As a child Ian Ferguson wanted to be a binman, and as an adult his career has taken him from the Royal Navy to social work to the sales director of a construction company. He talks to BQ about his career so far and what he believes makes a great leader.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
As the domestic and commercial sales director of a busy roofing and building company, my role requires me to wear many different hats. Most importantly, the role requires a sound understanding of everybody else’s job.
With admin and sales teams responsible for supplying work for 28 employees, it’s key that I keep a close eye on marketing strategy to make sure the company retains a healthy, yet manageable, lead time for future work. We also must ensure that material costs, profit and loss margins are maintained at healthy levels in these uncertain times. Other hats to be worn are HSSE, training, and general dogs body when needs must.
A crucial part of my job is to work closely with Jonathan Simpson, the installations director, ensuring the transition between sales and fittings is seamless and delivers the exact service to meet the customers’ needs and expectations.
What is it the company does?
Bespoke are a one stop shop, delivering roofing and building solutions on a commercial and domestic level. Building projects range from double storey extensions or a new build office block to a fitted kitchen or a new boiler installation, while roofing projects can vary from a simple bay top or garage roof, to a 700m² square Welsh Slate roofs.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
My career so far has been varied, meaning I have equipped myself with a wide and diverse range of skills. As a fresh-faced teenager, I joined the Royal Navy, eventually specialising in warfare and becoming a missiles and explosives expert. Following 10 years of service, my life led me down the path of social work, where working with young people with behaviour problems became my speciality. After identifying a gap in the market, I created my first business where I coupled property development with supported living needs and created R.I. Accommodation and Support.
After seven years, I sold this company and moved into project management, where I assisted oil companies in providing security solutions throughout Africa in war-torn countries. Eventually an old friend and master builder who was starting a fledgling building company called Bespoke persuaded me to return home from Africa and start another exciting chapter in my life.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I believe a good leader firstly needs to learn to listen. Once any problem or task is fully understood they need to be able to inspire and motivate others around them while identifying strengths and weaknesses.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Establishing yourself as a reputable company and setting yourself apart from the competition is the key to prolonged success and sustainable growth. I find that it is good to step back and look at things from the customer’s perspective. Often simple things like presentation, timekeeping, manners and cleanliness are all it takes to set you apart from the competition. Installing, maintaining and ensuring these values are understood by all staff helps maintain your status within the industry.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Trying not to take on more than is achievable is good advice, but not always possible. Always try and make time to do what the family needs you to do, coupled with a small amount of ‘me time’. Personally, I like to grab a good meal out with friends or family followed by a few beers.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a youngster, I always had a fascination with the bin wagons, I used to watch the lads clattering and banging as they threw the waste in the back of the truck. I thought it would be fun to ride on the back, holding on with one hand as the truck drove along!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Not many really, but I don’t like to see people make a mountain out of a mole hill. I prefer people to stay steady, and give careful and considered thought to achieving greatness.
I also don’t like people to bring problems to the table without also having a solution in mind, regardless of if its right or not.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
To look that far in the future is difficult in such an industry, but if everything turns out as we plan and hope, then Bespoke will be medium to large size company with a recognisable household name throughout the North of England, synonymous with the core values and principles we first started with.
Of course, I would also hope that we also have a healthy profit and loss spread sheet and that we have also employed many more ground staff, with a structured management system to accommodate.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Work hard, and work even harder. Stay grounded, focused and committed to achieving your goals. Never be afraid to receive constructive criticism.
Watch, listen and learn from those people who inspire you, and always maintain self-belief.