David Sherry, associate director at Dreadnought Tiles, discusses how he got into the roofing sector and how his business has coped during the pandemic.
How did you first get started in the industry and to your current position?
I started at Shropshire Roofing in Telford (or SIG as it is now) as a yardman when I was 16-years-old. I worked in and around the Midlands in lots of different roles, sweeping the yard, ordering stock and then sales on the phone, working my way up to assistant manager and then eventually, field manager.
One day, my regional manager, Eddie Edwards, told me that I needed to decide between operations and sales. I chose sales because I’m a people person and I haven’t looked back since!
I joined Dreadnought Tiles and Ketley Brick in August 2014 as an area manager, then I was promoted to national sales manager and then associate director.
How did your previous roles prepare you for what you’re doing now?
The different roles I’ve had along the way has helped to give me a good grounding in the nitty gritty of the roofing industry. Knowing a bit of everything from products and purchasing, to the managerial side, gives a broader perspective and understanding when relating to the customer.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Being promoted to associate director at Dreadnought – knowing that the team trusts and believes in me means a lot. Also, winning an award at the 2018 Pitched Roofing Awards for one of our heritage projects was a great moment!
What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
Like a typical salesman, it’s knowing that I’ve done a good job for the customer in meeting their requirements and particularly when advising them on the more challenging and intricate jobs. The subsequent positive customer feedback is the icing on the cake!
What is the most frustrating thing about your job?
When customers leave their ordering of materials until the last minute. It’s a high demand industry, where any existing stock shifts pretty quickly, so it can take time to process, manufacture and dispatch new orders, particularly if they involve fittings to go with them.
We always try our best to accommodate customers’ requests whenever they order, but to avoid any unnecessary waiting, it just makes better sense to place your order in plenty of time.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
At the start, it was difficult when COVID-19 hit, and we did temporarily furlough staff while we got ourselves sorted. But my colleagues have worked tremendously hard to create a safe and efficient working environment.
Our sales staff are currently working from home and procedures are in place on the plant to keep everybody COVID secure. In terms of sales, we’ve found the market is really buoyant across the board from domestic to developer and architectural.
What are the two key issues facing the future of the roofing sector?
It’s fair to say that, with the ongoing skills shortage in the roofing industry, we all face the challenge of making traditional skills in industries like ours more attractive to youngsters. People like Andy Rowland, Kate Whatley and Stewart Rowles are all doing a great job in providing training courses, but there’s still a lot more to be done if we’re to meet the future needs of the industry.
I also believe it’s important that contractors keep themselves up-to-date. There’s undoubtedly lots of excellent professionals out there, but some tradespeople will tell you that they’ve been roofing the same way for over 20 years! That’s all well and good, but how many standard updates have we had in that time?
What advice would you give to those thinking about joining the sector?
It’s a fantastic industry to be in and very rewarding if you apply yourself. I’ve always found that there’s no shortage of great characters and people who are happy to give good advice and help you on your way.
What is your tipple of choice at the bar?
Currently, I’m training on my bike, so it’s 0.0 Heineken for me. But if my wife doesn’t want to drink on her own, I will have a crafty G&T with her.
What is your favourite book?
As I’m massively into cycling, it’s got to be: Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore. It’s an excellent read about the 1986 Tour de France.
Any claims to fame?
Nothing major, though I am a bit of a music groupie and have managed to get backstage to meet a few musicians from my favourite bands like the Charlatans. My pinnacle was shaking Damon Albarn’s hand when he was in Blur.