E146: Tom Richardson

Winning with Relationships: The Importance of Supplier and Manufacturer Connections

tom richardson locks direct

eCom@One Listen on Spotify

Podcast Overview

Surviving and thriving in a competitive industry Is more than just keeping your nose to the grindstone and working harder and harder every day. It’s about being smarter in certain aspects and not being afraid to adapt and evolve.

That’s Tom’s mantra. Look after people, build relationships and foster connections. Ultimately, be a nice person. 

Listen to business advice from someone who has transitioned from B2B to B2C while navigating uncertain waters to build a thriving eCommerce business.

eCom@One Presents

Tom Richardson

Tom Richardson is the Director of C&J Supplies, a family-owned business that has been operating for 32+ years. Realising the potential of eCommerce 15 years ago, Tom expanded the business and created Locks Direct, a sister company aimed towards selling padlocks online. 

At the time, it was a niche marketplace, but with the changing times, the company saw it as a logical step to go online and expand their reach. Today, C&J Supplies and Locks Direct are well-established names, known for reliability and quality in the world of online padlock sales.

In this podcast, Tom talks candidly about business. He shares how strong supplier relationships are key to his eCommerce success and how to build trust in a competitive market. Find out the celebrity show that stocked Tom’s products and how that came to be. 

Don’t miss this episode if you are a retailer in a niche marketplace who wants to scale. From years of ups and downs, Tom knows a thing or two about navigating challenging times, so tune in to hear his advice and tips!

Topics covered: 

1:20 – Tom, Director of Locks Direct, talks business advice

9:58 – Strong supplier relationships key to eCommerce success

12:09 – Preferential treatment in business: Does it matter?

21:00 – Building trust in a competitive padlock market

25:39 -Traditional padlocks featured in Celebrity TV shows

31:13 – Staying committed to service amid uncertainty

33:42 – Navigating the challenging industry: Advice & tips

38:00 – Mindfulness book helps focus in chaotic world

Richard Hill [00:00:00]:

Um, hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of eCom@One. Welcome to episode 146. In this episode, I speak with Tom Richardson, director of Locks Direct and C and J Supplies, a family business going back over 30 years. With a focus on supplying an array of padlocks and security products to both B to B and Direct to consumer. Tom has a wealth of experience navigating a very competitive land landscape while running a family business, which I think will resonate with a lot of you. In this episode, Tom talks about differentiating yourself from your competitors, the importance of building relationships in your industry, securing the ultimate celebrity clients, tom's advice to fellow directors and business owners while navigating through mass uncertainty, and Tom's advice on working with agencies. And of course, so much more in this one. So if you enjoyed this episode, hit the subscribe or Follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast. So you're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Now, let's head over to this fantastic episode. Hi, and welcome to another episode of Ecommerce One. Today's guest Tom Richardson, director of CNJ supplies and locks direct. How you doing, Tom?

Tom Richardson [00:01:10]:

Very well, thank you. How are you?

Richard Hill [00:01:11]:

I'm very well, thank you. And you're not too far away, which is quite rare on the on the podcast.

Tom Richardson [00:01:17]:

Yeah, we're about 45 minutes away, I think, which is yeah, sort of quite nice, really, but yeah, isn't it?

Richard Hill [00:01:23]:

And wonders of technology. We still haven't had to jump in the car and catch up.

Tom Richardson [00:01:28]:

It certainly makes life a lot easier, to be honest.

Richard Hill [00:01:32]:

It does. Maybe we're actually building a new studio. We've got new offices been built, so in about two months time, we will have fancy pants studio to hopefully get you back and maybe do version two.

Tom Richardson [00:01:47]:

I think we'll see how the first one goes first.

Richard Hill [00:01:49]:

Well, I think it'd be great to kick off, introduce yourself to our listeners and how you got into the world of ecommerce.

Tom Richardson [00:01:55]:

Yeah. So basically, I'm Tom Richardson. I'm the director of CNJ supplies and locks. Direct. CNJ Supplies is basically a family owned business. It's been going for 32 years. And locks. Direct is basically a sister company of CNJ Supplies. So we wanted to get into the world of ecommerce possibly 1516 years ago. There weren't really many websites with regards to selling padlocks. Back in the day, it was quite a niche marketplace. It seemed very logical to actually get into the world of ecommerce. Since then, things have sort of changed slightly. But because of who we are and how long we've been going for, it seemed a logical step to jump into the world of online and try and sell some padlocks online. Basically.

