By Dominic Ryan – Operations Director, Codelocks
It all started from a flat in Red Lion Square, central London. Dorothea and Desmond Ryan taking calls in the fourth floor flat, running down five flights of stairs to the basement where the stock was stored. Then they’d take the orders around the block to the post office for dispatch.
As business rapidly took off, and their legs began to resent the multiple trips up and down stairs, they rented a small unit at the back of the square to increase stockholding and improve logistics. I helped out, running smaller orders to the post office and visiting local customers – but we soon had a regular courier for collections, and a company car to travel further than the confines of London. We even indulged in a mobile phone – cutting edge tech in the 1990s! It enabled Desmond and Dorothea, based in the office (or flat) to stay in touch with me in our ‘warehouse’ at street level – and saved a lot of leg work!
This happy arrangement continued for a year, until the business outgrew our small stock unit. We needed more space, but that was expensive in central London. We also needed a computer system to create accounts, raise invoices, load stock onto – and generally keep pace with the company expansion. We wanted a system that was tailored to our needs and, as luck would have it, Desmond’s brother was a self-taught computer whizz. Better still, living in Somerset, this offered us the opportunity to rent warehousing space at far more reasonable rates – two birds with one stone! We also took on another employee in dispatch and recruited two part-time office clerks for invoicing and tele-sales.
Meanwhile Desmond and Dorothea were searching for a place outside London to both live and ultimately relocate the Codelocks operation. Which brought us to Newbury in Berkshire, and we have been here ever since, although our rapid expansion has led us to move three times in and around the town itself.
Though much has changed in the access control industry, I’m proud that Codelocks still has the same family values as when I first joined in the early 1990s, when there were just three of us servicing our core industry distributors. I am also happy to say that we still supply those distributors today.
The family has always been very hands-on with the running of the company, from operating the warehouse and talking to customers, to getting out and visiting sites. We try to impress the same ethos with our management team. We strive to be inclusive and value our people as individuals. Our business is built on respect and trust for one another, and we also want to see employees expand their roles as our business grows.
A strong product range
Though we’re still pushing the boundaries with our latest Smart Locks, we never forget that we built our customer base by offering a wide range of practical solutions. One of our early mechanical locks for example, the CL255 mortice latch, is still hugely popular, standing out from the crowd with its premium finish, and our 50 pence shaped thumb turn.
Another product that has outlived many of its competitors, is the CL5010 Heavy Duty Tubular Mortice Latch. To me this is the holy grail; an electronic lock with a solid mechanical foundation that provides access control without the expense of installing a hard-wired traditional system.
The CL5010 was a milestone on our electronic lock roadmap bridging the gap between mechanical and electronic locks. It enabled us to engage with new customers with ever smarter and more diverse requirements and has given us a reliable mechanical platform from which to deliver an electronic stand-alone solution.
An eye on the future
Whilst there is still a lot of demand for our traditional product lines, our ability to innovate as we develop new products and services is core to our success in new and existing markets. Our app and web-based access solutions for example, enables us to appeal to a wider audience, and customers are finding ever more interesting ways to utilise our technology to deliver services in ways we only dreamed of. Our KitLock by Codelocks locker locks, have been used to provide secure, flexible access to equipment in recording studios, to create VIP storage solutions at music festivals, and to enable sports fans to book and gain access to lockers at football stadiums from their smart phones.
We are quick to react to changing circumstances in order to support our customers, too. In 2020 we released Clean by Codelocks – a photocatalytic coating that has been proven capable of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19) within minutes. Not surprisingly, it’s been popular with businesses and organisations looking for an extra level of protection against Coronavirus – such as in education and healthcare environments, offices, shops, and restaurants.
A great team
You don’t run a successful business for 30 years – and survive a world-wide pandemic – without having a great team. And there’s no doubt that one man in particular – Colin Campbell, who joined us in 2015 and is now Managing Director – has made a big contribution to our current success.
One of Colin’s biggest challenges was to see us through the pandemic – and he’s done a great job. “The business was already in a good position to ride out some tough months, and we quickly put a plan together. We began by reassuring all staff that their jobs were safe. And we’re proud to say we lost no employees because of the pandemic,” explains Colin.
But what really helped us was that Colin (and the rest of the team) had already built a resilient business. We have strong financial management, great supplier relations, a loyal customer base and passionate workforce.
We wouldn’t be where we are today without our customers – both the locksmiths and installers that fit our products, and the clients that use them. We put our customers first. Our reputation for providing world class support and our expertise sets us apart.
Jason Priest, for example, of the Oxford-based specialist locksmith J. Priest & Son, has been working with Codelocks throughout his 30-year career. Jason has worked with us on many projects including schools and colleges within Oxford University. He says: “Codelocks is a very professional company, and the development of its standalone smart lock prevents the need for continuous code changes on site. All other manufacturers only offer some of the features – or, if they offer all, only in conjunction with other smart products.”
And, Paul Pasquali – Group Operations Manager of Porsche Centre Preston: “We needed an access control system that combined flexibility with the utmost peace of mind. But equally important is the level of customer service. We’ve been really impressed with Codelocks – the follow up visits and advice have been first class.”
What’s next for Codelocks?
Over the next 30 years, we plan to continue our rapid product innovation program and grow and expand the business. Currently, we see a lot of opportunities in the rental sector. Our Smart Locks are ideal for customers who want to offer a short-term rental, and the Codelocks Connect platform that supports them has an open API – enabling customers to integrate our access solutions into their own online customer journeys.
Partnerships are being formed using our technology to provide access control solutions to problems not dreamt of even a few years ago. Right now, we’re working on a raft of projects, including secure cycle storage, secure collection for building materials, click and collect takeaway food solutions and even ways to order and collect your holiday money.
We love niche and slightly quirky projects and will continue to develop those alongside our core range. But whatever comes next, you can be sure that we’ll stick to our vision – to provide smarter access for everyone – and the core values that have got us to where we are today.