Founded back in 1934 as Allan Blunn Ltd, the company was one of only a handful Welsh slate quarry agents supplying the UK market and developed a successful philosophy of offering a specialised local service to the London building market, which it soon began to reproduce nationwide.
The company then merged with Cembrit Building Products at the turn of the century. Cembrit has a long history of supplying building boards, cladding and roofing slates to the construction market. With its specialist knowledge across a broad range of products and materials, the company is able to identify versatile products from around the world and make them available to the UK construction industry through its specialist stockist and merchant supply chains.
PBM speaks to Thomas Heldgaard, Cembrit Managing Director of the UK & IE
How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
I started my career in the construction industry in 1998 when I took on the role of Environmental Manager at Rockwool. I spent the next 16 years working with the company and in 2008, I become MD of Rockwool Asia. After three years, I moved to the UK where I took on the role of Managing Director for the firm in the UK and Ireland.
In 2014, I took a year off to study an MBA full-time. Once completed, I decided that I wanted to get back into the construction industry. When searching for my next position, the Managing Director role at Cembrit UK & IE stood out as a great opportunity. As of January 2017, I have been in the job for a year, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.
How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?
In many ways, the industry is rather static, but this isn’t a bad thing. One thing that has stayed the same, and will continue to do so, is that people very much buy from people. Relationships are key in the construction industry, so it is important to build on existing relationships and develop new connections.
What are the current challenges facing your company?
Like any company that imports materials into the UK, the incoming cost increase linked to the devaluation of the Pound puts pressure on Cembrit’s short term profitability. However, a new balance will establish itself, and we will concentrate on strengthening our commercial and operational capabilities to be even better at taking advantage of the numerous opportunities that exist in UK construction.
Which individual has influenced you most in your career?
Without a doubt, my wife! I met her when we were both young students. Back then, I did not really appreciate the satisfaction of working globally — I was anchored in Denmark. She opened my eyes to the world and supported me when opportunities to travel and work abroad materialised. This has not only been the most significant influence over my career, but it has also fundamentally changed me as a person and transformed the way I now raise our children to become global citizens.
“One thing that has stayed the same within the construction industry, and will continue to do so, is that people very much buy from people — relationships are key.”
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I would say my biggest challenge has been managing the integration of a merger and acquisition spanning 10+ countries in South East Asia and China. Having said that, trying to align with the requirements of the Green Deal and ECO over several years — and to see it all go down the drain — has also been a challenge.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
The highlight of my career has happened within the last year. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to lead Cembrit into a new era under new ownership, and since taking on the role, have thoroughly enjoyed it, and have been happy with the improvements we have so far made.
For more information on Cembrit, visit: www.cembrit.co.uk