Richard Hill [00:02:45]:

Yeah. So fair to say a fairly traditional business back going back 30 odd years is what you're saying, which is very much so.

Tom Richardson [00:02:54]:

Yeah. It's a family business. It was started by my parents they started it, it was sort of 32, 33 years ago basically selling a few padlocks and then it sort of went on. They sold containers and then they got sort of asked a lot more with regards to what they were doing. And since then it's just snowboard and it was a very traditional business. We are trying to sort of get a little bit more modernized in the way we do things, which is sometimes easier said than done. But yeah, we try our best to.

Richard Hill [00:03:25]:

Start off as a traditional business and that will resonate. I think we get sort of two types of listener really. One that's very much maybe start of selling a few things from their bedroom and then fast forward five years later they've got 20,000 sqft maybe and anything in between. And then those that have come from maybe a retail background, a traditional family run business, whether that's a retail store in a village, in a town, or multiple locations that have then gone, oh, actually we need to start selling a few things online. And then one starts to potentially usually take over the other, depending on the type of business and so forth.

Tom Richardson [00:04:00]:

To be honest, that's exactly sort of not what is happening, but what is going to happen, I would imagine, because I think things are very different to what they were 30 odd years ago. The CNJ supplies is very much business to business. We don't tend to deal with general public, it's much more commercial biased and it just seemed logical to try and go down the ecommerce route.

Richard Hill [00:04:24]:

I think that again, we talk a lot about B, two B companies that then go into the B to C space and the platform specifically shopify ecommerce, very much so. Very big focus on having those effect. Multi store installs, multi site installs for the B, two B, the B to C, whatever it may be. So you can then offer different propositions, different pricing usually and different order mechanisms and whatnot, purchase orders and things like that. Yeah, exciting. It really resonates. I know it will with a lot of listeners and myself. So obviously it's pretty competitive, I would imagine. I know it is because we do a few things for you and with you. But what would you say to all this is about differentiating in quite a crowded place. What are some of the things you've been doing?

Tom Richardson [00:05:13]:

I think being different is vital and I don't think it matters what you do, what you try and sell, you've got to be different to everyone else because if you're not, you're never going to stand out. I think our main sort of point is the fact that everything we have is available. So stock availability, anything, anyone orders, 95% of the time will be delivered next day. And I think for us that is vital because of the nature of the product that we're selling. It is a padlock. It's a security issue. And most of the time people do want it immediately. Either they've been broken into or somebody has been broken into nearby to them. And I think the nature of what we do, people expect it next day. And I think we're in a fortunate position where we hold a lot of stock. Everything is dispatched directly from our warehouse. We don't drop ship from anywhere else. And I think as a result of that, that sets us aside. I'm not saying that other people don't do that, but a lot of the time if somebody wants to order 200 of a certain padlock, they will have them there next day, as long as they order them before 02:00 in the afternoon.

Richard Hill [00:06:23]:

I assume a fairly unique proposition in your industry to have that level of stock.

Tom Richardson [00:06:28]:

I think it is. And with regards to what we're selling, I think most of the time people expect things next day, and I think it's the nature of the beast. I think we're all guilty of wanting something, wanting it here, next day, and I think people sort of tend to expect that, but I think especially due to the nature of our products, I think there is a sense of urgency sometimes when people order them, not all the time. And I think you can only sell something that you've got in the warehouse and if not, they're going to go somewhere else. And then the issue is trying to get them back for the second time.

Richard Hill [00:07:03]:

Yeah. If somebody comes to you and orders large volumes, say a couple of hundred padlocks, I assume it's a pretty sizable order. Do you have a sort of specific strategy on delivery? So next day delivery, I think was it last week? I was looking for a pair of shoes. I actually went out a day off. I thought, I'm going to go to town. And I went to town and went to about five shoe shops and I'm quite a big, obviously, we have met in person and I'm quite a tall chap and quite large shoes, and they didn't have my size, like, flipping out, but they said, Go on the website, you can order. Went on the website. It was Friday, about 03:00, and basically by 09:00 on Saturday morning, I had the shoes in my hand because they'd had next day delivery on their site. I did have to pay for it though, which was like it's one of those, isn't it, where obviously you've got to pay for certain things but it's become quite expected at certain I agree.

