Quality is the key

As Hamish takes over from Garry Bateman as president of the CFA, he plans to make a focus on quality the theme of his tenure.

I’M delighted and very honoured to have been elected president of the CFA at our recent AGM. This is a particular honour for me, as it’s the second time I’ve held this position.

I shall explain how that came about, but the first thing I must say is to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor Garry Bateman for his work as president during his term of just over two years and also as VP before that. As he stated in his article in last month’s CFJ, his major enthusiasm has been for training and excellence.

There’s no doubt that during his tenure, we made big strides forward in this area, in particular with the work that our training manager Shaun is now doing at our bespoke training centre in Loughborough and of course the Forbo facility in Scotland that Garry helped make available to FITA. This is really all about securing the future of our industry, and we all owe Garry a big debt of gratitude for his work on this.

I’d very much like to continue to develop this theme, with a focus on quality, as my term as president gets under way. We’re also looking to the future of our industry in the very unusual and challenging conditions we find ourselves in at the moment.

A quality message is certainly something that we have tried to develop in our own family business over the years, and I hope this gives me some of the right experience needed to help the wider industry build on this message as well. We think of MacGregor Flooring company as one large family, from the apprentices up to myself. Everybody in our company is part of our family because they’ve all helped to make our company what it is today. Without them we wouldn’t be in the top position that we now enjoy as a company.

When I left school my first job was working for a Glasgow timber merchant, and I also attended the Glasgow College of Building & Technology. After two years I got the opportunity to start working in the flooring industry with The Marley Tile Company.

I was with them for 14 years and during the final four years I ran the flooring contract operation in Scotland under the Marley Company which was called Florstyle UK.

In May 1985 we started MacGregor Flooring Co with a management buy-out of the Scottish region of Florstyle UK from Marley Floors. By August this year I’d served 35 years as first managing director and now chairman/ceo. I believe I’ve used my skills, experience and judgement to run the company successfully.

We’ve worked as far afield as Shetland and the Falkland Islands. MacGregor Flooring Co carries out most types of flooring and preparation works, employing between 48-55 people including tradespeople and staff with an annual turnover ranging between £4.6-£6.4m.

Beyond the immediate task of running the business, I’ve been involved in many different areas. I’ve always felt it’s important for those of us who run successful businesses to try to improve our industry and also the wider community in any way that we can.

We run the company as one big family and I’m fortunate to have a good team around me, to whom I have been able to delegate an increasing number of duties relating to the running of the company in recent years.

Kenny Smith, who has been with us for most of our 35 years, is now managing director, while my son Crawford is also a director. As well as providing the impetus to modernise the day-to-day operation of our business, this has freed me up to get involved in other things which I enjoy and which I believe are important.

I’ve been a director of the CFA since May 1999 and was president previously from 2004-6. I’m also a member of the CFA Scottish Committee. I started attending council meetings of the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC), on behalf of the CFA, then went on to become president of the NSCC. I was a director of the NSCC from November 2006 to January 2016, honorary treasurer of the NSCC, chair of the Scottish NSCC Committee and represented the CFA at NSCC council meetings.

The NSCC and UK Contractors Group merged to form Build UK in September 2015.

After this I became vice chairman of the Scottish Contractors Group and was appointed a director of the SCG, which is affiliated to Build UK. In March 2017 I was appointed chairman of The Scottish Contractors Group, taking over from Ken Gillespie.

It’s been an honour for me during my career to represent and promote the CFA, NSCC and the SCG, then Build UK, throughout our industry, especially the opportunities I’ve had to attend meetings at government level, at Westminster and Holyrood.

I’ve also helped and advised various training groups in Scotland. Personally and through the company I’ve helped charities, disadvantaged people, sports people and sports clubs of all types.

In my spare time, which is rare, I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren, golfing, being involved with Hamilton Rugby Club, of which I’m also a past president, and currently a council member, and enjoying good food and travelling with my wife Karen.

I feel that with a good few years’ experience of this industry under my belt, I’m well-placed to give leadership to the CFA over the next two years. It hardly needs stating we’re in an extraordinary situation, and many in our industry have been faced with very real difficulties. However, I believe there’s now an opportunity to look forward and re-set the way we work in several areas.

For example, because many companies have been in very tight situations recently with regard to cashflow, there’s now a welcome focus from government on the issues of payment terms and retentions. These have been the scourge of our industry and if the pandemic is forcing action in this area, that’s a good thing.

The Scottish Committee discussed the fact that in recent months site working practices have improved dramatically, owing to the requirements for improved hygiene and social distancing. Unrealistic project programmes have been a real problem for us in the past, as they’ve impacted on the quality of job we’ve been able to do.

Too many trades working onsite at the same time has impacted everyone’s ability to produce a high quality job. Floorlaying should be one of the last jobs to be carried out onsite. The quality of this work is compromised if our guys are falling over plumbers and electricians and other second fix trades being carried out onsite at the same time.

The fact this hasn’t been able to happen during the pandemic has been a benefit for all of us, has enabled us to raise the quality of our work and holds lessons for the future. One lesson is that this way of working improves efficiency and doesn’t really add to timescales on a job.

So I strongly believe there’s a positive approach we need to take. We need to see what the new normal looks like and plan for the new conditions. We need to secure the future of new fitters and work to develop our Future Fitter programme. We need to adopt some of the practices we’ve been learning this year - not working on top of one another, sensible shift patterns, areas properly prepared and ready when promised, hygienic facilities for workers.

This is all part of delivering a quality job for our customers, which is a theme I hope I’ll be able to return to and expand on during my term as CFA president.
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