John King, Windows Active's Director of the Month

Our Sales Director, John King, answers Windows Active's questions...

Featured in Windows Active magazine, October 2023 Director of the Month feature

Working day: I live in the seaside resort of Rhos-on-Sea in North Wales. It’s slightly more west than is ideal, but it’s a great place to wake up and come back to after a day on the road, although I don’t visit the beach as much as I did in the early days now that my children have grown up.

I’m out and about for most of my working week, visiting customers, prospective customers and hardware suppliers, so my days often involve an early start so I can fit in as many meetings as possible. It’s great to see people, tour their manufacturing operations and understand how we can continually add more value to the service we offer. The pandemic showed us that virtual meetings can be useful, but for me, face-to-face meetings are by far the best way to get to know someone and build up a strong working partnership. 

First job: I was an apprentice sheet metal worker at Robert Uttley Ltd in Halifax. I moved into the window industry in 1983 working for Gower Furniture who moved into PVC-U window fabrication. The first profile system I encountered was LB Plastics in Derby. It means I’m celebrating 40 years in the industry this year!. 

When did you join or set up current company: I joined Carl F Petersen in May 2007 as Regional Sales Manager. I left the business for approximately 30 months and rejoined in 2017 as National Sales Manager, and I’m now Sales Director for Carl F Groupco. 

Most useful/favourite gadget: At work, the sat nav – it takes the stress out of life on the road. I started my career with a boot full of A-Zs (maps for the younger generations…). Following the blue line is much easier. At home, Amazon Music – I’m a 70s and 80s lad, and I love everything from punk to pop to reggae. Also Amazon Alexa because it’s great for turning lights on and off at home, no matter where you are in the world, which is great for security. 

Favourite/most useful website: I should say the Carl F Groupco website shouldn’t I! But I’m a pretty good DIYer, so I’ll search forums and do research and YouTube is great for ‘how to’ videos for house projects. 

Favourite restaurant for business: For meetings on the road McDonalds is often perfect – out of town, lots of free parking, the coffee is good, you always get decent Wi-Fi, and, as a careful Yorkshireman, the price goes down well too. As a keen gym goer, I can’t say the same for the food, but for everything else it’s ideal. 

Business person you admire: Sir John Harvey Jones, ex-chairman of ICI. He used to present a TV Show Troubleshooter I watched as a teenager. He would help struggling business turn around. I admired his approach and how he tackled the problems they were facing. 

What lesson have you learnt about business over the last 12 months: Expect the unexpected. Nobody could have known that coming out of the pandemic the next two years would see Carl F Groupco achieve the biggest turnover in our history, which is testament to the dedicated team here at CFG. Despite the challenges, I maintain that when you put in the hard work and keep on grafting, being consistent and showing up, the results will come.  

Best business decision: Moving to a sales role at Carl F Petersen, as it was then, after working in fabrication for many years. The timing was at the right stage of my career, and the experience I gained in fabrication put me in good stead for what was to come. I still wake up today and wonder how I got here… I’m extremely proud of my position within a great company and I work hard to maintain where I am. 

Other interests: Even at 63, I’m still keen on keeping fit and training hard. I try to get to the gym as much as my schedule allows.

Working location: My car is my office, and I love the freedom being on the road gives you – you’re the master of your own destiny. If I’m not out and about visiting, you’ll find me at one of our distribution centres – either our HQ in Peterborough or our Cumbernauld depot in Scotland. This Scottish base means we can offer a full next day delivery service to Scotland, including the Scottish Highlands, something that’s rare in this industry. It means that no matter where a customer is based, we can help them keep stock holding low, reduce risk and improve cash flow. 

Relationships hold the key to success 

When you think about it, Carl F Groupco is a surprising success story. We exist thanks to the merger of two leading hardware distributors back in 2010 and you can buy nearly everything we sell from somewhere else. But despite this, we’ve been in business for more than 70 years, and we’re continuing to go from strength to strength.  


It’s because of the relationships we build with our customers, our team and our manufacturer partners.  

When it comes to our customers, the business was built on the two core beliefs. The first is that we will serve all customers to the same standard, whether they want a single pair of hinges or an entire pallet’s worth. The second is a commitment to supporting our customers’ success, not just our own turnover. 

In terms of the basics, we’re a single source for 57 hardware and tool brands, including all the major industry names, which means one invoice, one delivery and one point to place the order. It streamlines administration and finance processes for our customers. 

