Leadership Interview: John Newcomb, CEO, Builders Merchant Federation

Could you give us an overview of your career?
I have led the Builders Merchants Federation since 2012, initially as Managing Director and since 2017 as Chief Executive Officer.  Prior to that I held senior marketing, commercial and MD roles within the DIY and housewares industry, notably with H&R Johnson, Sandvik Saws and Tools UK, Addis Group Ltd and Imperial International Limited.  I also maintained a 15-year involvement with BHETA, the British Home Enhancement Trade Association, the last two years as President.

At heart I am still a marketer and hold a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Bradford Management Centre. In total I have spent over 40 years in Sales and Marketing and Senior Management positions after starting my career as a Marketing Graduate with JCB.

What has changed most in the industry over your career?
I have seen a tremendous amount of change during my 9 years in the building materials sector.  For example, there is a definite move towards larger merchant groups now, with funding for mergers and acquisitions coming from venture capital and we are also seeing a huge increase in digitisation and the use of online and mobile platforms.

But the biggest changes have been brought about in response to the Covid crisis. For the first time the whole construction industry came together through the Construction Leadership Council to work with government and coordinate the industry’s response. I sit on the CLC and quite honestly the profile of the building materials sector has never been higher both with government and within the wider construction industry.  Our sector is also at the forefront of the CLC’s ConstructZero initiative, to meet the government’s net zero carbon targets by 2050, which we cannot achieve without the innovative products and systems BMF members are developing.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Without doubt, the last 18 months and being able to support the industry during the biggest crisis it has faced in decades.  When the prime minister announced the first lockdown there was total confusion.  We were being told to stay at home, so what on earth did that mean for our members’ businesses?  The actions we were able to take, particularly within the CLC taskforce, and the information from government that we could then relay to members helped get them up and running in the shortest possible time. The BMF has continued to support them as we have gone through every subsequent stage of lockdown and now recovery which is bringing its own problems in terms of product availability.   I am extremely proud to be nominated for this year’s Outstanding Leadership Award in the Trade Association Industry’s first ever Covid Response Awards.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Be focused, be flexible and get the best possible training throughout your career. Also strive to the very best in your chosen position and career. I never started out with the ambition of becoming a CEO but always wanted to be the very best that I could in each of my roles and by doing this I found myself promoted to the next level.

The BMF recently merged with the Institute of Builders Merchants, which now operates as a separately managed brand of the BMF and has ambitious plans to professionalise the industry.  The IoBM is an independent accreditation body with a structured framework for Continuing Professional Development from apprenticeship to the boardroom, we are working to grow membership and, eventually, achieve Chartered status. This would be a great way for anyone in our Industry to strive to be the best.

John Newcomb, CEO, BMF

What advice can you give leaders when managing businesses and teams through times of uncertainty?
People are your greatest asset, so make sure you have clear and frequent communication across the business.  Good communication breeds confidence and prevents unnecessary speculation and rumour.  It’s important to be visible and available, to listen to concerns and provide answers.  This goes a long way to restore confidence and calm the business.

What do you see happening in the future for the Builders Merchants sector?
These are exciting times for construction with a government pledged to build back better, and to make the UK a leader in zero carbon technology.  The building materials sector has a central role to play here, and I am very optimistic for the future. Merchants have always played an important role in the Supply Chain, but I don’t think they have ever been in a stronger position than they are now in being seen by both the Construction Industry and Government as a vital part of the Construction ecosystem.


For more information on how GCS Associates can help your business recruit the best talent in the market, contact us.

e: enquiries@gcsassociates.com
t: 0161 660 2548


Meet The Team: Rebecca Hildage, Office Manager, GCS Associates

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked for a Financial Services company in Altrincham for 8 years within the finance dept, gaining my AAT accounting qualification there. I then went on to an Assistant Accountant role for a Technology company then moved into a Executive PA role as I wanted to gain experience in other business areas and widen my skill set.

Around 6 years ago I become Cash Manager withing the inflight entertainment industry with a Global multinational dealing with cross currency bank accounts. I finished with the company in September 2020 and gave birth to my daughter in October 2020 – I had a lovely maternity leave with her and here I am today.

Why did you join GCS?
I was impressed with the wording in the job advert, it wasn’t run of the mill, it was interesting and quirky. When I googled the company, I was impressed with the passion that came across when perusing. I initially spoke with Tony on the phone and then came in to meet with Mike who gave me an overview of the company along with what the role would entail.

I got a great feel for the place. The role is flexible;  it fitted in with my childcare and travel needs so I was happy when Mike called and offered me the job. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and improving processes to save the company time and money.

