customers and acts in their best interests – that permeates everything.  

We have brilliant people and that creates a huge opportunity to grow. The main focus areas for us at the moment are through the work we do with local authorities and housing associations, as well as FIX. Low-cost repairs for windows, doors and conservatories is an underserved market and many homeowners simply do not know where to turn for help. Whether they have misted double glazing, difficult doors, a leaking conservatory, or just a loose handle, our FIX service will find a solution. 

We often tell our customers that their windows don’t need replaced. People have no idea what to do when a window is damaged. We can fix it. That is, afterall, how the business started. We need to do more to make people aware that this is something we offer.

FIX has grown significantly in recent years, and an expert service is needed out there, especially given how many double-glazing companies have gone bust. 

What single thing would most help?

A shift towards incentivising energy-saving measures in private homes could significantly benefit both the environment and the economy. The ‘fabric first’ approach, which prioritises the thermal efficiency of the property over the environmental credentials of the energy source, is recognised within broader government initiatives like the Social Housing Net Zero Standard, but not for existing private housing. 

Why is it that only energy-producing measures, like solar panels, are incentivised? By reducing VAT on home improvements aimed at preventing heat loss, such as refurbishing windows, homeowners would be encouraged to invest in sustainable upgrades which keep heat in. Just like solar panels, this should be linked to accredited companies who provide the highest quality and best-performing products.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

When I started at 20, I didn’t know much other than how to fix and fit a window. I wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible, as quickly as possible. Whenever I read in a newspaper about someone who was doing well, I would pick up the phone and ask to go and see them to find out how they got there. 

John Muir, who founded Muir Group, once told me he would stop every six months and completely review the business. If he came to the conclusion it wasn’t going in the direction he wanted it to, he would halt everything and wouldn’t rest until he sorted it. I adopted that principle for years, but that’s just one example; I get ideas from everybody and I’m always learning. 

What was your best moment?

Shirt sponsorship of Rangers and Celtic changed everything. It took us from only being known locally, to 97% awareness across the country. Everyone knew our brand and that had a multiplier effect for all of our marketing.  We’re still seeing the impact. Our customers now often tell us their parents bought them their first strip and it had CR Smith on it, or we see people wearing a retro shirt with our brand across the chest. 

What was your worst moment?

I don’t dwell on any bad moments. I learn from them and then move on! 

How do you relax?

Spending time looking for the next big Rangers and Celtic equivalent! 

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