Tom Richardson [00:08:04]:

I think if people want something, if they order something at 01:00 p.m. And they want it their next day, I do think generally people expect to pay for that next day service. I mean, on our website we do offer it that if you order over a certain amount, you can get a two to three day service when it's non urgent but most of the items that we sell. No matter if somebody orders 300 padlocks, if we've got that particular padlock in in that quantity, there is no reason why it should not go out that day to be delivered the next working day. And I think it's important, and I think people expect that, but the problem is the best.

Richard Hill [00:08:41]:

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Tom Richardson [00:09:23]:

Better service you offer, the more sometimes people expect from you. And we do have cut offs because we have certain times where the courier actually collects from us, and that pretty much dictates what we can and cannot do. And obviously, if it's being collected for that business day, it's fairly limited what we can actually offer.

Richard Hill [00:09:44]:

Okay, so, relationships, I know quite a bit about your business, and we'll get to that as we go through the episode. But how important has it been for you building industry relationships in the business?

Tom Richardson [00:09:58]:

It is vital, and I think it's because of our sort of long standing relationships with suppliers and manufacturers, because of the length of time we've actually been going on in business. I think without the relationships, you are nothing. And I think it helps working with manufacturers. It helps going over to see where all these items are made. We've been over to Germany to see where all the Abbas padlocks are made, built, dispatched from. And I think, to be honest, it gives you a much better and rounded knowledge of the products themselves. And I think sometimes you can only actually sell items if you thoroughly understand them. And you've got to have relationships with suppliers and manufacturers. Without that, there is no business on the Ecommerce front, I don't think. And I think because we deal directly with manufacturers, it does make life easier and we can request certain things when we need them. And also we have on certain products in the past, we've actually worked with Squire, we've worked with Abbott to actually help develop some of these padlocks because at the same time, they appreciate our feedback. And it's important. I think you have to have good relationships with them. Don't get me wrong, we have our sort of issues with everyone sometimes, as I suppose everyone else does, but you're only as good as the people that you're working with.

Richard Hill [00:11:21]:

I think we'd be sort of going back to that sort of large stock volumes, that commercial relationship with those suppliers. Obviously understanding the products is one thing, but having a deeper, longer relationship, I sort of getting flashbacks because I used to run an ecom store or various ecommerce stores back in the day. And once you start committing to suppliers, and in your case for dozens of years, in effect, in some instances, obviously building those relationships will then mean, I assume, sort of potentially like preferential treatment in terms of allocation of start. When there's certain shortages, you're giving them forecasts that are going to get honored in a maybe preferential way, preferential terms, maybe. Was there any sort of other commercial things that benefited you from those relationships?

Tom Richardson [00:12:09]:

Yeah, I think a lot of it is sometimes it is preferential treatment, sometimes not all the time. But I think based on what we spend with certain manufacturers each year, you do want a bit of special treatment compared to somebody that doesn't spend a lot with them. They know the certain items that we require. There are more popular items that they would always keep in good stock levels. A lot of the stuff that we get from Abbott, for example, comes straight from Germany. But it takes time to understand how everyone works. And I think sometimes if you do have a particular request from a customer that isn't maybe on the shelf, you can work with the manufacturers and actually adapt something or tailor made something. Like we've done certain padlocks where the company have actually had their own branding on the padlock. People love that type of thing. And I think if you just started out and had the relationship, I don't think you'd be able to get that through. And it has to count for something, the amount of time that you work with people and have dealt with them on a business level.

Richard Hill [00:13:13]:

Yeah, I'm a big massive believer in that. I think I've always had like a mentality of just a simple thing of paying my bills so quick. It obviously depends on the business, but if you're dealing with somebody and I've come across a lot of people that they may be just negotiate, negotiate and negotiate, but it's give and take. You've got to be able to say, well, why is that supplier going to give you everything if you're not then.

Tom Richardson [00:13:37]:

Going to also, I think it works both ways. I think you've got to have a fair relationship with suppliers and manufacturers, and I think we've always done that. My father has always instilled that into me. And I think you got to treat people how you want to be treated yourself. And I think, like you say, make sure everyone is paid on time, make sure there's no issues. And you've got to be getting on with people from the people that are packing the orders say it's Squire or Abbott to actually the people at the top of the tree that are dictating what you're paying for and what discounts you can get. And I think without that, you're lost. And sometimes we do need to call on them for a bit of help. We might have a particularly large order where they'll help us do some of it. We'll do the bulk of it, and without that relationship, you'd find it very difficult.