What’s your role at GCS?
My role is primarily admin and accounting work. I will be responsible for liaising with debtors/creditors, managing the financial accounts and many other office management duties. I will also be reviewing all processes and making improvements/automating where needed.

How you help clients/ candidates?
I wouldn’t say my role directly helps clients/candidates, however, by taking work and admin off the sales team this then feeds through to allow more time to help clients and candidates more efficiently.

Rebecca Hildage

What kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
I have begun working on an accounting system and have also started streamlining our internal processes. I have many more projects in the pipeline which will improve efficiencies internally.

What do you do outside of work?
I love running – it clears my head and allows me to gather my thoughts and refocus. Socialising with family and friends, I’m very close to my family so I’m happy the lock-down’s have ended and we can socialise properly once again!

For more information on how GCS Associates can help your business recruit the best talent in the market, contact us.

e: enquiries@gcsassociates.com
t: 0161 660 2548


Meet The Team: Tony Llewellyn, Commercial Director

Tell us about your career so far?
I can’t really remember doing anything other than recruitment! My mother tells me my early career was in the RAF followed by a stint in financial services – but maybe she’s just covering for me?

Why did you join GCS?
I was impressed by Mike Parry’s integrity and enthusiasm for the business and his passion for the clients he’s working with in the building products sector. For me, it is important to be working in a business where I feel I’m making a difference and one where I can utilise all the skills and experience I’ve picked up over many years!!

What’s your role at GCS?
As Commercial Director, I am responsible for the opening of our new office in the East Midlands and the continued growth thereafter. I am still dealing with select clients too, some of whom I have know for many years and some new ones that generally come through word of mouth and referrals.

The majority of my roles are executive positions in either the building products industry or the food manufacturing sector. However, most executives have highly transferable skill-sets and so the sectors I work in can vary immensely, I’ve even been asked to place a CEO in a Veterinary practice in the past… the brief was to find a strong ‘commercial’ leader who could double the turnover in a five year period –  I believe he did it in three.

What kind of roles are you working on?
Most of the roles I am asked to work on are highly confidential.

What I can say is that I’m also working with some highly talented executives at the moment, assisting in their search for a new challenge. Leaders that are either transformational leaders and ‘turnaround’ specialists or business builders; highly experienced at increasing the EBITDA through innovative ideas and processes. I also have some very talented Sales, Operations and Finance Directors that currently work in either the food manufacturing or the building products sectors and are looking for a new opportunity.

Tony Llewellyn, Commercial Director

What’s the market expectation at the moment?
There are multiple vacancies at some levels but very few at others. People are surmising that Brexit is to blame for a lack of candidates, others that the pandemic has caused people to migrate away from certain roles and who are not now prepared to return to them.

There is still some uncertainty in the executive market but we are seeing an improvement already with a lot of investment being considered by both business groups and venture capitalists.

At GCS, we are always happy to go that extra mile for our clients and candidates – sourcing the best talent and helping people further their career is what we do!

For more information on how GCS Associates can help your business recruit the best talent in the market, contact Tony.

e: tony.llewellyn@gcsassociates.com
t:  07809 433 882


Meet The Team: Chris Whitlock, Executive Consultant, GCS Associates

Tell us about your career so far?
I have spent almost all my career in Timber and Building Materials. I joined Malden Timber in 1984 as a graduate trainee, then spent 14 years with Travis Perkins, followed by 13 years with Saint-Gobain where I held two Managing Director roles.

I then spent two years as a freelance operator including an enjoyable year in the global Telecoms industry with Colt – which was my one excursion away from Builders Merchants! I then spent happy three years at Harlow Timber as Managing Director.

I have spent much of the last three years as a freelance operational contractor, specialising in relocating businesses and opening new branches in the wider materials industry. I also work as an Executive Consultant for GCS Associates.

Why did you join GCS?
I was introduced to GCS through a mutual acquaintance in 2020. My involvement with GCS grew through many discussions with Mike Parry about the market, clients, and candidates until, ultimately, it made sense for me to become a member of the team.

What’s your job/ responsibilities/ specialist sectors at GCS?
I assist the GCS senior team with governance and growth planning, and with client and candidate relations. I usually spend a day or two a month at both our Altrincham and Loughborough offices.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on management recruitment for a materials supplier’s new branch programme – strictly confidential, at the moment!

What’s the market expectation at the moment?
Building materials has experienced a double boom in the last year – both in terms of volumes as home improvement spend has rocketed, and in value as material cost have soared across the board. This has led to a very active recruitment market, and an extremely busy GCS recruitment team!

