Case study: Windows of opportunity

Case study: Windows of opportunity
Aluminium joinery business Windowmakers hit a glass ceiling – but accountancy firm Bellingham Wallace managed to smash through.

Aluminium joinery business Windowmakers hit a glass ceiling – but accountancy firm Bellingham Wallace managed to smash through.

Bellingham Wallace associate Mike Atkinson and Windowmakers co-owner Heidi Johnston. PHOTO: Robin Hodgkinson

Ten years ago, when Heidi Johnston and husband Bruce bought their aluminium joinery business Windowmakers, it had one computer – DOS-based, of course – and less-than-ideal premises. But it was a fundamentally sound business and with Heidi’s vision and Bruce’s operational management, the business went from strength to strength, winning market share and industry accolades along the way.

But 18 months ago, Heidi felt like she’d hit a ceiling with the business and needed help to take it to the next level. 


Enter business improvement team Matthew Bellingham and Mike Atkinson at Bellingham Wallace. Bellingham says Heidi had already grown a successful business known for delivering a quality product with the timely delivery that is so important to the building industry.

“But we saw potential for future growth and efficiencies in existing practice, and knew we could help her achieve them.”

The team’s reputation for innovation appealed to Johnston’s own entrepreneurial instincts. 

“It was a conscious decision to get a fresh approach and a new set of eyes on the way our business operates,” she says. “It was their approach to accounting and building a strategic relationship to take us to the next level that attracted me.” 

Bellingham and Atkinson’s team prides itself on going beyond the numbers to keep the lives of clients – and their businesses – future fit. Atkinson worked with the Johnstons to ensure just that, leading the two through a day of strategic planning to identify and set targets.

“We broke the business down and reviewed previous financial results and discussed five year goals,” says Johnston. “Rather than just looking at the bottom line, we looked at all the things that make our business tick. They really challenged us.” 


As a husband and wife team, their goals included more time to spend with their four children, as well as specific financial milestones. With goals identified, Bellingham Wallace helped the Johnstons refine and implement a strategic plan with three supporting pillars: robust forecasting, tools to monitor performance and a structural review encompassing tax efficiency, flexibility and future growth issues.

“This planning gave the Johnstons a reset button for their business and personal goals,” says Atkinson. 


The rigour the two brought to business planning is typical of their approach.

“We set a strategy for the marketplace and work backwards from there, with governance and succession planning the glue that brings it all together,” Atkinson says. “Without these elements a business won’t prosper.”

And the partnership continues. Atkinson meets with Windowmakers quarterly to review progress. 


“We have a saying here: follow the process and the results will happen,” says Johnston. “With our regular catch-ups with Mike, we’re constantly referring back to our agreed strategy, refining and making adjustments to achieve our goals. We’re far more proactive now. I guess you could say financial management and strategic planning has now become part of our process.”

Bellingham and Atkinson agree this continued contact is essential to maintaining good business practices and to ensuring clients are better equipped to make bold and powerful future decisions.

“Over the past five years there hasn’t been a lot of future planning,” says Atkinson. “But businesses investing today in forward planning are well-positioned to make inroads over competitors.” 


A year later, the Johnstons have more family time, an upgraded design centre including new ranges of interior hardware, and joinery automation – opportunities identified with Bellingham and Atkinson’s help – and a successful incentive scheme for every member of the team to deliver on the business’ key metrics.

While some results of the process – clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and non-work weekends for Heidi – might not have much to do with accounting, Johnston says they have everything to do with making the business and family relationships run better, and that’s what was important.

Joinery plays a huge role in any building project; flow needs to be right every time in terms of, design, quality and timely execution. Windowmakers has captured the attention of the industry in all three areas, including award-winning architectural designers, and leading building companies. Their personalised approach to homeowners and innovative work is best seen in their newly renovated Design Centre.

IN BRIEF

A strategic approach to goal-setting guided by Bellingham Wallace put the husband and wife owner-operators of Windowmakers on the track to greater business success and their financial goals. A continued partnership with the accountancy's business improvement team has resulted in new product offerings, increased efficiencies, and work-life balance for the owners.

Contact

For more information, contact Mike Atkinson at Bellingham Wallace on mikea@bellinghamwallace.co.nz.