This month, we fire some quick questions at John Park-Davies, managing director of Vertik-Al, who talks to RCI about his route into the industry, his career highlights, and how valuable the building and construction industry is to the economy.
How did you first get started in the industry and to your current position?
I was introduced to the construction industry through my first job, nearly 40 years ago. It was a Saturday job in a large joinery shop, while I was at school. The company manufactured specialist timber roofs for everything from churches to houses. I swept up, cleaned tools and learned about wood and machinery. Happy days indeed!
Since then, I can split my career into three stages. First is my building and civil engineering phase, which was predominantly craft focused. It was all based on large construction sites, and I was usually up to my knees in concrete. Making friends for life and to get paid for it was just wonderful.
Second, was my field sales career, which was the best job on the planet. It involved driving around, meeting people, learning products, understanding body language, and selling stuff. At last count, I have been responsible for selling about £1 billion worth of building products and services over the years.
Then, onto my senior management roles; very exciting times, building teams, building companies, using all my experience to exceed budgets and targets.
My current management role is rather varied. In fact, I have to wear several hats as I have a portfolio of positions. I have recently become managing director of Vertik-Al, in addition to retaining my position as managing director of IKON Aluminium Systems. Then to round off, I sit on the board of Allumette, the parent company of Vertik-Al and IKON.
What roles were you doing before and how did they prepare you for the role you are doing now?
I have held many roles within the construction products and component sector. I came from a civil engineering background, managing sites across the UK. Nothing prepares you more than the pace and complexity of a major infrastructure project that must be completed on time, in full.
My field sales experience was also invaluable. You learn how to read people and situations. It also provides an insight into what customers really want and appreciate from a supplier.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
That’s a tough question. I’ve been fortunate to achieve many personal and professional goals in my career, so far. I was promoted to site manager on a £9 million site when I just turned 20, and I finished the project on time and within budget. That was particularly special! I also started a joinery company when I was 23, and sold it three years later for a sizeable profit.
Overall though, I think it’s the responsibility and legacy of building some great teams of people who continue to succeed to this day, that has got to be the highlight.
What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
When the business is running as smoothly as a Swiss watch!
What do you believe are the biggest issues for roofing contractors and the construction industry at the moment?
Uncertainty, in my opinion, is the biggest issue facing not just our industry but all businesses. In ‘normal’ times, uncertainty can hinder decision making, including investment, acquisitions, divestment etc, but we’re not operating in normal conditions. We are facing multiple challenges – a global pandemic, intermittent raw material supply and exiting the European Union.
There have been few times in modern history where the future has been less certain. This, coupled with skills and labour shortages; restrictions on-site slowing down progress and payment delays across the supply chain are working to conspire against us.
We’re encouraged by the resilience that the industry has shown over the past nine months though. There was a collective sigh of relief when the government announced that construction would continue through lockdown 2.0 in England. This is proof of how valuable the building and construction industry is to the economy.
What advice would you give to those thinking about joining the sector?
Join us! There are few jobs in the working world where you will learn something new every day, make friends for life, and get the enormous satisfaction of helping to create something that will stand for many years.
What is your tipple of choice at the bar?
A cold beer, but it must be in a glass!
What is your favourite book and film?
My favourite book is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, whilst my favourite film is Get Carter with Sir Michael Caine doing what he does best!
Any claims to fame?
I have had a few fleeting brushes with fame over the past 50-odd years. I posed for a Formula 1 team promotional photo once at the age of three. The pictures were used, but I don’t believe I was ever asked to go back, so I can’t have made that much of an impression! Apart from that, I’ve not really craved the spotlight.