Getting To Know: Steve Cooling – M.D. Of Aspect Windows
Tell me about your background and career so far?
After graduating in business management at Bath University, I joined the family glazing business, Aspect Windows, which was 19 years ago now. My parents had built the company from the ground up. At that time we specialised in the PVC commercial market, carrying out glazing installations for schools, blocks of flats, office buildings and government buildings.
My Dad unexpectedly passed away in 2008, so at the age of thirty, I took over the business and the responsibility for twenty employees. Due to market changes in the commercial field the business had to evolve. So, for the past eight years, we have focused and developed our experience in the architectural and high-performance glazing market – working closely with architects, developers and self-builders.
We now have forty staff, a team of line managers who manage each department, a dedicated aluminium and PVCu manufacturing facility, a 110m2 showroom to show off the products we offer and allow customers to experience the products before buying. You wouldn’t buy a car without seeing it first, we feel the same about glazing. And links with all the glazing brand leaders in Europe, being their approved dealers for the Southwest.
What have some of your challenges been to date?
Losing my Dad, who started Aspect Windows and grew the business for twenty-five years. Just two years after losing him and taking over the business, due to changes in the market, I realised I had to create a new business model and team in order to move forward and grow.
What have some of your most notable successes been to date?
Because I am a workaholic and always at the office I think keeping my wife for the past twenty-two years has been quite an accomplishment!
What is the vision of your organisation?
My main focus is never to be the biggest, it’s to be the best. Therefore remaining the leaders in our field.
What is it like doing business in Exeter?
Originally Aspect Windows started its life in Exmouth, but nine months after I joined the company, my Dad and I decided to move the company to Exeter, due to better networking opportunities and better transport connections. This is one of the best business decisions I have made to date. Exeter has given us so many opportunities and a scope for growth. I really believe that Aspect wouldn’t be where it is today if we hadn’t made that move.
Describe your organisation’s cultural values?
As a family business for over forty years, our values are: integrity, accountability, responsibility and fun.
What products and services does your company offer?
Primarily we offer architectural window and door glazing solutions, such as large contemporary sliding doors and bi-folding doors, curtain walling and entrance doors.
We work with architects, developers, self-builders, and private clients in refurbishment, extension and new build projects. We offer the full package, with a showroom where customers can come and experience the products before making any decisions. We also have a Survey team who will expertly measure the window and doors apertures to ensure the glazing fits perfectly.
Then, in our manufacturing plant, we fabricate a number of the doors and windows which we supply and install in-house – all made to measure, giving us better control over the quality and the turnaround time. Plus, a team of highly skilled installers who expertly install the glazing. Once installed we also have an aftercare team in the unlikely event that the homeowners have any issues with their new glazing.
What is your dream meal?
You can’t beat a traditional family roast and I am very partial to a pint of Guinness.
What does the future hold for you?
Perhaps trying to find more of a work/life balance.
What one piece of advice has stood you in good stead during your career to date?
From my dear dad in his northern way. When handing over the business in his last days, he said, ‘Here you are son. Don’t f**k it up!’
What advice would you give yourself if you could time-travel back 10 years?
Perhaps to spend more time with my children when they were tiny. But, my work/life balance is gradually shifting for the better in that respect.
What are the values that drive you (personally and professionally)?
Loyalty to my family – a desire to provide for them. I believe success only comes with hard work.
Could you recommend a book that you have recently read?
I’m not a great reader to be honest, not of books anyway, I find more enjoyment flicking through ‘Home Build and Renovation’ magazines. Or my guilty pleasure ‘Total Carp’ magazine!
What do you like to do outside of work time?
Spending time doing outdoor activities with my family, watching Exeter Chiefs and I love a movie night with popcorn and my three boys.
If you were an item of breakfast food, what would you be and why?
Porridge – its reliable and solid like me. You know what you’re dealing with!
Do you have a favourite band or song?
Police, Sting, Levellers… my boys are trying to bring me up to date!
Photos supplied by Aspect Windows