Anglian Lifts driver
Anglian Lifts engineer Gary Soutart ready to get to work

Newly-established Anglian Lifts in Peterborough provides stairlifts, homelifts and other mobility equipment to the East Anglian region. THIIS chats to its managing director Phillip Rice about how the business came together…

Mobility equipment supplier Anglian Lifts has been getting off to a fast start since establishing itself in June this year as a provider of stairlifts, platform lifts and other access and mobility equipment in East Anglia.

Phillip Rice, Anglian Lifts
Phillip Rice, Managing Director of Anglian Lifts

The Peterborough-based start-up is hoping to set a new benchmark in customer service and transparency within the stairlift sector while providing a diverse range of solutions from the industry’s best brands.

Phillip Rice, Managing Director of Anglian Lifts, explains: “This means doing it right for our customers first and foremost – providing the optimum solution at competitive prices together with great service; and doing it right for our stakeholders by providing growth opportunities to our employees and supporting the local community.”

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Anglian Lifts will focus mainly on offering new and re-conditioned stairlifts and through-floor lifts for customers needing support to gain access to different floors in homes and businesses. The firm, Phillip says, has access to the majority of lifts on the market today. Brands include Stiltz, Terrys and Pollock lifts as well as platform lifts from Thyssenkrupp.

This has only been possible because he has maintained strong relationships with the suppliers that he used to work with previously.

“We’re proud to be an installer for some of the best brands. Our new website is designed to help customers seeking information about which solution is best for them and it also guides customers to contact us directly. We will also be looking to win local council tenders as an integral part of our business development activity.”

The firm will provide a full service, maintenance and repairs for most lifts currently in the market, whether purchased from them or not.

How it all started

Phillip established the business with Oliver Mellor. Oliver had been looking for an investment for over a year. His goals were to find a company that had a social mission as well as a great reputation.

“The relationship came about because of a failed asset sale of my previous company, Anglia Stairlifts, where I was Managing Director,” explains Phillip.

“That company was put up for sale by the majority shareholder and it attracted several interested buyers due to the good standing of the company.

“Oliver, the winning bidder, was all set to go ahead with the purchase but at the eleventh hour my co-shareholder pulled out. This left the company in a precarious state with no clear path to continue.

“We gave my previous business partner time to think it over. However, it became increasingly clear that we didn’t have the same vision for its future. I felt it best that I resigned and pursue a new venture with Oliver.”

Engineer at Anglian Lifts
Installing a through-floor lift in a customer’s home

Phillip says that he and Oliver discovered during the sale process that they share a similar ethos and ambition.

“Once he’d gotten to know about the business through the due diligence process, he was keen to work with me and the team no matter how the sale turned out.”

Oliver is focusing on the business strategy and future growth opportunities, explains Phillip. He will implement processes and technology to automate and systematise the business’ day-to-day operations.

The entire workforce of three office staff and three engineers also joined their new company.

“Incidentally, ‘Anglian Lifts’ was supposed to be a placeholder name as we fully expected to take over the assets and name of Anglia Stairlifts,” explains Phillip. “The challenge is getting the message to our customers about the difference between the two companies.”

Rising through the ranks

Phillip started out as an apprentice engineer at the age of 22 at MediTek, a stairlift manufacturer in Fishburn before rising through the ranks until he became Managing Director of MediTek by age 30.

By the age of 40, he was looking for a new challenge and decided that working in retail was where he could make the most difference and achieve job satisfaction.

Now, as Managing Director at Anglian Lifts, Phillip is involved with the day-to-day running of the business.

“One of my main roles is to establish and maintain effective links with major customers, local authorities, and key suppliers to ensure that the company is connected with what customers need and has the appropriate range and quality of products.

Phillip Rice and business partner, Anglian Lifts
Phillip Rice with business partner Oliver Mellor

“I also create and implement policies and procedures to ensure that the company complies with all health and safety and other statutory regulations.”

Phillip is also on the board of directors at British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA).

“I have been a member of the BHTA for the last 17 years, as they are not only very informative and detailed within the mobility industry they also protect the consumer. My membership of the BHTA is partly motivated by me wanting to make a difference and lead by example.”