Richard Hill [00:14:24]:

Absolutely key. I think that gets missed quite often. Sort of old school. Sort of an old school. We're just good relationships rather than just I still see it now in some of the people, you know, that I've I've spoke to over the probably a couple of people spring to mind. One particularly, where it's just all about getting a discount. A discount, a discount, the discounts. It's like, Hang on a minute, there's only so much give and take and at the end of the day, you've got to give something back. Now, correct. Whether that's committing to X, Y and Z, whether that's right, if this happens, then we'll do this. But honoring what you say you're going to do and paying people absolutely speed. I think it's quite challenging out there, I think, for a lot of people. And if you're the one out of the ten people are after the start that's willing to and can afford to maybe pay early, even in some instances, but forecast maybe quite a lot. Obviously it depends on the business, the cash flow, et cetera, but it absolutely.

Tom Richardson [00:15:15]:

Does and it takes time to get to that point. I mean, I realize we have been going a long time, but that puts us in a good position, but it hasn't always been as it is now. In the very early days, it was hard work. It is difficult because you're starting from nothing and you're trying to forge these relationships, but it's very important to like, we have a direct line into John Squire, the head of the Squire manufacturing business. It's important, that is, and it's nice for us to have that relationship, to actually pick up the phone and speak to them and say, look, why don't we do this? Can we do this? Or what's happening about that. And it works both ways from their side of things as well.

Richard Hill [00:15:55]:

So I think there'll be a lot of people listening that obviously won't have been in business 30 odd years. No, you're even ten. Ecom is obviously been going 20 odd years, but in reality, I would hasten a bet that the majority of people listening have been in it for 23456 years. Seven years. So for those guys that are maybe a couple of three years into this and are trying to build better relationships with some their suppliers, would you sort of recommend, like, maybe Pinpointing and focusing on one or two as a start point and really sort of going a bit more all in with a small.

Tom Richardson [00:16:29]:

Percentage and then, yeah, personally, I would understand who you want to work with and what you want to be selling. And instead of just dealing with 123456 or seven, nail down two or three, go and meet them, get inside their heads, understand what they're doing, why they're selling it, understand the product. And I think initially, that's what you've got to do. You've got to know what you're selling. And it's not just padlocks, it could be anything, but you've got to eat, sleep and breathe it. And I think if you're doing that with 8910 different suppliers, it's impossible. But we're a big believer that you've got to be meeting suppliers and manufacturers face to face. I think without that, the relationship is never going to be where it should be unless you actually sit down in front of people and just have a chat and understand each other's businesses.

Richard Hill [00:17:21]:

I would say there's an action right there for the guys that are listening, that are with us right now. When's the last time you went and met or went to or they came to you, but really go to them, go to your suppliers, whether that's the warehouse, distribution, wherever they may be. I think I'm absolutely the same. We love, obviously, Tom's a client of ours. We meet up, you meet our team. We're not too far away, so we're quite fortunate in that way, but still traveling, whether it's you mentioned, I think Germany, didn't you? At the beginning, wherever it may be an afternoon or an evening or a couple of days somewhere, building those relationships because two or three core relationships in any business can be transformational. So I think that's great, it's vital.

Tom Richardson [00:18:03]:

And it would make a big, big difference. And I think it is a bit traditional in the way that we do things sometimes, but it pays off and you have those relationships, you can achieve a bit more, you can get a bit more done and it just helps assist everything, I think, moving forward.

Richard Hill [00:18:21]:

Brilliant. So, obviously, lots and lots of orders over the years, 30 plus years, was it 16 years? On the ecommerce side of things, what sort of advice would you give around how to make sure customers feel valued and appreciated? You must have learned a few things along the way.

Tom Richardson [00:18:40]:

We have, definitely. I mean, we are far from perfect and I think we're still far from perfect in what we're trying to achieve. But I think it's very sort of traditional values of treating everyone the same, whether they're ordering a luggage padlock or whether they're trying to order 2000 padlocks for shipping containers. I think you've got to treat every person as the same in the same way, based on what the value of the order is. And I think you've got to understand what people want and not trying to just sell them something that is a high ticket item or that you're going to be getting a bit more money from. I think the problem in what we sell is a lot of the time people realize what they want to lock up, but they haven't got a clue what they need to actually use to lock the item up. And I think that's why we take a bit of time to actually not educate customers, but help people understand what is available, but without asking the question of what you're trying to achieve by it. You've got no idea of doing it. And I think you've just got to take the time just to understand what people want.

