Resilience in turbulent times: Reco looks to capital for growth

07 Sep 2020

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, a surface and wall panel manufacturer, is a case in point. For Charlie Fleet and his team, Covid-19 was simply another challenge to be overcome. With significant growth plans set for the coming year, hitting pause was not an option - and remaining resilient was vital for success.

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 which replace traditional tiles. Charlie, a seasoned salesman and Robert’s son, inherited the business and has since been leading 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, counting leading UK brands including the likes of Tesco and Premier Inn amongst its client roster, alongside projects in the Middle East and a deal with McDonalds in the US on the horizon. 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 recognised an opportunity to further scale the business and grow internationally by the year 2021. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, 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.

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. No one knows what’s going to happen, both in light of Brexit and - of course - the ongoing disruption around Covid-19,” he says. “We had already put together an export plan before the latest Brexit discussions, and made inroads into international markets in the Middle East and the US. We are now in a place where we are ready to scale our business and Investec has been the perfect partner to help us achieve that next phase of growth.”
 
Investec’s Gregg Pietersen added that, from Investec’s perspective, as a founder-led business it was vital for Reco to have the capital support it needed to keep the business going during Covid-19.
 
“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 are 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 these hurdles has required resilience and commitment to its business strategy - but also a certain degree of flexibility. In particular, the willingness to adapt has been crucial, allowing the organisation to quickly react to both opportunities and to 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 and serving areas in its bars and restaurants. 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.
 
A further change was the decision to begin utilising external distributors to both reduce costs and create capacity to distribute its products globally. This allowed Reco to pivot its strategic approach and also made way for them to find a distributor in the U.S who is also a supplier to McDonalds in the USA. A successful trial of Reco’s products in their stores (which saw them halving their build time and costs) has led to McDonalds agreeing to use its products for the renovation of 600 stores in the USA; a key growth area for the business.
 
Thanks to Investec’s support, Reco was able to fulfil these contracts and the large number of other orders it has received in 2020.
Gregg Pietersen

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.

Gregg Pietersen, Investec

The right mindset

Having an entrepreneurial mindset, and a willingness to take risks can be the making, or breaking, 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 to his leadership of Reco.
 
“It takes courage and the ability to trust your intuition” Charlie says. “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 notes 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 explains, “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 beyond Covid-19, 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 becoming a significant supplier in the global market.

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