Home Pitched Roofing Total Talk: Old Plean Roofing

Total Talk: Old Plean Roofing

by Jennie Ward

We put the questions to Mark and Fiona Thornton who run Old Plean Roofing, a family firm based in Stirling, discussing current market trends, challenges and opportunities, the perennial problem of recruiting skilled workers, why roofers should be better regulated and held accountable for their actions and so much more…

Can you tell us a bit about Old Plean Roofing and the types of projects you get involved with… 

Old Plean Roofing is a family firm – we’re based in Stirling and are proud to be members of NFRC, the Guild of Master Craftsmen and the trading standards Buy with Confidence scheme. Currently we employ  a team of five office-based staff and eight on-site operatives. We specialise in flat and pitched roofing and take on a whole range of projects including roof rebuilds and repairs and maintenance contracts.

What was your path into construction and to your current position?

Mark – I began treading my path in 1986 starting as a labourer in a large roofing firm and progressing slowly through the ranks to Construction Manager. In the mid-2000s, I decided to follow a different path and worked for a couple of well-known construction companies in technical roles, however, I kept returning to roofing. Starting Old Plean Roofing Ltd was therefore a natural progression. I am passionate about raising standards in roofing and seeing roofers trained and upskilled. 

Fiona – My  background is in counselling which is a bit different to roofing! I now manage all the office based activities; a normal day can include sorting out PPE, chatting to clients or filling out tender documents. Every day is different and though it can be a bit stressful, work is never dull.

You must have worked on some difficult projects over the years; does one in particular stand out? 

Plenty of projects spring to mind – particularly those which throw you a curve ball! However, one that is high up on the list is a local project where we were replacing the flat roof only to discover that it was not only the roof which needed to be replaced but so did most of the timbers. For years the void had not been insulated resulting in condensation build-up. We tackled this one professionally though, as always, and ensured the building remained fully water-tight at all times.

“As we all know issues out of our control will arise whether it be disruption due to weather or difficulty in getting materials to site. Communication is therefore key to the relationship”

What about difficult customers – do you get many of these and how do you deal with them? 

We work very closely with all our clients and usually get the job over the line without much difficulty. However, as we all know issues out of our control will arise whether it be disruption due to weather or difficulty in getting materials to site. Communication is therefore key to the relationship and we strive to keep our clients informed throughout the quote and project process. 

Tell us about a current project you’re working on…

At  the moment we have several projects on the go across the Central Scotland area. In particular this week we have just started a large re-roof outside Falkirk for a domestic customer which includes replacing the fascia, soffit and gutters around the property.

We are also carrying out repairs and maintenance at a large commercial property in Stirling.

“We have always felt that roofers should be better regulated so they can be held accountable for their actions”

You seem like a company who won’t cut corners and feel strongly about how the sector is perceived by homeowners and customers. Unfortunately we still hear a lot about rogue roofers – do you feel more can be done to target individuals and companies who rip customers off? and if so, should it be coming from the industry or Government?

We have always felt that roofers should be better regulated so they can be held accountable for their actions, and we have had to follow up on so many jobs where rogue roofers have left carnage in their wake. Government needs to do more to combat this.

“I am a huge advocate of RoofCert – It is a fantastic scheme which needs to be utilised more – particularly here in Scotland”

With this in mind, the NFRC has launched the RoofCERT accreditation scheme which longer-term will hopefully promote roofers who have best practice and the customers’ interests at heart – are you aware of the RoofCERT scheme and is it something you will adopt for your business and team?

Mark – I am a huge advocate of RoofCert and was involved early on during my time as Roof Training Manager for the Single Ply Roofing Association. It is a fantastic scheme which needs to be utilised more – particularly here in Scotland.

“How do we move forward? Incentivise and train. Pump more money into roof training groups to allow them to offer more substantial training at a cost that is more affordable”

Moving on from this – the skills issue and attracting new entrants to the sector is a perennial problem which appears to be getting worse rather than better. How are you finding things with regards to recruiting workers, and what more do you think needs to be done to attract new entrants to roofing and the wider construction industry?

It is extremely difficult to attract and recruit suitable workers. The industry as a whole is experiencing this. How do we move forward? Incentivise and train. Pump more money into roof training groups to allow them to offer more substantial training at a cost that is more affordable. We should also enforce small businesses and one-man bands to train and achieve qualifications in their roofing discipline. 

Issues around supply of materials such as roof tiles and timber are well documented, often leading to longer lead times and some price rises – has this been your experience and if so, how have you adapted to ensure projects run smoothly? 

The issue of long lead times has hit the construction industry hard. Projects are being pushed back or even put on the back burner. I’m quite hopeful this will change in time, however, it’ll likely be 18 months before any change will be recognised.

What have you learned about your business from working throughout the pandemic ­– has it impacted the way you’ll approach work, the supply chain and the types of projects you might get involved with going forward?

Everyone needs a roofer, pandemic or not. We approach each and every client with empathy and work hard to ensure we deliver on our promise, whatever that may be.

“We find that word of mouth referrals are still the main source of the majority of our enquiries”

Online reviews appear to play a much bigger part in a homeowner / customer’s decision making process these days; what is your opinion of online reviews – are they a blessing or a curse for roofers?

They certainly have a place but we find that word of mouth referrals are still the main source of the majority of our enquiries.

Is price the main driver for projects in today’s market?

Price is a big driver in today’s market, especially now as the cost of living is rising. However, we have found that an honest and systematic approach to each of our clients means that cost usually takes a back seat.

What’s the most satisfying thing about your job?  

The lovely people we get to meet on a daily basis. Each one has a different story to tell and we are proud to add our little chunk of life to theirs.

And the most frustrating?

Having to let people down because of situations out of our control – the biggest one being the weather!

What’s your most important tool, either in the office or on site?

Our operatives on site. They are continually complimented for their knowledge, expertise and for being extremely polite and quiet!

“We know we will face future challenges – particularly in the labour market and that’s something we aim to combat by investing in training our staff”

Following what has been a challenging period for roofing and the wider construction industry, are there reasons to be optimistic going forward? 

Yes definitely. People continue to need roofers and contractors and we’re getting lots of enquiries and are extremely busy. We know we will face future challenges – particularly in the labour market and that’s something we aim to combat by investing in training our staff. It’s also likely we will hit a recession in the coming months which could be a cause for concern but generally we are optimistic about the future.

What can we expect from Old Plean Roofing in the coming years?

We will continue to offer the same reliable and transparent service as we have always done as we strive to become the roofing builder and maintenance contractor of choice in Central Scotland. We also plan to expand our maintenance and repairs division and offer new services.

www.oldpleanroofing.co.uk

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More