Richard Hill [00:19:42]:

So you spend quite a lot of time on the phone, not maybe personally, but your team are on the phone quite a lot.

Tom Richardson [00:19:47]:

Then we do speak to, yeah, we are trying to sort of make our website a bit more logical in what we do and what their relevant padlocks are for what application. But we are very up for speaking to people on the telephone and I think when you speak to people on the phone, that is when you're going to understand what it is. It's very difficult to get that across. Sometimes on an email, people will ring us up, say, I've got this, I don't know what I need. We're like, okay, what are you trying to do? Take some photos, let's have some images of it sent across, and we'll take the time. And sometimes it can take time to get to that point, but without that, you're not sort of advising people accurately. And if you're not careful, you're sending someone that's a padlock that's far too big, then you're going to end up having it returned back to you, then you're going to have to send another one out. So actually spending that five to 10 minutes or so initially just makes life a lot easier and saves money in return costs.

Richard Hill [00:20:46]:

Yeah, brilliant. So, obviously a lot of orders, a lot of orders gone through the business over the years. What are maybe some of the challenges you've faced in building those customer relationships and having become them?

Tom Richardson [00:21:00]:

I think sometimes it's trust and I think it's also the padlock market is very competitive nowadays. When we first did Lobster X, sort of 1415 years ago, there was pretty much no one else doing it, so it was fairly straightforward. The website didn't have to be particularly glamorous. Not that it's that glamorous at the moment, padlocks are glamorous, but it was much easier because there weren't sort of like the likes of screw fixes or tool banks and there's a lot of other people out there doing it reasonably well, as much as that pains me to say, especially in the padlock market. But it is very competitive and I think cheapest is not always the best but I think we try and add services in, like the service, like the knowledge of the actual items. But you've got to get people to trust you. And I think it's especially when you're securing their worldly belongings or whether you're securing a compound or a business or 10,000 pounds worth of stock in a shipping container, you've got to build that trust. And to build the trust, I think you've got to have the knowledge initially and just be normal and just be a human being, I think, to somebody down the phone.

Richard Hill [00:22:14]:

Yeah, so just been doing the right thing, knowledgeable, spending time understanding and building that, as you say, your business is all about you're securing something of, in theory, very high value and then some, really. So they want to know that you know what you're talking about.

Tom Richardson [00:22:33]:

I think you've got to and I think you've got to understand that there's a lot of insurance grades that are relevant. So, say if somebody gets broken into, an insurance company will say you've got to have a particular send grade of padlock, you've got to know what you're doing. And that's not just me. Everyone at work is much more capable than I am in speaking to people. And it doesn't matter who answers the phone, everyone has the knowledge to deal with.

Richard Hill [00:22:57]:

It takes me back to my I don't know if we've discussed this before or not, Tom, but my previous business to this, I used to have a computer component business where I used to import from all around the world, obviously mainly China and the Far East, computer components. We had about 20,000 sqft full of stuff, but very, very high value stuff. You get computer cases which were big and bulky, but quite cheap, really about $1012 as a cost. But then you could have a stick of memory the size of your finger. That could be 500 pounds. It takes me back to this sort of set of keys that I had for the building. It was just Kia lock after lock after lock. You used to have all the Ram raid bars and bolas. Yeah, but they were steeled. You could move them up and down. So you go through those first, then you get to the roller shutter and they'd have another one on. Then the roller shutter would have one on. Then you get in the building all the high value stuff. We then had a 20 foot container within the building, which then had a cage Ram at the entrance that then had a goodness me, this is about 20 years ago, to be fair. But, yeah, we had a 20 foot container, but probably on a good day, it probably had like 400 grams worth of stuff in it and then the whole warehouse as well had all the other stuff in it. But, yeah, it takes me back to.

Tom Richardson [00:24:21]:

The well, no, and I think it's relevant because at the moment, unfortunately, as the cost of living increases, so does crime. And then security is even more important to get right. Whether it's your garden shed with all your tools in there at home, or whether it's a commercial business with warehousing or whatever else, it's more relevant than it ever has been. I think at the moment, I think.

