A YORKSHIRE-HEADQUARTERED builder’s merchant has unveiled plans to open 30 new branches over the next two years as it marks its 25th Anniversary.
MKM Building Supplies, one of the biggest independent merchants in the UK, was founded in Hull in 1995 and originally sold caravan supplies
The company currently has 70 outlets and plans to expand to 100 between now and 2022.
Executive Chairman, David Kilburn, said: “As for any fledging business, in the early days orders are everything. And, after closing our first month with a trading profit and haven taken a healthy £123,000 – I am delighted to say 25 years later, we have never been short of orders and never looked back.
“Our biggest challenges in the early years were always time and money. If we had more of both earlier we would have grown more quickly, but it is important to keep a level head and not get ahead of yourself. We always prided ourselves on paying suppliers and staff on time, even though both my business partner and myself often took a reduced salary.”
By 2005, MKM had opened 15 branches, five years later in 2010 a further 17 branches had been opened and by 2018 MKM Building Supplies had 54 branches throughout England and Scotland – the brand new MKM Grantham marks their 70th branch.
Today, the company employs over 1650 people and last year recorded sales of over £460 million.
Kilburn continued: “Since day one, our company culture has always been very people focused, how we treat people has remained exactly the same. Every single person is important no matter what their role … our people are our biggest asset.”
“Technology and the digital age have of course altered things, but our teams still do the majority of business either over the trade counter or on the phone. That may change in years to come, but essentially people buy from people.
“Relationships are key, our customers trust us to deliver quality products with great service as their own businesses rely on it – our teams appreciate that and make customers the priority. More so than any other industry, this is a people business and good relationships are the absolute bedrock of that business.”
The 2008 recession
During the 2008 global banking crisis and recession that followed, the company took the decision to hold onto its staff when many in the industry were shrinking workforces.
David continued: “In 2008, we were acutely aware that external factors, beyond or control can take a serious toll on business. It seemed the entire financial world collapsed, our own industry went into a desperate panic with many of our competitors laying off 30 to 40 percent of their people.”
“We took the decision not to take action. We decided to back our people and ride out the storm and were confident that business would eventually pick up… which of course it did. While the majority of the industry seemed to lose up to 40 percent revenue, I’m glad to say we did fare better and suffered losses of up to 11 percent, relatively unscathed in comparison.
“Today, we still face challenges. We have an expansive growth programme but finding good properties in good locations can be a challenge and planning applications can be very slow, which frustrates progress.
“However our mantra, which we instil in all of our teams is to have fun at work. Indeed, some of the most demanding times in business have also been the most enjoyable. Some of our best times were in the early days – negotiating manufacturing deals, securing credit with the banks and often coming up against brick walls, whilst driving a couple of old bangers to collect building materials and grafting to sell. Working hard, but having fun is very much the MKM culture.”