We hold up to £5 million in stock at any one time to maximise availability. Our On Time In Full (OTIF) target is 98%, but I think the way we report it perfectly reflects the strength of our commitment to our customers. 

We report on uncompleted orders rather than by component part, because this reflects our customers’ reality. When you only report on components, a delivery that contains 98 out of 100 would meet traditional OTIF target. But those two missing components could be the last components required to make a tilt and turn window or complete a door set. 

We believe that if a customer has placed an order, they have a right to expect to receive the complete order the next day. Therefore, if one single component is not available for a customer’s order, the whole order fails in our OTIF reporting. 

Our Board is similarly committed to the target and is willing to fund our ability to achieve it. During the post-pandemic boom, for example, when the entire sector experienced elevated sales levels and turbulent supply chains, we were able to increase stock levels by 25% – it was a massive investment that secured our customers’ hardware supply despite the challenges the sector as a whole was facing. 

As well as being an independent business we also have very few own-brand products. This gives us the freedom to offer the best technical hardware solutions for our customers without having to consider the best commercial sale. 

We’re also able to offer bespoke hardware kit options to support fabricators. The kits are individually designed to meet each customer’s needs, whether it’s profile-related components or mixed manufacturer parts to deliver a complete window or door hardware set. This service, particularly for our profile system house customers, reduces their hardware picking requirements and streamlines distribution. 

There is also dedicated internal and external technical sales support. This streamlines service, builds relationships and ensures problem-solving is dealt with efficiently by those who know and manage the accounts. 

We go the extra mile too. When we’re asked about weather, durability and security testing, we go beyond simply advising on the compliant hardware. We provide support across the full process, from hardware selection advice to onsite visits to supporting fit-ups and pre-test preparations. This service covers the hardware we supply while also taking a view of the whole window to ensure elements such as screw selection and reinforcing are correct to ensure the best test outcome.

We’re able to provide the level of support we do because of the knowledge, know-how and experience of our entire team. 

Twenty-three of our 36 employees have worked for the company for more than 10 years. The longest-serving member of the team has worked for the company for 39 years. To add to this experience, everyone receives training both in-house and with suppliers to continually increase our product knowledge. We invite manufacturers’ technical experts to attend fit-ups and test days to continue to educate on best fitting practice.  

We have similarly long-standing relationships with our manufacturer partners.  

For instance, we became the UK distributor of FUHR door locks in 1962. And today, we are the largest stockist of FUHR products in the UK and one of its biggest customers worldwide. In addition, we added UNI FRH reversible window hardware to our offering in 2001, now manufactured by Roto. The hardware rapidly became one of our biggest hardware ranges and remains our top selling window hardware today. 

Partnerships help us add even more value to our customers. Proactive procurement ensures products arrive in time to keep our customers’ production moving. We also collaborate across all parts of the business to ensure best practice thrives. Our marketing team ensures product information is kept up-to-date and distributed to customers. Our technical staff assist in new product development. Our sales staff visit customers with suppliers to work on projects together. At the director level, there is work to establish favourable pricing structures.  

Working closely with manufacturer partners, particularly those in Europe, helps to ensure that hardware has relevant testing accreditations for UK building regulations. For example, we recently liaised with the product team at FUHR to confirm all the correct certifications were in place for the popular FUHR 870 Type 8 Emergency Exit multipoint door to meet the new UKCA standard. 

The strength of the relationships and trust in the level of technical expertise means we can work at a more strategic level too. This includes putting forward business cases for new product developments, particularly to suit the UK market.  

For example, we worked with FUHR to develop the SmartSecure brand. The range, which features the FUHR multitronic 881, provides a comprehensive range of smart options for motorised multipoint locking and access control. These ‘More than Mechanical’ products are proving increasingly popular, with sales volumes of electronic and automatic door lock ranges increasing by almost 60% in recent months. The products are particularly attractive for multiple occupancy buildings including  schools, commercial and housing association settings, and as such they’re providing exciting opportunities for significant contracts for our customers. 

To ensure we continue to deliver the products our customers need, we continually assess the industry landscape and work with our customers to understand their requirements. As always, you can expect to see innovative new solutions being added to our portfolio in the coming months.  

All these little things add up to a bigger whole, and they’re why our customers stay with us for the long-term. Six of our top ten fabricator customers have been sourcing from us for over 20 years. It’s a track record we’re proud of – and one we work hard to maintain.  

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