Richard Hill [00:24:43]:

A lot of the listeners will be like, obviously we're more about the ecommerce on the podcast, but the reality is, everybody that's listening probably has got a warehouse that has got padlocks correct. In reality, they'll remember going to buy their first ABLOY or whatever it is.

Tom Richardson [00:24:58]:

Yeah, I've still got a set of.

Richard Hill [00:25:00]:

Keys somewhere kicking around of the house from years ago, because all the spare sort of thing. But anyway, sorry, go on, what you're going to say?

Tom Richardson [00:25:09]:

No, carry on. Sorry.

Richard Hill [00:25:11]:

So, obviously, many clients over the years and a lot of sort of high profile projects you've worked on. I know one of the projects that you worked on was I'm A Celebrity, which for those I think most people listening will know, but I'm a Celebrity, get Me Out Of Here, about 20 years strong, UK TV show. I think there's various various other countries run a similar version as well. But how did you manage to win or get projects like that?

Tom Richardson [00:25:39]:

Yeah, I mean, this sort of came out from nowhere, really. I mean, I was I had a meeting at your offices back in January time, and I sort of dropped this in casually. And everyone actually seemed relatively impressed, which I was sort of quite surprised by, but I didn't. Really think a lot of it at the time because we sort of do deal with certain people and we don't really advertise it on the website. We just sort of get on and do what we do. But the producers from the Army Celebrity Show came to us. They wanted a range of traditional style padlocks. And by the traditional style, it's like the padlock that was on the front of the Coronation Street interlude, like the real traditional old school, old English squire padlock, brass looking. That's it, yeah, it's like very traditional. And they basically wanted a selection of ten of these that they were going to use on one of the challenges, which obviously everyone in the office got particularly excited about. And actually, it's quite nice we're not doing this day in, day out with the ITV or stuff like this, but it makes it a bit more interesting. And they were very keen on them. We sent them a sample to have a look to make sure they were happy. Whoever organizes all the challenges on that show, which most of them are absolutely horrendous the challenges that they have to do, but actually, it was quite good fun and it's sort of quite rewarding. Once you've taken the time with these producers, then you're sat watching the show, which actually that year I did watch. The show, just so I can actually see where the padlocks were. And it is satisfying. We've worked with Warner Brothers on the House of the Dragon show. They run us up and wanted certain padlocks for their storage of all the actual props for the actual show. Once we did it all, the gentleman who we dealt with at Warner Brothers told us what it was. Again, it's a bit of fun. We don't have a lot of glitz and glamour in the Pavlot world, but when we have this, it makes it a bit more interesting and it gives you all something to talk about. But I must admit, when we came over in January, everyone was very impressed with it. I was a bit blase about it, to be honest, at the time.

Richard Hill [00:27:44]:

Well, I know our head of digital PR was like, oh, my God, that's just insane. It was the things we could do with that to get those stories out there, the sort of relating, as you say, maybe not the sexiest product padlock to that.

Tom Richardson [00:28:00]:


Richard Hill [00:28:01]:

Dragons was, at the time one of the biggest shows. Obviously, I'm a celebrity. Massive following. One of the biggest sort of viewers viewers on ITV, isn't it?

Tom Richardson [00:28:10]:

I think, yeah, it is. What's been going for, like you said before, 20 odd years or so. But, I mean, I actually watched A House of Dragon. I enjoyed Game of Thrones. We've continued to work with them since, which it's nice and it's testament to you just got to do what you do and promise you're going to deliver things when you should do and stick to it.

Richard Hill [00:28:33]:

So they've found you on the web, they've rang up, you've had a conversation with them. They obviously thought, yeah, these guys know what I'm talking about. Obviously, genuine passion and understanding for the different products and what's available and maybe finding different things and sending samples.

Tom Richardson [00:28:46]:

And I think, again, that's what's important with the relationships with customers. And I think when you speak to people on the phone, they can obviously get a fair idea that we know what we're doing most of the time, our place. And I think people pick up on that. And I think sometimes just doing that from a website is difficult. That's why we're more than happy just to speak to people over the phone.

Richard Hill [00:29:10]:

It's nice, isn't it? I do think ecom is obviously less and less on the phone. It's how it is. But certain products do need that, especially if you're doing volume on things going from one paddle out to 200 padlock. That's quite a difference, isn't it?