Chris Whitlock, Executive Consultant

Tell me about how you help clients/ candidates?
I engage with both clients and candidates- many of whom I have worked with in some capacity, at some point. I assess opportunities and partnerships for both sides.

Anything else to share about yourself?
I grew up and still live in Leicestershire – stunning countryside, a great city, and one of Britain’s best kept secrets! I have two fantastic grown-up children and a very supportive wife who continues to enjoy her long career in Marketing and who generally despairs of me not having a marketing bone in me!

CONTACT GCS IF YOU ARE HIRING IN 2021 OR WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS FINDING A NEW ROLE. 

e: enquiries@gcsassociates.com
t: 0161 660 2548


Labour and Product Shortages putting Pressure on Construction Industry

This month has been a tale of two halves. With merchant’s value sales up 79.6% in May 2021 compared to May 2020 according to the BMBI report, & plumbing & heating sales doubling in May, sales and demand in the sector is certainly looking positive.

We have recruited into the Construction Supplies Sector for over 15 years, and right now we are seeing unprecedented demand for talent and people looking for new roles. It’s an exciting time for the sector and people looking to advance in their careers.

However, labour and product shortages are putting pressure on the construction industry. With the unprecedented demand for building products which has been reported throughout the year and now a lack of labour, partly due to employees having to self-isolate when being ‘pinged’ by the NHS test and trace app, is a rising concern.

John Newcomb, CEO, Builders Merchant Federation commented in the Builders Merchant News

“The basic trends of the last six months remain, with global demand far more than supply leading to product shortages, rapid and sustained price inflation, long lead times and uncertainty regarding deliveries. It is also clear that the global shipping industry is far from recovered from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with congested shipping routes, container cancellations and higher costs still evident.

The products most affected are those used in housebuilding and domestic repair maintenance and improvement, including roofing products, timber, insulation, landscaping products, blocks, sealants/PVA, PIR Insulation, kitchen carcassing and products that use plastic, for example drainage, some windows and bagged cement.”

Newcomb added: “The supply chain is extremely stretched on all fronts but our members are pulling out the stops to keep supplies in branches and deliveries out to customers in very challenging circumstances.”

With the expectation supply shortages will continue due to the on-going uncertainty, the other pressure on businesses is the labour shortage exasperated by the ‘pingdemic’

Frank Elkins, Group Chief Operating Officer for Travis Perkins, said “We are disappointed that our colleagues have not been included on the list of workers that can be made exempt from full self-isolation if they are alerted by NHS test and trace.

“Having worked hard to put in place measures that safeguard our staff while they have played such a vital role in helping to maintain essential services that are so crucial to keeping us all dry, warm, safe and secure, we urge the Government to look again at the broader construction supply chain and its importance to the country at large.”

In addition Martyn Coffey, Chief Executive Officer for Marshalls, said: “After the challenges in 2020, no one could have accurately predicted the shape of demand in 2021. This demand continues to grow and the effects of Covid the ‘self-isolation’ practices are now beginning to bite within the Marshalls business.

“Health and Safety has always been our number one consideration throughout this pandemic. We have gone above and beyond government guidelines to keep our people safe.”

Businesses reported that on average 15% of their workforce were pinged last week and had to self-isolate leaving business leaders with an inability to plan for cover for these workers. A sector already pained by labour shortages, business leaders are seriously pushing for the Construction and Building Supplies sectors to be deemed ‘essential’ so double vaccinated workers who are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Test and Trace app won’t need to self-isolate. Hopefully, the changes to the isolation rules this month but improve the labour shortages.

Need more talented people in your business? We can help.

e: enquiries@gcsassociates.com
t: 0161 660 2548


Arnold Laver & GCS Associates

Arnold Laver is part of National Timber Group, the largest independent added-value timber distribution and processing group in the UK.

National Timber Group serves a diverse customer base including joiners, house-builders, and contractors, and is a favoured supplier of large-scale infrastructure projects.  The Group has combined turnover approaching £300 million, over 1,300 employees and 55 processing and distribution sites from the North of Scotland to London and the South-West.

Aims & Objectives
After a restructure, Arnold Laver had several critical management positions which were needed to ensure not only business as usual but to facilitate growth. GCS Associates were initially tasked with implementing the right calibre personnel into 6 new and existing roles within time frames that ensured no detrimental impact to the business.

Recruitment Fulfillment
GCS successfully fulfilled a National Sales Management position for Arnold Laver at the start of 2021 before going on to recruit for 4 Senior General Management positions within the required time-frame.  GCS continued successfully recruiting for Arnold Laver with the quick appointments of 2 brand new, specialist roles with great feedback from all involved.

