Terry Slade, Ziebe
Who we are
Ziebe Ltd partners with Förch GmbH, a German based International fixings, fasteners and technical chemical specialist which markets a product range of 75,000+ different top quality ‘C’ part items, designed specifically for the automotive, industrial, electrical and woodcraft sectors.
Ziebe-Förch opened for business in August 2002 and today we now enjoy representation throughout most of the UK. My particular specialty is in the automotive aftermarket division, so to date we mainly supply this market sector with top quality ‘C’ parts and innovative product solutions. Approximately 90% of our stocked inventory has an automotive bias however many of the products also cross over into the industrial and woodcraft sectors.
We have a team of eleven full time staff and are constantly on the outlook for talented and qualified professionals. My wife is the company secretary and my son is head of sales, however he holds that role, not because he’s my son, but because he is the most competent and qualified person in the sales team. I certainly don’t believe in appointing people because of bloodlines but I always strive to surround myself with the best quality people I can employ for their respective functions. We endeavor to employ people who are experts in their field, such as finance, sales, marketing, and logistics and today I am more than pleased with the team in place. However it’s fair to say we are now finding it challenging to find the right people with the experience levels we seek to support our future growth plans. Our sales team have mostly originated from a technical background and this experience combined with our in-house account management training enables our sales team to effectively communicate at all levels, whether it is with an end user buyer or with a group purchasing director of a major PLC.
We are often asked what our company limitations to ‘growth’ are and we only have one answer and that is the lack of talent readily available, which isn’t just a local issue but more an industry driven concern. In recent years we have seen a stark reduction of vacancies or people joining the automotive aftermarket industry at entry level. It would seem that many businesses are no longer supporting apprenticeships that feed the industry as well as people generally having little interest in developing a career as a hands on auto technician. Additionally many of the large parts distributors have also pulled away from employing people in field based sales roles and have instead increased their online trading. The knock on effect means that there is a severe shortage of qualified field based staff in the trade, we recently calculated that there are probably now only about 300 field operatives working in the UK automotive aftermarket ‘C’ parts sector.
What we do
Our business model is simple in that we are a marketing organisation, which imports Förch products from Germany and sells direct to our UK customer base. A key element of our sales process is to undertake product demonstrations to buyers because unarguably “one demonstration is worth a thousand words”. This also enables our customers to see the products in action and shows them how to use them to their best advantage. We also provide product certificates of conformity to our Body Repair customers for BSI Kitemark requirements, we also evaluate the End Users to ensure that the products we supply are being used correctly and in line with stated repair methods and procedures. Certification is a bi-annual event, so as well as being an importer and distributor, we also provide service, guidance, training and support. We see ourselves as a solutions provider and our business strapline says: "Connecting Technologies By Providing Simple Solutions In A Complex World."
We sell to all types of businesses in the motor trade, whether it’s a small one man operation to a national dealer group, however our customer base tends to have a slight bias towards German marques including BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen dealerships and independent specialist, or the larger BSI Kitemark accredited body shops who must repair the vehicle to its original standards. By way of a local example, Aylesbury Panelcraft is a customer of ours; they are required to repair vehicles to the manufacturer specification so they work with us extensively as we can guarantee the high quality they need.
Why Westcott Venture Park?
I've always been aware of Westcott Venture Park as I used to live in the village and in fact worked at the park for a while within the Motor Transport department for the Rocket Establishment during 1980.
So in 2002 Westcott Venture Park was the natural choice for us to establish our new business, trading from Building 82, which has seen us through some good times along with the more difficult trading conditions of the recession.
The security is definitely a great benefit at WVP and the rural location highly appealing as being a country boy at heart I love to return to the office after a busy day’s business in the field. However by far the biggest draw for me is the parking facilities and surrounding space. I like things to be neat and tidy and really cannot tolerate rubbish and disorganisation, so here we feel quite secluded and if there is any disorganisation we can sort it out immediately. My colleagues often joke it’s a result of my German heritage.
We have a good working relationship with our close neighbour N W T who help by storing our pallets and dealing with our pallet shipping requirements which is very convenient. So not only is the location right for our business at WVP but our working relationships with other on-site businesses are also highly valuable.
Expansion is the way forward both in terms of head count and warehousing space, as we are finding it difficult to maintain current stock levels. We are currently working to capacity and are looking to address the issue of additional business space and staff in anticipation of our planned growth.
Message to Westcott Venture Park businesses
If you require fixings, fastenings or technical chemicals for assembly purposes, we would welcome the opportunity to provide you with the perfect product solution.
If you would like to find out more about our work, please visit www.ziebe.co.uk or for a greater in depth analysis of the product assortment available visit