Tom Richardson [00:29:25]:

Whereas if you say it is and I think people sometimes, not all the time, I mean, we are trying to drive more business through the website to alleviate speaking to every customer on the phone, which we don't, I would say it's possibly only 25, 30% of people that we actually speak to. Sometimes it's either because they just don't really know what they want or it's because, have you got this in stock? Can we have it here for tomorrow? And I think sometimes people just want to pick up the phone, get an answer, put the phone down, put the order in and it's just a bit quicker sometimes.

Richard Hill [00:29:57]:

That's great. So I think those that are listening, who have you sold things to? What brands, companies? Famous people maybe? What sort of maybe PR can you do with that? Obviously we need to speak to the client first to make sure they're okay with that and so on. Or probably after the obviously if you're sending something for a show that hasn't gone live yet, you can't probably talk about that till after the show.

Tom Richardson [00:30:21]:

Yeah, no, we have got a couple of other things going on which whether they're going to be released on TV or not, I don't know. A lot of the time, sometimes people do not want us to mention who they are or where we're working with them, especially on the security side of things, it can be very sensitive, which is fine and which everyone at our place appreciates.

Richard Hill [00:30:41]:

Yeah, that's totally understandable, isn't it? Right, well, I think a little change of direction now, so obviously I think at the moment there's quite a lot of challenges out there. It's no big secret is that there's a lot of turn on the news, there's a lot of chatter around, a lot of different things, cost of living and so forth, a lot of uncertainty in different industries, certain industries really having some challenges and so forth. What advice would you give to business owners that are listening now? Directors, people that are running businesses around, sort of navigating, maybe a little bit more challenging times?

Tom Richardson [00:31:13]:

Yeah, I mean, I think you've just got to keep do what you're doing and do it brilliantly and do it as well as you can and stick to the plan. And yes, it is very uncertain out there and a lot of other people that we deal with, a lot of my friends that running businesses doesn't matter what business you're in. Everything is different at the moment and everything is a bit more challenging. But I think you've just got to concentrate on service and I think it's got to be service service and I think that will help you differentiate you from somebody else. And sometimes I don't think that dropping prices is automatically the best route to go by because that is sort of short term. I don't think that is a long term plan and I think if you get in bidding wars with other companies on the internet it's only going to end in tears, unfortunately. And I think once you drop them, you can't then just put them back up totally.

Richard Hill [00:32:07]:

I think it's a scary game, isn't it? If it's just all about price, price can be important but if it's all about just being the cheapest, then that's a scary game, obviously.

Tom Richardson [00:32:18]:

Yeah, it is. And it's never what we want to do or what we want to be achieving. I mean, don't get me wrong. We have to be competitive because the nature of what we do, you can buy this padlock from us, or you can buy that exact same padlock from somebody else, but what we try and do is make the website a bit more interesting, a bit more helpful, and just pride ourselves on the service, the turnaround, the stock availability. And that's what sort of hopefully picks us out from everyone else in the marketplace.

Richard Hill [00:32:50]:

Good old fashioned service, isn't it? I think that's totally how I believe any business. There's a lot of people doing it.

Tom Richardson [00:32:58]:

It's got to come down to it. And I think when I go out and about my wife and my daughter somewhere, or we go shopping for the day, service is either excellent or it's absolutely dreadful. And I think in this country, sometimes people say, oh, it'll be okay. It's not okay. And I think people expect service even more so nowadays, and that's what we've always done, and that's what we'll always try and achieve.

Richard Hill [00:33:26]:

Yeah, totally with you on that one. So, obviously, we've been working with you for a while, and you've worked with quite a lot of different people in the agency space over the years, from my understanding. What advice would you give to listeners around sort of navigating and working with agencies?

Tom Richardson [00:33:42]:

Be careful, I think, not against you, but against past people that we've dealt with in the past. It's a challenging industry, I think, to understand. For me personally, I always know what I want to achieve from the website and what the website and what our business can achieve. But getting us to that point is not what I understand. I understand what we do, not what you do, with all due respect. And I think you've just got to do your research. We've had a few issues in the past. I think sometimes things start very well 10, 12, 14 months down the line. Things sort of dip off, get a bit comfortable. I'm a big believer. You've got to not keep people on the toes, but you've just got to keep it interesting. And I think you've got to understand and, again, forge these relationships with people. When we first started working with you, it took a good couple of weeks to go through the initial plans. Emma was involved. She was incredibly helpful initially, and it helps you understand your world more so than I do understand. And again, that's about communicating with people and communicating with each other, spending time.

