Interview with Richard Harris, Owner of Target Fire
According to the Office of National Statistics, last year the UK economy decreased by 9.9%, deeply affecting certain industries in a horrendous way, with mass unemployment and furlough being implemented. On the outside it can look pretty bleak for businesses, but we wanted to see exactly how it had affected a nationwide company in the fire industry.
We decided to speak to Richard Harris, the owner of Target Fire, a family run business with over 25 years’ experience in the fire-safety industry, to see how he was feeling about the past year.
1. In general how has your business been affected since the start of the pandemic until now?
The main issue for us has been gaining access to customers’ premises. Understandably, because of the restrictions in place we haven’t been able to access certain properties or areas within certain properties due to the government’s legislation. However, in quite a resilient manner general business has only been around 10% down on the previous year, which could have been a lot worse if you take a look at the hospitality industry, for example.
2. Are your workers classed as key workers?
Yes, because the work we do is classed as essential, which it absolutely is. To have it labelled by the government as ‘key work’ only reinforces the importance of what we do in preventing risk to the health and safety of both workers and visitors to premises.
3. How have customers responded to you doing work – are they comfortable or hesitant when you’re on their property?
As our engineers follow full Covid protocol in terms of wearing PPE (including gloves and masks, sanitising and washing hands), the majority of our clients have been reassured by the steps we are taking and hold full confidence in our safety-first approach.
4. What sort of physical changes have you made to your premises?
Our offices are very well spaced out, and the member of staff who runs our Fire Safety workshops is out of the way of the rest of the employees. So we are very well socially distanced at our Rochdale HQ, and we have had no Covid outbreaks, fortunately.
5. Which products/services have you noticed with more demand during the pandemic?
Maybe not surprisingly, all products and services have stayed roughly the same demand wise, apart from one, which has dropped slightly. We’re sure this will recover quickly though.
6. Which products/services have you noticed with less demand during the pandemic?
On-site Fire Training has taken a bit of a hit for obvious reasons, but as we are an adaptable business, and due to the huge product mix we provide, the business as a whole is still performing really well.
7. Since the release of the government’s roadmap, have you noticed any change in customer behaviour (e.g. more positivity)?
Since the roadmap was published and instructed by the Prime Minister it has been easier to get on-site clients as they are able to confirm whether we can access all of their properties and still stay on the right side of the law with more certainty.
8. Have you introduced any new products/services since last March, or had any new potential ideas for the future?
We’re going to stick with what we have for now. Being in this industry for over 25 years we like to think our range of services is comprehensive, with Fire Extinguishers, Servicing, Fire Alarms, Fire Equipment, Risk Assessments and Fire Safety Training.
9. How confident are you for the industry’s future?
We’re very confident about the future! Particularly since the update regarding Grenfell legislation and the fact that Fire Regulations are very tight. We’re happy to keep people safe, and it will always be needed.
10. What have you noticed about the competition in this time – have they been more proactive or reactive?
They have been experiencing similar issues to us when it comes to on-site fire-safety training, but we are all very resilient in this industry!
For more information, go to www.target-fire.co.uk