Established in 1979, Focus SB is a luxury electrical wiring accessory manufacturer based in East Sussex, whose bespoke products have so far sold to over 400 luxury hotels, heritage buildings and high-end residential properties in the UK, Middle East and most recently China.
Focus SB’s precision engineering and state-of-the-art auto finishing facility enables them to be both flexible and reactive to customer demands. Their innovative work has seen them develop the UK’s only flush-fit faceplate (Smoothie®), and most recently their new line of UK wiring accessories licenced to export to China. Having achieved both a UK and European manufacturing first in signing a deal with a Chinese distributor, their success could stand as a powerful anecdote to other SMEs feeling anxious in the face of ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Seizing the moment
The outcome of the Brexit vote in 2016 left Focus SB, alongside many other UK businesses, uncertain about what the future held. At that point, MD Gary Stevens explained:
...we decided to reconsider our future and investigate new markets, because of the potential impact [of Brexit] on the UK construction industry, which is where 90% of our produce sold.Gary Stevens, Managing Director at Focus SB
Already successful in the UK, with their sockets and switches found in exclusive addresses such as LTA Wimbledon, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the business consequently decided to develop a new line of products to target the Chinese market. This was no easy feat, with a large investment required to design the line from scratch, as well as an additional challenge in meeting rigorous Chinese standards, which involved a full audit of their factory.
We decided to proceed because of the sheer size of the opportunity we saw in China. We also felt confident that we could maintain our high quality and unique designs in creating something to suit this new market, thanks to our established processes.Gary Stevens, Managing Director at Focus SB
Fortunately, Stevens’ forward-thinking management style meant there had already been rapid investment in people and technology over the past two years, which enabled the business to handle the demands of the Chinese market. Additionally, the business has invested in robotic machinery to work alongside additional human workers to speed up production times and further improve quality.
China wants British products
Demand for their new line has grown steadily, since catching the eye of developer MGM China Holdings at last year’s Expo Build construction and hospitality event in Shanghai, resulting in the line featuring in the luxurious MGM COTAI hotel resort which opened at the end of January. Stevens commented on his experience of the attitude towards British produce in China:
They look at Britain as a flagship in terms of quality, and they seem to be very British-brand hungry.Gary Stevens, Managing Director at Focus SB
Following their success, Stevens strongly recommends that other small businesses don’t shy away from global expansion in the wake of Brexit.
Taking advantage of government schemes like R&D tax credits makes all the difference to smaller businesses, allowing them to take risks and move forward – as we have found it may also allow you to enter a new market and gain a competitive edge!Gary Stevens, Managing Director at Focus SB
We’re sure this is only the beginning for Focus SB’s successful expansion and look forward to working with them to achieve their goals.
At MPA, we understand how important your innovation is to you, which is why our team of industry experts and tax credit specialists are best placed to help you optimise your R&D Tax Credit claim. Get in touch today.