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


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