Stacey Evans is the indirect channel manager for Hitachi UK & Ireland. Having started her new job during lockdown, she discusses the challenges that had to be overcome and the opportunities ahead for the HVAC industry.
What was your first job?
My first job was in IT recruitment, and I loved it – getting to know the candidates and clients and matching people to roles. The listening and people skills I developed during that time have been beneficial at every step of my career, particularly since my move into HVAC in 2010.
Tell us about your current role and company
I'm the indirect channel manager for Hitachi UK & Ireland, working with and supporting our indirect customers. My role is to oversee our distributor & wholesaler channel, working with my team Kevin Lucas and Lisa Bishop, to look after our existing customers and develop our growth strategy for next year. I joined the business in March 2021, which was mid-lockdown, so it's been very strange to start a new job because everyone was working remotely.
What gives you the most job satisfaction?
Giving great customer service. In my opinion, if you provide a great service, you'll always have repeat business and generate word-of-mouth recommendations, particularly as HVAC is such a close-knit community. I'm a great believer in the saying "people buy from people", and it's important we deliver on our promises. If I say I'll come back on a customer query today, I will, even if I don't have the answer, because it's important to keep them in the loop. It's reassurance for the customer that their query is important and is being dealt with. If you've got a problem, there's nothing worse than getting no response. That's very frustrating.
What attracted you into the industry?
My background is in business development, and I was offered a role with one of the HVAC market leaders in their corporate team; I just knew it was a great opportunity. So for me, it was about having those commercial conversations around heating and cooling, engaging with customers and internal teams, but very much on the commercial relationship development side.
What excites you about the industry?
I'd say it's the growing heat pump market. The opportunity is huge, and Hitachi has some great products coming that we can't wait to shout about. The ever-changing legislation is gearing up for the switch from boilers to heat pumps and will drive the change. I welcome the Government's commitments to renewables that have renewed interest in our industry, particularly heat pumps for new build and retrofit markets. It's being talked about in the press much more, and this drives conversations. I'm getting calls now from traditional boiler distributors saying they want to get onboard with heat pumps. RHI Future Homes Standard and the Clean Homes Grant may be the starting point, and more will come out to drive demand - but the commitment needs to be maintained.
It's an exciting time to be in the HVAC industry, knowing that we can play a key role in leading the UK and Ireland towards decarbonising their heating and domestic hot water requirements with renewable heat pump products.
What are your career hopes for the future?
The next step is MD, just kidding! I've only recently started this role and it has so much potential. Hitachi is expanding, and I'm enjoying collaborating with our new direct channel manager, Tom Hall, to grow our market share and make Hitachi an even greater place to work. It's a strong management team and a very exciting time for the business.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
"You don't know what you don't know", which to me means it's OK not to have the answer for everything; go away, find out and report back. You've learnt something and your customer will know for next time. I believe that honesty is the best policy. But, again, it comes back to reassurance for our customers.
What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?
Fulfilling the demand of the projected 600,000 heat pumps by 2028. We'll give it a good go though!
We need to ensure that the support mechanism is in place to support these numbers year on year, ensuring we have installers trained to a high industry standard so each installation works to its optimum performance. In addition, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers need to work together to ensure we are geared up ahead of the peak of demand.
Hitachi has some strong new products coming down the line, so we are heavily investing in R&D for those and is well-placed to meet the challenges ahead. We have seen the heat pump market boom in other European countries, so our colleagues have already been on that journey, and they are ready, willing and able to help and guide the UK & Ireland team.
What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the HVAC industry?
Do it!! I have met the most incredible, driven, inspiring women in the industry that I now class as friends. It also feels good knowing that, as an industry, we are reducing carbon emissions and will be instrumental in educating the public to change from carbon fuel systems to more energy-efficient, renewable and sustainable alternatives, such as heat pumps. It's an exciting time, and I really hope to see more women joining the Hitachi team in the near future.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement or what you are most proud of?
I'm proud that I left school with no formal qualifications, but through hard work and sheer determination, I'm in the position I'm in now.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Seeing our customers face-to-face! We held a sales meeting in May (following all the Covid guidelines, of course), which was great as I had a chance to meet everyone for the first time properly, and I meet my team regularly just to touch base, work from the same space and bounce ideas around.
Microsoft Teams has served a purpose, but it definitely shouldn't replace going out and physically seeing customers, having a walk around and seeing everyone to say 'hello' and get a better feel for the company, how they operate and how we can meet their needs. So it's just better all around.
Also, our new training suite has launched, so I'm excited to get all our customers and prospects into the new Maidenhead office and see the products in person.
What keeps you busy outside work?
Outside of work, my two children, aged eight and five, keep me pretty busy. I'm also part of a running club called 'mums who run' and a book club (AKA wine club!). We also bought a house just before lockdown that needs lots of work doing, so there's no shortage of things to keep me busy!