As with any company working within the construction industry during the recent lockdowns, etag worried about the effects Covid-19 might have on its business.
Fixings specialist etag was able to stay open throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, servicing essential sites with PPE, and in doing so, it allowed them to remain operational. But, it was a “very stressful time” says recently appointed Managing Director, Shirley Bowman. “We got through it with a team that stayed dedicated and loyal throughout,” she says.
Founded in Ashbourne, Co Meath, in 2004 by Paul Bonner and Damien Lynch, Paul Bonner’s background lay in fixings and Damien Lynch’s in construction. Both were involved in supply chains, and they brought both together to make the company what it has evolved into today.
Shirley Bowman, Managing Director, etag.
Having started off distributing fixings, hand-tools and safety equipment, they have diversified to now offering ceiling and drywall, masonry, concrete and formwork, airtightness, exterior insulation systems, signage and carpentry.
“We aren’t just a fixings company; we have a far more varied range of products. We wanted to establish a one-stop-shop for people in the industry, so we started to build our supply chain, and it’s very vast what we sell now. If a customer is looking for something we don’t have, we will source it for them,” Shirley Bowman says.
Having battled through the recession in Ireland, some significant changes were to come after this. Following many of their customers, they made the bold move to open an office in the UK in 2011. “We wanted to consolidate our position in Ireland during the recession, and some key staff transferred to London, which was great as we did not lose any key people. It has been a very successful move for us. Then in 2016, we set up a new division which was in M&E fabrication with off-site logistics. This has positioned etag in the critical infrastructure market across Europe,” Shirley Bowman says.
Whilst remaining open for business during Covid and supplying dedicated etag Protect PPE and social-distancing products to sites, some of how they do business had to change.
“There are controlled deliveries now, and we provide order and collect. Many of our team work from home, and it’s going very well. We have found people are just as productive while working from home. We set up a Facebook work site to keep social interaction going, and we wanted to keep everything open and transparent for everyone within the company.”
While Covid heralded many new work practices, company culture had already been changing prior to the pandemic and the crisis expedited many changes.
A Dynamic Rebrand
“From starting up, to the recession, to being fully established, we never had the opportunity to see what our customers and staff thought of us. We approached a marketing company who carried out some market surveys, collating information on our strengths and weaknesses.
“There has been some restructuring and changes internally, and people like myself have stepped up to senior management roles. A technology warehouse management system was being put in place just before Covid, and this was delayed, and we have just finished installing it.
“We thought, we know who we are now, so let’s put it out there with a fresh, more dynamic feel. Let’s make a statement. Our corporate colours are more vibrant, the logo has changed slightly, but it’s more about how we describe ourselves. We have grown quite quickly in the past few years and our customers have been with us for 15 years, so the changes are to keep everyone involved and understand what we’re trying to achieve,” Shirley Bowman says.
The natural workflow has returned in recent months with business starting to peak in September. There are fears over a shortage in construction labour “but to be fair, our customers have tried to keep the flow going as well as they can,” Shirley Bowman says.
“It’s all about 2021 now and how people will get through it. Hopefully, the labour market will change, and there will be more staff available,” she adds.
A major trend noticed by Shirley Bowman in recent months is the use of off-site fabrication, “It is more prevalent with Covid, and contractors just don’t have the manpower to do fabrication on site, so a lot of companies are going with fabrication off site.”
Meanwhile, having prepared for Brexit once before, they are ready to deal with what may come.
“There will be a hump, so it’s about being in a comfortable position before it happening. But it will settle,” she reassures.