As 2021 draws to an end, we speak to our Head of Innovation and Marketing, Ryan Williams for his reflection on a busy and unpredictable year. We discussed everything from our bespoke interior solutions to how we plan to push forward with our pledge to bring sustainable innovative products to the forefront of our designs and bespoke offering.
How has 2021 been for James Tobias?
2021 has been a year like no other. A combination of managing relationships, cost fluctuations and the industry changing in a short period of time.
Initially, it involved managing client expectations about associated cost increases and unpredictable timescales from suppliers, all of which arose from lockdown. As market prices went up, so did our costs, even products such as foam and glue increased in price as we saw a worldwide shortage. The industry fundamentally changed during the pandemic with everyone being in the same boat and it was important that we adapted fast.
How have you managed client relationships?
This was such an important area for us. Communicating regularly with our clients ultimately changed the way we now interpret briefs and how we provide our bespoke interior solutions. Depending on the costs and availability of products, we give our clients different options and price points so they’re able to make a clear and informed decision based on facts. Flexibility and communication have been critical throughout.
Has 2021 impacted the culture at James Tobias?
The nature of our business meant that there was a split between those who were entirely factory based and those who worked in the office and could easily work from home if they desired. As a people business, like with our clients, communication is really important and allowing people to work flexibly where possible has seen our business transition hugely over the last 18 months.
Personally, I feel that as long as people are communicating and can get the best out of those they work with, then that has to be a positive for us as a business and our recruitment drive. I really enjoy working in the office; because our factory is on site I can get instant answers, discover what’s achievable and know exactly which products we have in stock. For those in account management roles, the relationships they’ve built originated from face to face meetings and there is definitely still an element of that, as much of our business is repeat work, based on those strong relationships.
A sustainable future for bespoke interior solutions?
The plan for 2022 and beyond is to utilise more diverse materials to complement our EcoWall product (which is already being used as a sustainable alternative in our storage wall system). Sustainability is a huge focus for James Tobias and winning the Somerset Business Award’s Environmental Achievement award, helped position us well ahead of the curve.
Our RPC product started our journey and we’ll continue to incorporate sustainable materials in our bespoke product range. Generally people want to consciously do the right thing and many companies are embracing new ideas, it just comes with a price tag. But, as demand increases, prices will fall and building requirements and legislation will help support this too.
Our goal for the new year is to keep promoting our design, manufacture and install services. With a passion for bespoke products and new product development, we can educate our client base. We aim to introduce bespoke alternatives to projects, such as recycled board and we can provide class A sound absorbing solutions working in conjunction with The Woolly Shepherd, whilst focusing on sustainability and end use. Our bespoke shelving units, zoning and acoustic screening can accommodate sustainable products and bring alternative solutions to projects across our sector range.