Interview: Chris Astley of Astley Access Automation

Here at BFT, we like to work closely with our customers. The Area Sales Managers are there for help and support, not just to facilitate sales. This is certainly the case with Chris Astley of Astley Access Automation; who works closely with Steve Littler, one of of BFT Area Sales Managers. We’ve talked to Chris about his experience of setting up an access automation business and of working with BFT. Here is what he had to say:

What is your background?
After spending 10 years as an Account Manager at Vodafone, I decided to hang up my corporate briefcase, in favour of a toolbox. In 2010 I trained to become a qualified electrician and started my own electrical company.

What made you choose Access Automation?
I wanted to create a valuable business that has resale value in the future.
Having been a member of my local BNI (Business Networking Institute) for many years now and it has proved very useful for gaining and facilitating referrals. During a meeting, one of the other members suggested I consider ‘electric gates’ because the installers he knew were always busy, therefore there must be demand.

After research, I realised that not only was there value in the installation of automation projects, but also in maintenance contracts for existing installations. With my electrical skills and passion to make my business a success I decided this was the right choice for me.

What was your introduction to the industry like?
I took part in an industry safety course; learning the best practice for installing safe access projects. Initially, it was very daunting; I wondered what I was letting myself in for… The industry has had some serious challenges and new legislation and regulation are constantly being updated to keep users safe, which I wholly support, but it adds a lot of pressure to installers.

What is your main USP (unique selling point) at AA Automation?
After the course, I made the decision that Astley Access Automation would always do things the right way. Safety and quality would be our top priorities. There would be no cutting corners in order to reduce costs to ourselves, or the end users. It isn’t uncommon to hear the end user say “I don’t have young kids therefore I don’t need the safety measures, can you remove them from the quote?” This is not something we are ever willing to do.

How have Bft supported you?
Steve Littler, my Bft account manager has been fantastic. He is always willing and available to help when I need him.

I’m a great believer in the importance of good relationships both with customers and suppliers.  Bft are our chosen automation equipment supplier not only because we like Bft kit but because we know, like and trust Steve and all of the Bft team.  When we need help, advice or technical support, we know we can rely on Bft.

How successful have GateQuote leads been?
Bft have passed me seven enquirers looking for electric gate installers, which came from their lead generation website; Five of those leads I won, which I believe, is a good conversion rate. 

These leads are a great offering from Bft. Assuming an average order size of £4,500, with a margin of 38%, these leads would have been worth around £8,550 to me.

As BFT is my automation provider of choice, it is helpful to me that the end user enquiring is also aware of the Bft brand, so they won’t request cheaper and less reliable brands.

Can you give us an example of one of the jobs you won from a GateQuote lead?
Steve rang me one day, to ask if I was interested in a lead which was 100 miles from us, in Carlisle.

I received the contact details of the enquirer and called them to assess the job.
The property itself is stunning; a sizeable mansion that requires an equally impressive sliding gate. The current gate was not fit for purpose; bent, too short and falling to pieces. I had everything I needed, so I submitted my quote.

The end user called me to ask why my quote was twice as much as the other quotes. I explained that patching up the gate was not safe, nor efficient. He was happy to proceed as he understood that it would save him money in the long-term and trusted my professional advice. This is a prime example of how I have chosen to run Astley Access Automation; we might not be the cheapest but we will not compromise on quality to achieve cost reductions.

Which Bft products did you use during this job?
•    Sliding motor – Ares 1500
•    AES GSM Pro
•    Bft
•    ASO safety edges
•    Bircher transmitter/receiver kit

Why do you think you have been successful in winning these jobs?
I can only comment based on customers’ feedback, but professionalism is very important. Turning up at the time promised, in our branded clothing, talking professionally and listening to the customer’s requirements has worked well for me so far.

Finally, would you recommend Bft to other installers?
I’m always surprised by how many customers are aware of Bft and saying we install Bft equipment just gives us more credibility.  What people are concerned about is reliability and safety above cost and being associated to a well-known brand helps us win business.  We are credible and well supported as a result of our relationship with Bft; installers that can’t see the value in that are missing out.