Marc Bell is Branch Manager at Avonside Edinburgh. We put the questions to Marc on all things roofing, including his path into the sector, the tools he couldn’t do without and the issues that are affecting the sector today…
TC: What was your path into roofing and to your current position?
MB: My path into roofing began just before my 16th birthday; an older friend had begun an apprenticeship earlier that year with a well-established national roofing contractor and a further job was available to start immediately. I had always wanted a career within the house- building industry and agreed with my parents that if/when an opportunity presented itself that I would take it. Following some informal discussion and brief interview, I started the following Monday, four days after my 16th birthday. After a move to Southwest Roofing one year later, I quickly settled and went on to complete my apprenticeship. I began running my own sites as a tradesman for a few years, still learning, developing knowledge and understanding of the role every day, then took the opportunity to become a Supervisor firstly with Southwest Roofing, before moving on to Avonside Roofing Edinburgh to further my career. I worked in a Supervisory role for approximately one further year before being promoted to Contract Manager and eventually further promoted to Branch Manager (designate) five years later.
TC: If you had one piece of advice about working and progressing in the roofing sector, what would it be?
MB: My one piece of advice to younger people starting out in the roofing industry is that every day is a school day. Listen, learn and soak up as much knowledge from the experienced people around you, as this will come in useful one day.
TC: Tell us about a current project you’re working on…
MB: One of my current projects is for Cala Homes (East) at Marine Rise in Gullane. This is a mixture of new build housing, flats and the refurbishment of an existing building (previous Marine Hotel and Scottish Fire Training College). This project stands out to me as we recently won the NFRC Scottish Award for Roof Slating 2019 for our work on it.
TC: You must have worked on some difficult projects over the years. Does one in particular stand out?
MB: There have been a few challenging projects over the years for lots of different reasons. In recent years the project that stands out would be Dalbeattie Learning Campus. This was a very challenging build with lots of intricate detailing, pitched roofing, vertical cladding, single ply, rainwater and leadworks – all on a massive scale and to a very tight programme. Although difficult, this project was also very rewarding, following completion we won the NFRC Scottish Award for Roof Slating 2018.
TC: What about difficult customers, how do you deal with them? Any situations that stand out that you can tell us about?!
MB: In my area of work every customer can be difficult at times; their need is always greater than that of their peers, however it is important to remember that our customers are the most important thing in our business and without them we’d have nothing. It is vital to build long-standing relationships and trust with customers, this really does help if/when difficulties arise.
TC: What’s the most frustrating thing about your job?
MB: The most frustrating part of my job is the lack of young talent entering the roofing industry at present. The skilled labour pool throughout the UK is diminishing every year and without replacing the skills learned through time by our more experienced workers, these will be lost to future generations. In my opinion, it is imperative that apprentices and trainees are brought into the industry to ensure future growth and ongoing development to the overall trade.
TC: And the most satisfying?
MB: The most satisfying part of my job is always looking at the finished product, especially where the project has either been technically demanding or labour intensive. Winning then retaining the NFRC Slating Award in 2018/2019 were a particular high point for both myself and my team.
TC: What’s your most important tool as a roofing contractor, either in the office or on site?
MB: If you ask any roofer what the most important tool is they’d say either Stihl Saw, Nail Gun or a good hammer, however in my opinion the most important tool as a roofing contractor at any level is communication. You must be able to communicate with your workmates, site team, staff, clients and suppliers. Great communication can make any roofing contractor’s job a lot easier.
TC: What’s the biggest issue currently affecting you as a roofer?
MB: As it is February and I live in Scotland I’d love to say the weather, however this question leads me back to a previous answer where there is the lack of skilled workers, training and development in the roofing industry. As the business grows there is a need to both train, develop and recruit more staff every year, something that we have done quite successfully to date but this is a constant challenge.
TC: How was 2019 and are there reasons to be positive for 2020?
MB: 2019 was a challenging but rewarding year. It presented a few difficulties along the way such as staff illness, labour shortages and even uncertainty regarding Brexit, but we still managed to finish the year in a strong position. 2020 has already started very positively for me personally due to my very recent promotion to Branch Manager at Avonside Roofing Edinburgh. It’s a massive step for me but it’s a challenge that I’m really looking forward to facing and as I already have the right team in place to support my role, I know this will be another successful year.