With nearly 20 years at COBA, Chris Stanley talks about his progression through the company and ultimately his role today as Sales Director of COBA Europe and specifically its newly launched COBA Flooring division.
A bit of background…
Chris Stanley initially joined COBA Plastics as UK National Accounts Manager in 1996 for what was then the Matting Division. He quickly progressed to become Sales Manager in 2000. (At that time, COBA Europe had not been launched, and both the Matting and Extrusion business operations traded under the COBA Plastics banner.)
COBA Europe Ltd was launched in 2007 on the back of increased market share in both the industrial safety flooring and commercial entrance matting markets. The launch of COBA Europe Ltd coincided with the completion of modern purpose-built offices and a new matting manufacturing and warehousing facility adjacent to the COBA Plastics building.
Chris was promoted to Sales Director of COBA Europe in 2011 and has responsibility for both the industrial and commercial flooring business in the UK, alongside Managing Director, Richard Cooke. Earlier this year, in 2014, a specialist flooring division was launched in direct response to COBA’s growing commercial entrance matting business trading as COBA Flooring.
“COBA’s matting business really came of age in 2007 and it was certainly a milestone moment when we broke away from COBA Plastics and moved into a new purpose-built COBA Europe facility,” says Chris. “Our business had started in the industrial safety sector and today COBA is undoubtedly a leader in this market, which is still very important to us and one that we continue to build on.”
When asked about how COBA became so involved with the commercial flooring sector, Chris explains:
“Over the years, our range expanded to include loose lay entrance mats. This was really by the request of our distributors and also through connections we had established with floor mat and carpet manufacturers worldwide. So the progression to entrance matting systems really seemed quite natural and we could see great potential for the business.”
What’s happening now…
“We are heavily involved with further developing the commercial entrance matting side of our business under our new COBA Flooring brand,” says Chris. “We have customised our brand to deliver a bespoke, specialist service to our flooring customers, working alongside them on both new build and refurbishment projects. This is probably one of the biggest changes we have made to our COBA Europe business model and while we are still relatively new in this market, we are already making a favourable impression on the industry.”
Chris goes on to explain that COBA Flooring is in the process of recruiting additional people for this specific task including a dedicated Account Manager.
“We now have two internal business development co-ordinators, one for the South of England and Wales, and one for North of England and Scotland, both of whom are working with architects, specifiers, flooring contractors and main contractors.”
How COBA Flooring helps…
“It is our aim to give our customers, whether they are involved with the planning stages or at the end of the project, as much product support as possible. So whether the customer is an architect or specifier, a main contractor or flooring contractor, our internal sales team can lend their support and give product advice,” says Chris. “We supply samples, quotes and can accompany customers on site visits, and we are always very willing to get involved during the specification stage. We also provide detailed technical datasheets which our customers find useful.”
Chris also comments on the growing trend for value engineering in design and build.
“Entrance matting can be one of the final elements to a construction project and sometimes flooring contractors deviate from the original specification usually as a result of cost saving initiatives. We can very often accommodate this as we carry stock, manufacture in-house in the UK and have a range of price competitive off-the-shelf and custom made solutions.”
How COBA Flooring stands out from the crowd…
“COBA Flooring offers a choice of quality entrance matting products that are very competitively priced in the market, and we manufacture here in the UK. Our product offering is straight forward (user-friendly if you like!) and that’s one of the reasons why more and more flooring contractors are favouring our range, and we are developing very good working relationships as a result of this,” says Chris. “We already offer good lead times, but we are looking to reduce these further for stocked product. And we have to mention, that we have a great working environment, offices and facilities, and we welcome customers to our premises.”
There has been much publicity in the media about the Government’s construction strategy for BIM (Building Information Modelling) implementation and how it will affect the supply chain. A key focus for COBA Flooring is adding entrance matting products to the BIM library.
“We are really keen to stay ahead of developments so naturally we are keen to be involved in such a programme. Getting our entrance matting products listed within the BIM library is important.”
In terms of new products, the plan.a custom made to order aluminium entrance matting system is really making an impression. “We didn’t previously offer an aluminium option but we listened to flooring contractors during the development phases of our plan.a system,” explains Chris. “Based on their feedback, we have developed plan.a to offer the option of both open and closed construction (depending on preference). For flooring contractors, it’s easy to install and can be rolled back and adjusted if needed. It’s manufactured by COBA in the UK and is competitively priced.”
Premier Surface is also another innovation developed by COBA Flooring as a heavy duty surface laid solution for entrances that do not have recessed matwells. “We spent some considerable time developing this product, and its design is based on the success of our PVC/carpet tile range and feedback from the retail sector. It’s really where the end user requires a professional surface laid installation for areas that don’t have matwells. Our Premier Surface product is very effective, smart and easy for flooring contractors to install without preparation of an existing floor surface, or the need for the construction of a recessed matwell. This product is super-resilient and can even withstand the weight of supermarket trolleys. It has already been approved for use by one of the supermarket giants.”
Chris likes most about the job…
“Well, I think we have a great product range and a great team to start with! I really like the versatility of the job, meeting new people in the industry and developing new business. I especially enjoy my annual trip to Domotex where I can have the opportunity to catch up with business acquaintances over a few beers! It’s an extremely exciting time for COBA Flooring, and the COBA Europe business as a whole.”