INTRO BY NICKY SUMMER: The ingenious marketing of an already fantastic British-made product is a recipe for success and Gary Stevens, Managing Director of lighting accessory brand Focus SB, has led the company from its early beginnings as a well known British enterprise through to its current status as a luxury brand known by high end interior designers, specifiers and architects around the globe. Two celebrity names that are instantly recognisable are ’Bond’ and ’Beckham’ – Focus SB has been strongly associated with both; add to that the award for international trade to be presented to the company at Buckingham Palace this year – Gary has overseen an impressive upwards trajectory during his tenure…

Since 2016, Gary has been Managing Director of Focus SB, a British company based in Hastings, East Sussex, that produces the very finest lighting accessories and, notably, recently won the King’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade 2023 – which Gary is to receive in June on behalf of the company at Buckingham Palace…“

Nicky Summer, Lifestyle Designer & Presenter

ABOVE: In addition to Focus SB winning a King’s Award, the company’s recently launched Control switches (image top of the page, right) won in the [d]arc lighting design awards 2022; the pretty coastal town of Hastings where Focus SB is based.

When it comes to investing in a new home, buyers are becoming increasingly discerning – this requires interior designers to demand better quality products with the end result being more aligned to that of a luxury hotel rather than a personal residence. As people travel increasingly to exotic overseas destinations, the more highly influenced they become by their surroundings and now even some of the most modest homes have media rooms, wraparound decks, separate garden rooms, his and hers walk in wardrobes, heated pools and spa areas. Here Gary talks about the ethos of his company, Focus SB, and what his products offer the designer and ultimately the end user…

NS: “Gary, Focus SB is categorically one of the most pleasant companies I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with and it’s no surprise you’ve won the most prestigious award for industry as well. You’re at the forefront of design, you’ve created a beautiful product and it comes across that you’ve also cultivated a real sense of ’family’ within the brand – is that a good assessment?”

GS: “Thank you! When I came into the company, one of the first things that struck me was the strength of the team here and the skills and experience that is housed within the company. Like a lot of SMEs, they were very good at keeping their skills, capabilities and achievements a ‘hidden secret’ so my first task was to get the marketing and PR machine churning and to let the secret out of the bag! One of the main goals was to build up to the King’s Awards – or the Queen’s Awards, as it was until recently – because that has always been the pinnacle for any company to achieve and it carries such kudos in the overseas markets; we’d identified early on in my tenure that the export part of the business represented the greatest opportunities for real growth, and it still does…”

Including me, the senior management team comprises nine people and the total size of the workforce – internal and external – is around sixty eight staff, including the management team; I’d like to say that due to the manageable size of the company, I’m always accessible and have a very ‘hands-on’ approach to the business…”

Gary Stevens, MD, Focus SB

ABOVE: Focus SB products were specified throughout the international award-winning ‘Suites by David Beckham’ at The Londoner Macao by the luxury interior designers at London-based David Collins Studio collaborating closely with Sands Resorts Macao global ambassador, David Beckham. Image courtesy of The Londoner Macao.

ABOVE: Quality metal cover plates mid-production in-house; Managing Director of Focus SB, Gary Stevens

The main aspect that attracted me to Focus SB was the Chairman, Roger Kemp, now retired; I’d known Roger for over 20 years and we shared so many values including our approach to work and employee welfare. For example, we’ve a profit share scheme that’s equally shared amongst the staff members who don’t have a commission/bonus related incentive, as the external sales team do…”

Gary Stevens, MD, Focus SB

NS: “What does a typical day for you involve at the headquarters of Focus SB?”

GS: “There’s no typical day for me really! Monday morning generally starts with an operations meeting where we discuss the issues and priorities for the week; I’m passionate about new product development, marketing and continuous innovation to stay ahead of the competition. Coupled with our continual investment in new technologies, sustainability initiatives and recruitment of apprentices and graduates, a lot of my week is therefore taken up working with the relevant managers and staff on the next new product ideas and development, new partnerships, recruitment and training initiatives and sustainability strategies…”

NS: “Who within Focus SB is responsible for design and what prompts the inspiration behind new products?”

GS: “I’d like to give you a specific name, however the reality is that almost everyone involved is responsible for design! Ideas come from within the business, from our customers and also general market trends; we’re very good at focusing on what we’re good at and then collaborating with partners who are equally as strong in their given fields that are complementary to what we do – for example, providers of smart home tech and lighting controls. We’re a very agile company therefore any new ideas can be brought to the market quickly…”

Interior designers are one of the most important elements of the design process – they have influence on whether or not our products are specified, so any input that the design fraternity has on new product ideas is always acted upon…”

Gary Stevens, MD, Focus SB

NS: “Details can make or break an interior design scheme – what is it about Focus SB’s products that heighten the perception of a residential or hotel project?”

GS: “Attention to detail is in our DNA, sometimes I think even to the degree that some customers aren’t aware of it! Our ability to match finishes across multiple products from light switches to bespoke combination plates appeals to designers seeking the flexibility to customise an interior scheme; designers also welcome the fact they can visit our factory and see how their products are made!”

NS: “Which of the Focus SB products and finishes are your personal favourites, and why?”

GS: “That’s a difficult one as there are so many, however I think our proudest achievement is the development of the brand new Renaissance range – there’s literally nothing like it on the market in terms of detail and luxury – a flat plate, screwless range. Finishes are also very subjective to the consumer and that’s why we offer so many options – each project, or even each room in a project, may demand different finishes to suit the individual environment and surrounding decor. However, if I had to choose just one finish, then I think it would be Antique Brass!”

NS: “Residential design is now very much focused on ‘interiors to hotel standard’ as clients travel a great deal and have high expectations for their own homes; how does your new product help in this department?”

GS: “Another ‘must have’ in the design brief was the ability to produce bespoke sized plates and the reason for this was to enable us to offer multi gang media plates specifically for hotels and high end residential projects, rather than having the unsightly offering of several plates all installed in a row that never line up, even with the most conscientious installer…”

ABOVE: Prism clear plate (left); combination plate in RENAISSANCE screwless flat plate, Roma finish (right)

NS: “Why, before your new Renaissance product, were there no squared-off casings for switches and sockets? The previous rounded edges are very uncool/dated; it seems crazy that no other company has simply offered a more contemporary and design conscious product?”

GS: “That’s a great question and I guess the answer lies in the challenges that this design posed, especially in a screwless and flat plate format. There’s a reason why no one else has produced it and that was down to the technical challenge it involved and is also why we now have a patent pending on the design detail. My main brief and challenge to our design, technical and production teams was that it must be a true flat plate design – not a dished plate – and once that challenge was cracked, then the next challenge became easier – the square corner design. And I must say, we have designed and developed a beautiful product!”



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