Despite admitting in his own words that ‘the school and I didn’t get along’, Andrew Taylor excelled in life – constituting one of the UK’s leading glass suppliers.
After starting out in the glass industry as an apprentice in 1983, Andrew launched his company, Specialist Glass Products, based in Huddersfield, which is aiming to reach £11 million in sales this year and continues to win prestigious contracts – as well as to appear on television.
Andrew’s story shows how hard work and an uncompromising commitment to customer service can take you to the top.
He says, “I started working at a local glass merchant where my father was the manager. I started out as an apprentice and served my time as a glass cutter. I became responsible hand glass cutter, foreman glass cutter, works foreman and eventually works manager at a site in Bury, Lancashire.
“It was a big company that was eventually taken over by Pilkington Glass in 1996, which is obviously a massive company. A few years later they had a major shake-up, closing some branches and merging others.
“They created a big hub in Salford, and I moved there as works manager.
“We’ve moved from a fulfillment site to a merchant site, and it’s been very successful – most of Pilkington’s ‘downstream’ operation.”
He continues: “After a few years Pilkingtons started recruiting graduates and screening candidates and the opportunities for someone like me were really very limited. Education wasn’t really my thing and school and I didn’t get along very well.
“Going to college in my early thirties wasn’t something I wanted to do and even if I had, I don’t know how many great opportunities it would have been for me. I couldn’t see myself doing the same job year after year for the rest of my working life.
“I had a good relationship with many clients, especially one who asked me to go and work for him several times over a period of years. Every time he asked me to go, something seemed arise, for example I got a promotion, a raise or a new company car.
One day I jokingly told the customer “if you give me a BMW sports car, I’m coming” and he went out and bought one the same day. I thought he must be very committed, and I went to join him.
“We were doing glass bending. It was a small business with a turnover of around £450,000.
Almost two decades ago, he decided to create a company that would become a major player in a specialized sector.
“In March 2003, I decided to leave and start Specialist Glass Products, mainly specializing in flat glass, as I had only a few years of experience in the curved glass industry.
“I spoke to another guy who worked for my old company and my brother who worked for Pilkingtons, and they decided they needed a new challenge and would come and join me.
“I need support both to do the work and to raise funds. We each put £15,000 as a loan into the business, and secured additional funding from the Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme, as well as asset funding and we were well on our way.
“The first year we made around £500,000. Year ending March 2022 it was £9.6million.
“If we continue on the right path, we will end this financial year at around 10.5 or 11 million pounds sterling. When we started there were only three of us. Now we have about 100 employees. “
The company’s quality products are now due to feature on the popular Channel 4 show Grand Designs.
Millions of viewers will get to see how passionately the company cares about delivering exceptional results to its customers.
Andrew comments: “We were filmed for Grand Designs in September 2020. It was a house being built in a very affluent area of Cheshire and we did all the interior glass but also some of the exterior balustrade.”
And earlier this year, the company completed the installation of more than £1million of signaling on Crossrail’s new London railway, the Elizabeth Line.
Using Pilkington Optiwhite low iron glass, the panels have been bent, tempered and laminated, incorporating the printed pattern required for each station.
Andrew says: “As part of the bidding process, we were asked to provide sample glass, which was subjected to extensive smoke and blast testing, and it’s a testament to our capabilities. and our expertise that we succeeded with flying colors and obtained the contract. .”
So, what future for Specialist Glass Products?
He is determined to continue investing to ensure the company stays ahead of the competition.
Andrew concludes: “We have invested a lot year after year and we want to continue to do so.
“We have a new rolling cutting table coming in December, a £400,000 investment which will enable us to supply glass to different markets than we currently do.
“There is a lot of competition, but we focus on quality, service and price in that order.
There are no signs of slowing down as Specialist Glass Products continues to grow.
He added: “We recently received an order for £100,000 and they are paying us an additional £15,000 to do the job this month. This clearly shows our commitment to customer service.