Marc Bertrand
HR Director, National Timber Group

“We’ve worked with GCS for about a year and in that time GCS have recruited a number of critical roles for us. Working with GCS has always been a simple, straight forward process; I brief the team on our requirements, and they immediately go and find the right people for our business. They simply know the market incredibly well and have a wide network of contacts within the sector.

In summary, they produce a great shortlist of high calibre candidates, and we always struggle to pick from the great options they present. What more could you want from a recruitment consultancy!” 

GCS have gone on to develop strong working relations with the key stakeholders within Arnold Laver filling several additional critical roles in the first half of 2021. GCS also ensure ongoing compliance with regulations and employment legislation, and manage screening & vetting for every candidate, giving Arnold Laver complete peace of mind.

Patrick Guest
Managing Director, Arnold Laver

“Arnold Laver have partnered with GCS Associates for some time now on a number of key recruitment initiatives. We are very pleased with high level of service & speed when GCS have recruited key roles for us and we look forward to continuing working together in future.”

Michael Parry
Managing Director, GCS Associates

“Working with Arnold Laver and the wider National Timber Group has been genuinely a pleasure.  As a recruitment consultancy, we look for those clients where there is mutual appreciation and lines of communication are wide open and transparent.

The sort of relationship we have come to enjoy with Arnold Laver acts as a real driver to be the very best we can.  We are always striving to improve and are looking at ways we provide improved efficiencies and cost savings for Arnold Laver when it comes to recruitment and talent attraction.” 

GCS Associates are specialist consultancy providing talent acquisition and staffing solutions to the building materials, construction, technical & engineering sectors. With over 15 years’ experience partnering with a wide range of businesses from FTSE 100s to SME’s & smaller independent businesses – we simply provide the right talent to the best organisations.


Promote your Business & Attract Top Talent using Video Marketing

Video marketing can be used for everything from building customer rapport, to promoting your brand, services, or products. Additionally, video marketing can serve as a medium to help recruit the best talent in the market.

A video will bring your business to life by explaining your products & what it’s like to work in your business. It’s such a powerful tool to use when looking for new business or employees. – video will help your business connect with potential customers & employees instantly.

Video is the bridge that links what you say to who you really are, allowing potential employees to peer behind the curtain and get to know you, your business, and your teams.

  • Videos boost information retention. If your potential customers hear something only, they’re likely to retain about 10% of that information three days later; by contrast, if what they hear is accompanied by relevant imagery, they’ll retain an average 65% of that information three days later.
  • In 2022, video content will account for an estimated 74% of all online traffic. Video content engagement has skyrocketed in recent years. Would-be customers love video, which means good video marketing will engage and attract more customers.

 

  • Email subject lines that include the word “video” see a 19% increase in open rates, and a 65% boost in click-throughs.
  • Four times as many candidates would prefer to watch a job video than read a job description.

If your business or team is growing rapidly or you simply want to explain to potential customers & employees what your business does, creating a company video is the answer.

Contact GCS and we’ll create videos that will bring your business to life and engage & attract new customers and employees.

Need more talented people in your business? We can help.

e: enquiries@gcsassociates.com
t: 0161 660 2548


Meet The Team: Steve Schaap, Head of FMCG Recruitment

Tell us about your career so far?

I spent my early career in print advertising working for major newspapers in the US.  I was a territory manager looking after geographical areas in Colorado, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska – where I was born.

When I moved to the UK in 2008, after settling in, I decided to make a career change to recruitment.  I started working for a generalist agency and really liked the work, however it was clear to me that a specialism was the way forward.  In 2016, I started with an agency specialising in food manufacturing, recruiting interim and permanent managers up to Managing Director level, and I have enjoyed working in that market ever since.

I joined GCS earlier this year, in the newly opened office in Loughborough. I am very pleased to join the business at this exciting time of growth and look forward to contributing to its continued success.

What are your specialist sectors at GCS Associates?

I am currently Head of FMCG. I recruit manufacturing roles, specialising in food manufacturing and have experience across other consumable manufacturing. I specialise in both interim and permanent placement and typical roles I recruit are Development Technologists, Process Managers, Business Unit Managers and Shift Managers (to name a few!)

Tell me about how you help clients/ candidates?

I help my clients by offering them simple, honest and knowledgeable solutions. My clients usually call me because they have an immediate problem that needs an immediate solution.  They expect me to understand their problem whether it be related to Operations, Engineering, Process or anything else related to their manufacturing site.

Steve Schaap, Head of FMCG

My candidates benefit from working with a consultant that knows the industry and has a history of working with integrity.

