Inside Track Q&A: Janet Mitten, director, Capital Glass
Small jobs are ‘bread and butter’ to second-generation family glazing business
Janet Mitten: “We tell our staff every customer that calls us or walks in our door is just as important to us as our contract business.”
Janet’s mother Terese Dowling founded the business in the 1980s. All four are company directors, making this Dublin glazing business a second-generation family enterprise.
Capital Glass offers a full range of glazing products and services for commercial and domestic clients. Included in their services is consultation and design on mirrors and splashbacks as well as glazing. The company also provides bespoke stained glass for their domestic, commercial and religious clients.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
We work with building providers, management companies and our contract customers like hotels etc as well as the public. No job is too small for us and we offer a complete package.
So, we offer design advice as well as manufacturing and fitting. We treat all our customers equally and customer satisfaction is paramount to our success.
Two other unique aspects to us are the fact that our staff are certified with qualifications that are relevant to the UK now, so UK companies located here can avail of our services as well.
My husband, John, is also a stained-glass manufacturer, which is another unique aspect to our business.
What’s the best business advice you ever received?
Set realistic goals, don’t overstretch yourself and always keep something back for a rainy day.
We are a small business and keeping it small works for us. I have no interest in taking on a massive contract and not getting paid for a year. That’s not what works for us. The small customer is our bread and butter and that cash business has kept us going. That’s why we tell our staff every customer that calls us or walks in our door is just as important to us as our contract business.
What’s been your biggest business mistake?
Thankfully we haven’t made too many mistakes but I need to make sure I don’t try to do everything! I have to trust others! I also need to make sure I check the time and go home at the end of the day!
What’s been your greatest success in business?
Having so many repeat customers. Some of our customers have been with us since we started in 1981 and we are now working with the sons and daughters of the people who started those businesses. We also get a lot of business through recommendations and that’s success for us.
When we have a financial success, we give our lads bonuses and then, as a family, we book into a hotel for a few nights and we celebrate together. Being able to celebrate successes as a family is very important to us.
Who do you admire most in business and why?
My mother, Terese Dowling. She set up this business in 1981 and ran it by herself while raising three children on her own and she kept it going through two recessions.
She has taught me about business but also to admire all working women who juggle business and family. My mother always says: “Get the balance right.” No matter how hard we have to work, she will always say to me: “Make sure you see your boys grow up; don’t miss that.”
So, getting that lesson from her about the right balance between work and family life is very important, especially when it’s a family business.
In your opinion, are banks open for business?
In our experience, yes. We get great support from our bank, AIB. Even through the difficult times, they would ring us and ask us if we needed support. We’ve always found them supportive, flexible and willing to help.
What piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
Commercial property rates are ridiculously high. We are a small business trying to operate in a city centre location and not many businesses can survive these rates.
Self-employed people are still not treated like workers in my view and I think the Government should change some of the current policies in order to support more people to set up their own businesses.
What’s been your greatest challenge in business?
To keep the business going during difficult times. That includes keeping staff morale up when their hours and wages have been cut. We are really lucky with our staff. Most of them have been with us for many years and we have a very low staff turnover. Glazing is really something people begin to work in if they have a connection to it. So our staff become like extended family.
As a family business with four company directors, all related to each other, it is a challenge sometimes to stay within our own roles but also support each other.
What’s the short-term future of your business?
It’s to keep doing what we do well. Our ethos is that each one of our customers is equally important and, while we’re seeing business increasing at the moment, we want to make sure we maintain that ethos as well as maintaining high standards in the work we do.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
We have never had it valued so I’m not sure what it’s worth financially. But this business is the heartbeat of our family. My mother founded it and is still a director. My husband, my sister and myself run it and my son does part-time work during the summer. Would we sell it? I don’t know what we’d all do!