During his time with the BHTA, Phillip has been both Vice Chair and Chairman of the Stairlifts and Access section, and two years ago he was invited to join the Board of Directors.

With customer service the priority, Phillip believes in putting the needs of customers first and finding a tailored solution to meet their needs.

“Stairlifts can sometimes have a dated image, so we are working to update that image so that people feel as though it is a natural solution to enable them to stay in their home rather than a reminder that they are not as mobile as they used to be.”

There will be transparent pricing, no hidden extras, no pressure selling and an unrivalled after-sales support, promises Phillip.

“Installing lifts is one thing, fixing problems and maintaining a future relationship with the client is another. Customer loyalty and customer satisfaction is our top priority. We want to provide peace of mind for our clients. We depend on good reviews and word-of-mouth referrals for the growth of our business.”

Overcoming challenges

Getting the business into a position where it was able to serve customers from the start was fairly plain sailing, he says. This would not have been possible were it not for the tremendous amount of support given to the firm by friends in the industry.

“We’ve been offered equipment, vans, stock, labour and work from competitors and suppliers. The outpouring of support has been incredible and we are immensely humbled by it.”

He continues: “They want to help us grow and many of them also have a similar ethos. For example, Obam Stairlifts in Lincoln (who we overlap with) has been very supportive.

“We have also had encouragement from Westwood Stairlifts, which is technically a ‘primary competitor’ in this area, so yes, I could say how we are set apart, but we work together. It’s better for everyone in the long run. The fact that this is how I have always done business is why I am able to rapidly set up a new company and grow the routes quickly. I have the utmost respect for these people because of all the help we have received.”

Some suppliers from Phillip’s former company have joined Anglian Lifts, which he says demonstrates the faith that they have in him and the team.

Anglian Lifts already works with a network of trusted companies that have been hand-picked to bring complementary capabilities and enable the business to cover a wider region.

Phillip says that the business has been well received by mobility retailers, but the biggest challenge is getting the name of Anglian Lifts out there, making customers aware of what it stands for, and, ultimately, growing its market share.

Growth plans

The firm recently introduced a partnership program specifically for companies without their own stairlift installation and servicing capabilities, giving them another option to the manufacturers’ referral schemes.

As Phillip explains: “The programme enables us to become an extension of their business and allows them to offer servicing, maintenance and repairs to all products rather than just the one.”

These companies, he says, will share in Anglian Lifts’ success by referring customers and receiving remuneration whilst maintaining the relationship of each customer.

“We are currently trying to engage with retailers to show them what a good deal it is, not only financially but for their own business reputations.”

Phillip and his financial partner have ambitious plans to grow organically by hiring more engineers as well as via strategic acquisitions of similar and complementary businesses.

There are lots of ideas they are considering, some old and some new. For example, for the trade, Anglian Lifts will be re-initiating the spares business, which in the past has been invaluable for stairlifts installers like themselves that need a reliable source of spare parts at great prices.

For customers, one plan is to expand products and services that complement stairlifts, such as alarms, panic buttons and other assisted living products.

Additionally, Phillip hopes to acquire small businesses in complementary trades that would suit its ethos so that the business can grow into a group of companies that add more than the sum of their parts.

He adds: “There will also be opportunities to buy businesses in tangential markets, which share the same customer base.
“The central thesis is to build a range of businesses that serve a similar client base and are supported by an expert knowledge of elderly and disabled customers’ needs.”

Further recruitment of staff is on the horizon too with plans to expand the engineering team as well as the back-office function, once the company has found its feet.

“When we acquire companies in the future we hope to retain, recruit and train engineers and office staff to support the growth plan. Individual teams will expand, such as sales and marketing, to support all the new businesses under the group umbrella.”

For now though, the first priority is to establish the new business and get everyone busy. “We are very fortunate to have started the company with such an experienced and dedicated team of staff.” For a company that set out to “do it right”, it certainly seems to be on the right track.

www.anglian-lifts.co.uk

Anglian Lifts
Staff members at Anglian Lifts have been busy getting the new business establishe
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