Established in 1921, P C Henderson has a long and eventful history. Memoirs describe the first office as being set up in a 40 ft loft space, where the staff were paid £12 per calendar month and second hand furniture was delivered by horse and cart. Details suggest that exporting activity began in 1925 in South Africa and New Zealand. The commitment of the team back then really shines through. Records talk about one team member taking a 10-day cycling tour in France to visit prospective customers and another volunteering to emigrate to New Zealand to set up an office there.
The most notable change the company has seen over the years was the selling of the garage door side of the business back in 2008. Garage doors became a huge part of the business back in the 1950s, but in what became a saturated and competitive market, the bold decision to sell this part of the business was made – and it was a decision that has most definitely paid off.
On a more personal note, I’ve witnessed the industry become a lot more demanding and fast paced over the last 30 plus years. Business deals were once centralised on relationships, friendships and loyalty so the need for continual investment in research, design, equipment and training is definitely something that I have seen increase over the years.
What stands out from those early day memoirs is the hard work, dedication and boldness of the team which got the company off to such a great start and something which is still strongly in the Henderson ethos today.
The industry as a whole has become a lot more competitive but we’ve worked hard to maintain a strong product offering of the highest quality. We still have customers who have been with us since the early days and are now onto their second and third generations of team members. But a key part of our success is never assuming that our customer base is a given. We maintain and build on our relationships with even our most historic customers. As a result, we now export to all four corners of the world.
Trading legislation hasn’t made international trade more difficult but it has certainly made it more challenging. We have a great team that work hard to stay ahead of what changes, policies and procedures are being put into place and what we need to do to stay in line.
We’ve recently won two awards for our exporting achievements, this again is a testament to the whole team. Exporting on the scale that we do isn’t easy and to be presented with two prestigious awards is most definitely recognition for all the hard work and dedication from our team as a whole [SME Exporter of the Year at the North East Export Awards 2017 and an Export Award at a North East Business Awards: Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside Region].
Our efforts going forward will be strongly focused on increasing market share in existing markets. This includes the USA and Central Europe – these areas are so vast, we need to work on strengthening our presence there. To assist with this, we’ve recently recruited a German speaking business development manager for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region.
We will also look to strengthen our presence in areas such as China, this is a market we’ve discovered has some very unique requirements and so we’re working on some Chinese specific products to assist in our growth over there.
‘Localisation’ and ‘voice of the customer’ are key contributing factors to our export strategy, creating products based on specific market requirements and always listening to our customers.
Taking Brexit into consideration, it’s difficult to tell at this point in time how much impact this will have on the business as nobody knows what trade deals will be set. We’re fortunate in that we operate all over the world, not just in Europe, as well as having subsidiaries in Ireland and Holland which I’m sure will assist us once the trade deals come into place – hopefully allowing free trade.
I think it’s important for us to encourage more international trading in the North East. My advice to businesses considering exporting would be: don’t be frightened, do your research and be selective. Go somewhere you firmly believe there is an opportunity, it may not happen straight away but take little steps and don’t give up.
P C Henderson Ltd
1984 – Joined Perstorp Group as an apprentice and spent 18 at the company working his way up to site manufacturing manager.
2002 – Move to Jeld-Wen to become general manager
2016 – Took the position of managing director at PC Henderson
2017 – Company named SME Exporter of the Year at the North East Export Awards
2018 – PC Henderson take the Export Award – North East Business Awards: Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside Region