‘As we settled down to our ‘new normal’, it is important to share who is behind the scenes in Guaranteed Irish. It might surprise you that the organisation is a not for profit and all Directors, thought leaders in their own field, are voluntary. They give their time freely and each week, I hope to introduce you to them, asking them some questions that might help you and your business return to work and overcome this pandemic.
Starting with the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, allow me introduce you to Paddy Kelly, Managing Director of Tegral, part of the Etex group who represents the construction sector on the Board,’ Brid O’Connell CEO, Guaranteed Irish.
Q&A with Paddy Kelly Managing Director, Tegral Building Products.
Business name and address: Tegral Building Products Ltd., Kilkenny Road, Athy, County Kildare.
Who owns the business and how many are employed there? Tegral is owned by the global building materials company, Etex Group, which employees over 12,500 people worldwide. Here in Ireland, we are based in Athy with two factories and employ over 150 people.
What does the business mean to the community? Tegral has been an integral part of the town of Athy since 1936 when we first opened our doors and has seen thousands of people work here over the last 84 years. I myself am third generation in my family at Tegral. First and foremost, this means local jobs for our community which subsequently also positively impacts on other businesses in our town.
How to you engage with your local community? We have a series of initiatives in our community, largely sport related, including sponsorships of many local sport teams and activities. We also support local charities, fundraisers and clubs. In the midst of the Covid 19 crisis, it has been imperative that we support urgent activities, including a meals on wheels service for elderly people in our community. We also recently launched a ‘Thank You Hamper’ campaign to give back to the workers at the frontline who are going over and above for us all right now. Ten recipients got a hamper full of €100 worth of Irish made produce and it was a lovely way to get people to come together to share positive stories in our community right now.
What are the challenges that your business has had to face as a result of Covid-19? Firstly, we have had to shutdown our facilities which has resulted in the temporary layoff of the majority of our team at Tegral. With the exception of a small number of critical Covid 19 related projects, such as urgent hospital developments and test centres, both of which required some of our metal products, we are not manufacturing. Secondly, the shutdown of all construction in both Ireland and our main export market, the UK, has led to a complete collapse of sales.
What are you doing in your business to overcome them particularly in the current climate? For us, this was a real case of turning a challenge into an opportunity in many ways. This has encouraged us to embrace modern technologies, digital tools and to learn quickly. We set up as many of our team as possible to work from home and developed new ways to communicate with our customers using innovative technologies like Microsoft Teams. We launched things like online CPDs for architects, heightened our digital marketing and also introduced digital communications for our employees to keep connections alive. It has been a real shift in priorities for us and will potentially change the way we work forever.
Why is it important to you that your production in the construction sector resumes asap? Well firstly it is important to say that we should only return to operations when the Government and HSE advise it is safe to do so. The last thing we all need is a second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic. By taking the right actions now, we can hopefully return to normal, albeit a new normal, soon. Obviously, as markets begin to open again, we will need to be manufacturing. Construction is set to return on May 18th in Ireland and at a similar time in the UK. We will need to start dispatching products to our customers to meet their demands and hopefully catch up on some lost business from this challenging time.
Are you set up and ready to have your staff ‘return to work’ post Covid-19? We have our Health & Safety and Operations Management team actively reviewing and preparing our return to work safety measures in accordance with guidelines from the Government and the Health & Safety Authority. We are looking at all the practical issues, like social distancing, Personal Protective Equipment, onsite facilities – even simple things like making a cup of tea will need to change. The most important thing for us is the health, safety and well being of our team at Tegral, above productivity, so this is our top priority right now.
How would you advise others in your sector to act during this pandemic. As a nation, we are innovative and creative thinkers in our businesses. Employee engagement is critical for the success of any business, particularly at a time of crisis. In my opinion, if all companies can prioritise the health and safety of their staff, we will find new ways of doing business under the new regulations. At Tegral, we have ensured we keep regular contact and lines of communication open at all times amongst our entire team, even introducing some fun activities from home and community support-based initiatives. For example, at Tegral, many of us take part in Pieta House’s Darkness Into Light walk every year, and as that has been postponed, we decided to come together to run our own fundraiser from home – supporting a critical mental health organisation but also bringing our team together, just in a different way.
What made you decide to become a member of Guaranteed Irish? Tegral are actually one of the founding members of Guaranteed Irish. It is a brand that we have always been very proud to be associated with, and today it is more important than ever that we remain dedicated to supporting Irish products, manufacturers and jobs. For us, it is a mark of quality and reassurance for our customers that they are getting the best products and services at all times.
Can you see being part of the Guaranteed Irish family important during and post Covid-19? I think this will be more prevalent than ever before, as every single person across our country has been impacted upon by this pandemic. When businesses start to reopen, they will need local support like never before to help them get back up and running and ensure they can keep their doors open for the long haul. Irish business will have suffered enough in the few months. However, as a recent Guaranteed Irish survey showed, 90% of people in Ireland want to buy Irish made products and support Irish jobs and I really feel that Covid 19 has created a sense of community and national spirit that we haven’t seen in Ireland in a long time. This makes me very optimistic that this will increase even more support of buying Irish in the future.