Charlie, Julie and Simon Symcox

What happens in your business when you get an enquiry for a bathroom adaptation, maybe one that requires a good deal of work and technical knowledge? Are you able to meet your customer’s needs or do you find yourself passing on the opportunity to do the work?

If it’s the latter, then you may well be interested in talking to AHM Installations. From starting life as a normal retailer, selling a range of mobility products, the company now specialises solely in the adaptation marketplace and is comfortable taking on any job of any size. What’s more, the company is looking to pay attractive commissions to retailers that pass on enquiries to them.

How it all started

Simon Symcox opened the mobility business in Lincoln in 2001 and almost stumbled across the opportunity for bathing installation as he told us: “We started the bathing installation side as an off-shoot of the mobility business we were running. Before that, we were selling the usual products such as stairlifts and scooters. It paid the bills and it was very much a lifestyle business for us.”

It was a chance meeting with a Building Control Officer that put the seeds of an idea into Simon’s head. “I was on-site quoting for a stairlift and he explained that he was having trouble getting someone to quote for the bathing installation work. At that time, I knew very little about that work, although I did understand about pumps and pipes as I had studied engineering. My ears pricked up and we put in a quote for the work using products from companies such as AKW and Eurocare and we put a price in more on a wing and a prayer than anything else.”

That was the start as Simon explained: “I told the Building Control Officer that we were quoting because we thought we could do the job properly and the only thing that I could guarantee was that we would get it done, but I couldn’t give him a timescale. We got the job and it ended up taking us something like three weeks to complete, whereas now we would install a wetroom within four or five days.”

Nowadays, Simon says that the bathing business accounts for ‘virtually all the turnover’. “We stopped selling other mobility products in July of this year simply because the mobility operation became side-lined as the bathing side dominated everything that we were doing and when you fit as many bathrooms as we do, you just don’t have time for much else. We now fit between 15 and 22 bathrooms a week, most of those are our own sales but we are fitting more and more for trade partners too these days.”

Reaching out to retailers

About a year ago, Simon started to trial generating referrals from mobility retailers that didn’t want to get involved in installations themselves. “We started working with a few retailers in our area to start with. Not all are in a position to get involved as they have space restriction in their showrooms and cannot allocate space for a display, but we are getting enquiries from some retailers at the moment and we are keen to develop that.”

The company has branches in Taunton and Maidstone as well as the main showroom in Newark and so can cover quite a lot of the country. Both the Taunton and Maidstone outlets are located in garden centres. Simon’s son, Charlie, joined the business three years ago after a career in the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot and is now a director of the business based in the Taunton outlet. “He had always taken an interest in the business and he now runs the South-West area.”

Retailers that take advantage of the referral scheme receive 10{2b56f69eed902e060b0ece4e951518e78184250fd95605277e040c84763239be} commissions on any sales, which can range from an average £4,700-£5,000 up to £12,000 or more. “We tend to do some fairly sophisticated installations that include taking out walls and so we are going beyond just the bathing these days.”

Before AHM Installation adaptation
After AHM Installation adaptation

A complex job

One of the reasons that Simon is keen to offer the referral scheme is that he understands that the type of projects he and his team get involved in isn’t for everyone.

“It’s very technical,” he says, “and it can be extremely complex. It can be like juggling 25 balls at once! You have so many different variables on a job, from a number of major components that have to be ordered, a whole host of consumables such as pipework and drainage items, skips to be on site, making sure that the customer will have facilities while the installation takes place and a lot more things that have to be factored into the equation. If just one of them goes wrong, then the whole thing starts to fall apart.”

“We like to think of all our installations as a customer journey and with each job, a member of the team oversees it from start to finish and so they have the responsibility to make sure it all happens correctly, right through until the job gets signed off by the customer. It can be a very involved process and I guess that’s why quite a few mobility retailers don’t look at doing it for themselves.”

“The reality” Simon suggests, “is that most mobility retailers would prefer to sell a bathlift rather than look at a much bigger option and when someone doesn’t have a high level of mobility issues, then a bathlift will work for many people. However, when they get to the next stage, where a bathlift just won’t do the job, then they tend to find it difficult to offer the solutions as they don’t have all the right people in place. What they really need is someone to come in, take both them and their customer under their wing and nurse them through the process and that’s what we can offer.”

“This isn’t new” he adds, “other companies do this, but we believe that we are different. There are lots of national shower companies out there and lots of local plumbers and we sit in between the two. The difference between using a local plumber and using ourselves is that we have a much broader knowledge of what can be achieved in terms of the products and design. We do much more than just fit a standard accessible shower, we can really tailor the installation to the customer. The same is true of the national shower companies too, they also have a very narrow offering and the salespeople are tied to certain products. We go in with a more technical approach and offer customers alternatives. Not everyone wants a standard wetroom and so we find the solutions that maybe other companies wouldn’t offer.”

For more information on the referral scheme, call 0800 731 6495.

The company’s website is HERE

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