John Newcomb of the Builder Merchants Federation
John Newcomb, managing director of the Builder Merchants Federation, gives BQ an insight into his career so far and explains why he fell in love with the construction industry...
What is it the company does?
The Builders Merchants Federation Ltd (BMF) is the only trade association representing and protecting the interests of builders’ merchants and suppliers to the merchanting industry in the UK. Total membership at 1 January 2017 stands at 578 merchant and supplier companies who together have combined sales of over £24.6bn and employ over 117,500 people in the building materials industry. BMF’s 300+ merchant members operate from over 4,800 branches across the UK.
The five main benefits for companies joining the BMF are:
1) Training & Development
2) Networking Events
3) Political/Industry Representation
4) Business Support
5) Industry Data
What does your role involve?
I joined the BMF as managing director in 2012 and my passion for the industry underpins everything I do, as we are vital to economic growth in the UK. Working closely with my team and with the board, I have to quickly overcome problems and transform them into opportunities. Under my stewardship, the BMF has proved its relevance to the merchant industry in the 21st century.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Prior to joining the BMF I worked at Imperial International, where I was the commercial director. I also spent several years in senior marketing and managing director roles with manufacturers supplying the builder’s merchant sector, including H&R Johnson, Sandvik Saws & Tools UK and Addis Group.
I have the rare mix of commercial experience and understanding of both being a member of a trade organisation and the running of one. More importantly, my background of senior commercial roles in a related industry and membership and Presidency of BHETA brings both understanding and a fresh approach and expertise to my role of managing director, that has benefited the BMF and its members.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Recruiting talented people who have the same passion and desire for growing the business that I have. Those with "fire in the belly". I have very high expectations for myself and my staff. I face this by going through a lengthy recruitment process of three interviews for each candidate in the business involving other team members in each of the interview stages but being involved in all final interviews myself.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Demands on my time. There are never enough hours in the day to achieve everything that I would like to do as a director of one of the largest trade associations in the construction industry. The way round that is of course two fold, both to delegate and to develop people so they are capable of taking more responsibility from me.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I’m a family man and love spending time with my friends on the weekend. I also enjoy playing tennis and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Like many teenage boys, I dreamt of being a footballer!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Builders merchants have had a great start to 2017; we are delivering for Britain and helping to drive growth across the country. To continue this success, and support our members to continue to grow, we have six key goals for the future:
1.Establish the BMF as the “Must Join” Industry Body that Merchants and Suppliers want to belong to and engage with
2. To highlight and establish the significant performance of the Merchant Sector as a vital contributor to UK economic growth to key stakeholders (Government, National Press, Supply Chain, Customers and Members)
3. To agree and promote the industry standard for Customer Service, Responsible Purchasing, Health & Safety, Training and Educational Qualifications
4. To be the leading body in helping to attract and develop talented people into the Merchant Industry
5. To establish the BMF as the defacto industry reference responsible for “professionalising” the Industry
6. To ensure the BMF is financially viable and is not wholly dependent on its assets
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Build a strong team around you.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I wish someone had told me how fantastic and vibrant the construction industry is. When I speak to young people today, they often have no idea about the range of opportunities it offers and how exciting the work can be.