PBM recently spoke with Simon Clough, Palace Chemicals’ UK Sales Director, who has just clocked up a remarkable 40 years with the business…
Palace Chemicals lays claim to being one of the UK’s largest independent manufacturers of tile adhesives, grouts, building chemicals, wood treatments and decorating sundries. Since its foundation in 1978, the business has continued to grow through its consistent programme of innovation and investment in the latest available technology.
The company states that its products have become widely recognised for their value, quality and reliability among users ranging from tiling firms and large corporate developers to restoration experts, mosaic artists and DIY enthusiasts. In addition, its high level of industry-leading accreditation has enabled the Liverpool-based firm to forge a number of key industry partnerships, including as licensee for the UK manufacture and distribution on behalf of US Building Products firm Laticrete.
The firm — which remains under the leadership of majority shareholder and Managing Director Charles Clapham, one of its founding partners — continues to pride itself on its commitment to promoting sustainability through its products and working practices.
Here, PBM Puts the questions to UK Sales Director Simon Clough:
Q: How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
A: My brother-in-law was a sales executive for Palace Chemicals and, while I was working for someone else as an engineering draughtsman, I sometimes joined him on his rounds on Friday afternoons if I finished work early. The lifestyle immediately appealed to me and, then I got a call a call out of the blue from my brother-in-law’s boss, George Denison, who offered me a vacancy that had come up in Nottinghamshire.
People thought I was crazy to give up my job, but it luckily paid off — in just my first week, I earned a lot of money for a 21-year-old in 1982!
In 40 years at the company, I’ve steadily risen through the ranks, from East Midlands Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager for the East Midlands and Yorkshire, Northern Sales Director and, finally, UK Sales Director.
Q: What has the particular impact of Covid-19 been like on the business, and what longer-term changes have remained?
A: Covid-19 was a huge game changer. As we were no longer able to visit our customers we turned to technology to keep the channels open. We initiated a new online portal, allowing customers to order product direct and we created over 100 online “how to” videos to help our customers through the application process of most of the company’s products.
I worked throughout the lockdown period supporting our clients and the business responded quickly, including being able to supply hand and surface sanitisers as part of our range.
Q: How important do you feel the issue of sustainability is to the merchant sector?
A: Palace Chemicals has a responsibility as a large manufacturer to lead by example when it comes to protecting our environment. As a result, we have always prided ourselves on seeking the most eco-friendly materials and employing the most sustainable manufacturing and working practices possible.
Since 2004, long before many others joined the search for eco-friendly materials, we have operated a BSI accredited ISO 14001 approved Environmental Management System. As part of this ongoing programme, we’ve invested heavily in new processes and equipment to reduce our carbon footprint. Recent upgrades, for example, have led to the removal of more than 80,000 composite paper sacks from our waste system.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
A: Despite the upheaval during the pandemic, and as a result of some key strategic decisions made to protect our customers from any potential supply impact from Brexit, sales in 2020 continued to grow. And this allowed us to continue to supply, if not increase supply, during what was a very difficult year.
However, my career highlight was seeing sales turnover increase further in 2021, making it another year of Palace continuing to support and supply our customers. In the seven years that I’ve led the sales division, six of those have shown year-on-year growth.
Q: Finally, where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
A: This year marks my 40th anniversary working for Palace Chemicals — a fact that I often have to pinch myself about. Yet, I’m still only 61 years old so, who knows, I’ll probably still be there in five years’ time.
If you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life — so I’m very lucky to be in that category.
Simon is the longest-serving employee at Palace Chemicals — with the exception of founder and Managing Director, Charles Clapham. Commenting on Simon’s 40 years with the business, Charles said: “To have clocked up 40 years in one industry is an amazing achievement for anyone these days, but to have served that length of time with one company is simply incredible.
“His tenure during those four decades has been exemplary, particularly during the last year, where his product experience, unrivalled demand for quality and unerring commitment to our customers’ interests has helped the company not only chart the stormy waters of the Covid-19 pandemic but has, against all the odds, led to another record year for company sales.”