Earlier in the year CVW went behind the scenes at TotalKare as its 40th birthday rolls around, to see what the company has planned for the future.
This year is set to be a big one for TotalKare. The supplier of heavyduty vehicle lifting solutions will be celebrating a big birthday. 40 years on from Somers Handling – as it was first known – supplying its first lift in the UK, the company is using this milestone in its history to begin a five-year expansion plan that will see more than £750,000 invested into the business.
“It is the right time to lay the foundations for our next four decades,” explains Managing Director David Hall, who joined TotalKare 18 months ago. In that short space of time, David has overseen a 25% increase in sales, as well as the introduction of new testing solutions into the product portfolio for the first time ever.
“The business will always be based on the founding principles of customer care and being experts in our field, and we wanted to build on this philosophy by putting a marker in the sand for the next stage of our development.
“We have already started the process of implementing a new ERP system that will give us lots of internal and external efficiency improvements – this will pave the way for our relocation to a new purposebuilt site in the Midlands. There is also investment being channelled into enhanced service management software to further improve our service capabilities.”
The lifting and testing specialist, who has been involved in the sector for more than 25 years, continues: “In total, this is a significant spend for us and we are in the final stages of negotiations on a great location that is close to our current home in Halesowen.
“It’s a necessary move to give us the ability to optimise the workflow on the shop floor and increase our capacity to hold stock of mobile column lifts, brake testers, headlamp testers, and other future products.”
Looking to the future
Many of the company’s clients have benefitted from TotalKare lifting solutions for 40 years, including some of the biggest names in the bus and coach, commercial vehicle, and heavy haulage sectors.
David, who is joined by Mike Lord, James Radford, and Peter Geobey in the new leadership team, expands: “There’s a reason our customers have been with us for many years, and that stems from the quality of the product and the aftercare experience.
“We really do care, and this is a mentality that you would normally find in a family-run business. This makes a real difference, and we have built on this culture by investing in new technology and strengthening our service offer with additional engineers operating all over the country, ably supported by product specialists. The plan is to continue our recruitment drive to grow this team by an additional 20% over the next 12 months.
“It’s a full lifecycle: from purchasing the TotalKare product and regular servicing, to preventative maintenance, planned refurbishment, and swift repairs to ensure we minimise workshop downtime.”
More than just lifts
Sales and Marketing Director James Radford knows more than most about the ‘TotalKare’ appeal, having first joined the company back in 1992 as a trainee in sales. He was a result of TotalKare’s new approach to ‘grow its own’ staff and has been privy to more than 27 years of life in the lifting industry, progressing through a range of different roles and witnessing numerous milestone events for the business.
When pushed on the key moments of his time at the company, he points to the launch of the first cable free lift in 2009 which added a new flexibility to workshops, the introduction of the hydraulic column lift in 2016, and, last year, the move to offer its first ever non-lifting products.
“The introduction of brake and headlamp testers has been a real gamechanger for us – there’s no doubt about that,” comments James. “Our customers had been asking us for some time about the possibility of supplying them with these products so, after researching the marketplace, we came up mobile and in-ground brake testers and a range of headlamp testers.
“That was the first stage. We then had to replicate our approach with lifting solutions to ensure we became a respected expert in the testing field. The easiest way of achieving this quickly was recruiting two experts in Graham Simmons and Luke Simmons, who strangely enough are not related.”
Sales have outstripped the management’s initial projections and contributed significantly in driving the 25% increase in orders taken during 2019. Mobile brake testers, a relatively new introduction to the marketplace, have led the way thanks to their flexibility – the galvanised finish means they can be used just as effectively outside as inside, giving customers maximum workshop utilisation.
“The garage owner can’t afford the time and cost delays involved in getting customer vehicles in for the brake test and, if there is significant downtime, they will quickly find that the client will go elsewhere – especially if you are undertaking this task with increased regularity,” adds James.
“Headlamp aim is the most common failure item at annual tests for both HGVs and PSVs so, again, we have listened to our clients by providing both manual and electronic headlamp testers to accommodate all workshop scenarios. We can even configure them to be connected to the MOT testing service when legislation changes in the future.”
It would be easy to think TotalKare’s greatest asset over the last 40 years has been the products it supplies, but that would be missing the USP that has been at the heart of the firm since it launched back in the Black Country in 1979: its people. Many of its 50-strong workforce have been with the business for multiple years and have enjoyed personal development plans, investment in their skills, and plenty of opportunities for progression. Jessica Porter is a perfect example. She started life as an Aftersales Scheduler, then moved to Sales Administrator, before enjoying a promotion to her current position as Internal Sales Manager.
She comments: “I love the people here. Although it isn’t a family business, it is like working as part of one big family. I’ve made some of my closest friends through work and really enjoy the way the management team ask you for ideas and challenge you to stamp your own mark on the business.”
With numerous birthday celebrations planned for 2020, it’s only right to give David Hall the final word on what the year has in store for TotalKare: “Like I said before, it’s about laying foundations for the next five years, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t set ourselves ambitious targets. 25% growth is expected again over the next 12 months.
“Personally, I’m really keen to push our online training platform more and increase adoption of technology that can make our workshops safer and help to minimise the number of accidents. R&D continues at pace, and we are already planning the introduction of another new range of products and increasing the capabilities of our existing ones. We’ve got to stay ahead of the competition – great products with excellent service, that’s the TotalKare way.”