Richard Hill [00:35:02]:

With those people that are working on your marketing, whether that's an agency or in this instance, an agency, just taking on an agency and sort of leaving them to it is not the answer, is what you're saying?

Tom Richardson [00:35:13]:

Absolutely not. No. And I think the agency also has to take time to understand your business and what you do. Without that understanding, they're never going to be able to achieve what you want them to achieve.

Richard Hill [00:35:26]:

Totally a deep understanding of what you do as the client in this instance. But then obviously if you've got an understanding of what that agency is doing and working on, you've obviously got and got that confidence, you're more willing to open up a bit more about the business and the commercials. Maybe the agency can then focus more on more commercial areas in the business that are then going to drive more profit. That then obviously, ultimately that's long term the relationship has to commercially work, doesn't it?

Tom Richardson [00:35:56]:

Yeah, it doesn't. It benefits both people and I think everyone has to understand what everyone else is doing and it's important. And I think for us personally, we haven't had that from previous agencies, but you can't expect everything to be wonderful all the time and unfortunately that's just business and that's just the way life is sometimes.

Richard Hill [00:36:16]:

Okay, so what's next for locks? Direct.

Tom Richardson [00:36:19]:

And we have got a new brand new website coming out in possibly three or four weeks. For Locks Direct we've spent a long time with United, the agency that are working with, which I know you guys work with. Again, we've spent a long time with them understanding what we want or what I would like from the new website that I feel the website is missing. And that's exciting. It's going to be much easier to use from a Usability point of view, from a customer point of view. It's going to be much easier to actually pay for transactions, it's going to be easier to send back items which hopefully we won't get too many of, but we're all very excited about that and I think that will then help develop what we're doing and the figures that we want to be achieving basically.

Richard Hill [00:37:06]:

Brilliant. Well, I look forward, obviously, I know the team are all looking forward to getting everything live.

Tom Richardson [00:37:11]:

Everyone is very yeah, there is a fair bit of pressure on myself to actually get this done, which is sort of in between sort of running everything else and doing everything else is easier said than done, but it should be really good. And we're also looking at doing a reviews platform, which I think is important, especially on padlocks because again, people don't necessarily understand the individual items and I think reviews are important. I know personally, whenever I buy anything for myself, for the house, for the business, whatever, I find it interesting, as sad as that sounds, to read through people's reviews.

Richard Hill [00:37:50]:

Absolutely. It's a huge part of any ecom sort of tech stack. So yeah, absolutely. So I like to finish every episode with a book recommendation. Tom, do you have a book that you recommend?

Tom Richardson [00:38:00]:

So yes, this is a bit of a strange one, but actually it's a book on Mindfulness and it's by a chuck called Mark Williams and Danny Penman. And basically, my sister in law bought me this possibly three or four years ago and I think she thought I was going through a mid, midlife crisis at the age of 35. And actually, it helps you stay present in the moment that you're in without wandering around thinking of a million and one things going on in your head at any one time.

Richard Hill [00:38:32]:

What's the best?

Tom Richardson [00:38:33]:

It's called Mindfulness a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. I can't say I read many books like this, but actually, I think Rebecca, my sister in law, sort of had read it herself and thought I might have benefited from it, whatever that means about me. I don't know.

Richard Hill [00:38:52]:

That sounds brilliant. We'll link that up in the show notes. But thank you for coming on the show, Tom. For those that want to find out more about brands, your brands and yourself, what's the best way to do that? Best way to reach yeah, best way.

Tom Richardson [00:39:04]:

Is to I'm on LinkedIn and you can have a keep out on locksdirect dot co UK for the new website and also there's a new website coming on cjsupplies. Co UK over the next six months or so.

Richard Hill [00:39:17]:

Well, thanks for coming on the show. Look forward to seeing you soon. Bye.

Tom Richardson [00:39:19]:

It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much.

Richard Hill [00:39:22]:

Thank you for listening to the eCom@One eCommerce podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, please hit subscribe and don't forget to sign up to our ecommerce newsletter and leave us a review on itunes. This podcast has been brought to you by our team here at Econ One, the ecommerce marketing agency.

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