What do you do outside of work?

When we are not fighting a global pandemic, my wife and I like to travel and spend time with our family and friends.

If you are looking to recruit or considering a new job within food manufacturing, I’d love to hear from you!

CONTACT STEVE IF YOU ARE HIRING IN 2021 OR WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS FINDING A NEW ROLE. 

e: steve.schaap@gcsassociates.com
t: 07309 659 339


GCS Associates Open Second Office in Loughborough, East Midlands

We are excited to announce GCS has opened our second office based in Loughborough, East Midlands – the team is focusing on Executive Recruitment within our current sectors but also Food and FMCG, utilising the extensive networks of the new team.

We’re pleased to welcome Tony Llewellyn and Steve Schaap who, between them, have over 40 years’ experience in recruitment across Food, FMCG, Manufacturing and Construction Supply sectors. They bring a wealth of experience to the business, with a particular focus on Executive Search & permanent and interim recruitment services across all disciplines; Operations, Sales, Logistics/Procurement, Technical and Finance.

Tony Llewellyn, Commercial Director, GCS Associates comments,

“We have nearly 40 years of recruiting experience between us, we know what good looks like and strive to constantly achieve the very best service to all our candidates and clients. Most of our work is based around exclusive partnerships with our clients and this inevitably results in a higher quality and more transparent experience and result for the candidates, the clients and ourselves as recruiters. Both Steve and I are very pleased to join GCS Associates at this exciting time of growth and look forward to contributing to its continued success.”

Michael Parry, Managing Director, GCS Associates comments,

“The recruitment market, across our current sectors of Builder Merchants, Construction, Hire and Building Supplies, has been extremely buoyant, and we’re pleased to report that these sectors are flourishing post-pandemic after a very uncertain 2020!

This increased level of activity and demand for talent has resulted in GCS needing to increase its headcount and, most significantly, opening a second office location in the East Midlands. Our new Loughborough office, where we are welcoming Tony Llewellyn and Steve Schaap, is focusing on Executive Recruitment within our current sectors, and branching out into FMCG and Food Manufacturing. Both Tony and Steve bring great experience and contacts along with fantastic professionalism & reputations within their sectors.  With their addition and the opening of the new office we are really ramping up our service offering to candidates and clients alike now and in the future.”

For more information on how GCS Associates can help your business recruit the best talent in the market, contact Tony Llewellyn.

e: tony.llewellyn@gcsassociates.com
t: 07809 433 882


Huws Gray & GCS Associates

Huws Gray is the UK’s largest independent builders’ merchant, supplying building materials to trade and DIY customers from over 100 locations across the UK.

GCS Associates and Huws Gray have worked together successfully on various recruitment projects and roles. Most recently Huws Gray have been growing their teams even further, and kindly took part in ‘The GCS Pledge’. GCS started the pledge in December 2020 to help the many people made unemployed due to the pandemic. 

Michael Parry, Managing Director, GCS;
“GCS were in a unique position last year where we could genuinely help some of those suffering due to Covid related redundancies. We approached Huws Gray late last year to explain the idea behind the GCS Pledge of 21 and we were delighted they took part. If we were able to get a few people back into employment whilst helping fill critical roles for the likes of Huws Gray free of charge, we were happy to be fulfilling our pledge ambitions.”

Terry Owen, Managing Director, Huws Gray;
“GCS reached out to Huws Gray just before Christmas about their pledge to get people made redundant due to the pandemic back into employment.  To offer up their time and resources without charge I found highly commendable and we were happy to support this worthwhile initiative.  I am pleased to say we have our first GCS Pledge candidate due to start with us soon.”

Chris Joyce, Area Manager, Huws Gray;
We are very pleased to support such a worthwhile initiative in the GCS Pledge. There aren’t many recruitment companies who are going above and beyond to help people back into work, completely free of charge and we’re proud to support this. We’ve now employed two people into the Huws Gray family via the pledge and are really happy with these new employees.”

GCS have gone on to continue working with Huws Gray in 2021 and having ties with North Wales, GCS are pleased to be partnering with a business that originated from that part of the UK.  From humble beginnings, the growth of Huws Gray has been fantastic to witness in recent years and with the news announced on the 1st July about the acquisition of the Grafton brand, it must be the biggest deal of its kind and massive news for our sector. 

 

GCS Associates are specialist consultancy providing talent acquisition and staffing solutions to the building materials, construction, technical & engineering sectors. With over 15 years’ experience partnering with a wide range of businesses from FTSE 100s to SME’s & smaller independent businesses – we simply provide the right talent to the best organisations.