20 May 2021

Resilience in turbulent times: Reco looks to capital for growth

The turmoil left in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has made for an unforgiving business environment. For many, entire business operations ground to a halt. But, as the saying goes, the show must go on - and some businesses have pivoted to ensure that they not only can continue but can look for growth as well.

Reco Surfaces, a waterproof wall panel manufacturer, is a case in point.  Covid-19 was simply another challenge that Charlie Fleet and his team overcame. 

Paving the way for a future

Founded in 1993 by Robert Fleet, Reco Surfaces Ltd is a manufacturer and distributor of high-end wall covering panels that replace traditional tiles. Charlie, a seasoned salesman and Robert’s son, inherited the business and has since been leading the Reco business from strength to strength under his and the family’s entrepreneurial expertise.

 

For a small business with relatively modest beginnings, Reco has already seen significant success in recent years. The business counts leading UK brands including the likes of Tesco and Premier Inn amongst its client roster, alongside projects in the Middle East and a new contract for Ilke Homes, a large modular company. This is in part due to receiving investment which has enabled the scaling of the business, including increasing the production capacity of Reco’s manufacturing units.

With the help of Investec’s guidance and flexible financing solution, the business has been able to continue its upwards trajectory and navigate the turbulent months following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Following two years of impressive growth, Reco has continued that trajectory. Charlie and the team have emerged through the trading uncertainty robustly and are looking to spring into a prosperous 2021. With the help of Investec’s guidance and flexible financing solution, the business can plan effectively for its growth story. This includes breaking into the US market.

 

Before the pandemic hit, Reco was tantalisingly close to achieving its international goal: “America is the golden egg. Unfortunately, just before Covid broke out we were about to send our first container to our distributor there and we have had to hold it off until now," said Fleet. Although a minor setback for Reco, the immediate infrastructure to achieve this goal has been established. Reco is ready to deploy with great effect. 

Never walk alone

Reflecting on the journey the business has been on, Charlie Fleet emphasised that, during challenging times, working with a partner that understands its ambitions has been crucial.

 

“It’s certainly been a difficult time. But the construction sector, in particular, is coming back online in a major way. Project starts are 16% up in the last three months. 36% up on a year ago. That speaks volumes. Things are moving really fast and the biggest problem now seems to be the supply chain as raw materials are in short supply. So the issues have pivoted from Covid-19 to Brexit as well. Luckily for us, 90% of our material is British made so unlike other major players in the industry we have been largely unaffected.

 

Investec’s Gregg Pietersen added as a founder-led business, it was vital for Reco to have the capital support it needed to ride the Covid-19 wave and slingshot into its next stage of growth. 

 

“Although Reco is a little early in its business life-cycle compared to many of our other clients, we are a huge believer in its business. We are not simply looking to provide debt. This is a long-term process and we are long-term partners.”

 

For Reco, working with Investec was not what Charlie had initially expected, but the partnership has allowed it to give its customers confidence during these uncertain times.

 

“Investec is looking at things differently. It’s not just profitability, it’s potential. Some people see family businesses as risky. Having a partner like Investec has given us confidence, and has given our customers an increased sense of security.”

Facing the challenge head-on

But, like most businesses, Reco’s journey hasn’t been without its share of challenges. Overcoming the latest set of hurdles has required resilience and commitment to the business strategy - but also a degree of flexibility. In particular, the willingness to adapt has been crucial, allowing the organisation to react to opportunities and client needs. Investec’s flexible financing solutions empowered that versatility and enabled them to reach significant milestones in their business.

With no ‘off-the-shelf’ option available to meet this unprecedented - and unexpected - requirement, Reco was able to quickly adapt to Whitbread’s needs, creating uniquely designed solutions for its business.

One example is Reco’s success in pitching and securing a partnership with Whitbread, a multinational hotel and restaurant business with over 800 hotels and 500 pubs and restaurants under its management. In response to the pandemic, Whitbread needed tailor-made perspex screens for reception areas, bars and restaurants. With no ‘off-the-shelf’ option available to meet this unprecedented requirement, Reco was able to quickly adapt to Whitbread’s needs, creating uniquely designed solutions for its business.

 

Thanks to Investec’s support, Reco was able to fulfil this contract and a large number of other orders it has received since.

Gregg Pietersen
Gregg Pietersen, Investec

It was this combination of both a business and leadership with enormous potential that led us to back Reco and to begin our journey in together creating a truly compelling business proposition.

The right mindset

Having an entrepreneurial mindset, and a willingness to take risks can be the making of a successful business - not least during such uncertain times. But there are a few specific traits Charlie believes have been integral to his success as an entrepreneur, and his leadership of Reco.

 

“It takes courage and the ability to trust your intuition,” Charlie said. “Everyone helping each other to get the job done. I try to run the business as a meritocracy; listen to your employees and work together as a team. There’s a lot of business that would’ve walked away from the challenges faced by Covid-19. But I had faith in the ability of my team to collaborate and deliver what was required.”

 

Gregg noted that for Investec, it’s all about backing the right kind of people. “Our gut leads us in terms of who is backable. When I first met Charlie and some of his team, it was immediately apparent that they had something that worked.”

 

For Gregg, much of this is distilled into the notion of simplicity. “When we came and looked at Reco’s factory,” he explained, “we realised they had taken something incredibly complicated and, in response, created a very simple solution.

 

“It was this combination of both a business and leadership with enormous potential that led us to back Reco and to begin our journey in together creating a truly compelling business proposition.”

 

Looking ahead, Charlie now plans to expand the business further internationally, with the US and Middle Eastern markets seen as key drivers for future success.

 

Demonstrating its resilience during the pandemic has proven essential. Now, with ongoing capital support from Investec, Reco embarks on its next phase to become a significant supplier in the global market.

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