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New BCSA head aims to create opportunity from challenges

Jonathan Clemens: ” We have to develop new ways to create opportunity from challenges.”

A more outward looking BCSA is likely to be the product of leadership from new Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Clemens, who has an established track record in organisational transformation and modernisation as well as proven business acumen. Nick Barrett hears something of his plans for BCSA’s future.

Jonathan will already be well known to many clients of the constructional steelwork sector as well as to steelwork contractors after a working lifetime in the industry. The 58 year old building graduate has specialised in marketing steel products in a career spanning some 37 years, mostly with Corus and then Tata Steel.

He has an MBA in Engineering Management, which proved its worth as he rose from curtain wall and other aluminium architectural product manufacturer Kawneer in 1987 where he spent seven years in various commercial roles as well as becoming a Total Quality Management facilitator before joining the steel lintel and access cover manufacturer Caradon Jones in 1994.

By 1997 he was Commercial Manager of industry household name Catnic, until being offered the post of Managing Director of another industry household name Kalzip Limited, and Chief Executive Officer of Kalzip Inc, a post he occupied for 12 years until 2012. While at Kalzip he also gained overseas experience, managing businesses in the Middle East and the Americas for a time. “The manufacturing was predominantly roll forming and fabrication with a strong focus on project sales rather than sales to stock, which involved high levels of specification and engagement with clients and engineers for residential, schools, hospitals and retail.”

Jonathan’s next move was in 2012 to a strategic marketing role at Tata Steel Europe as Head of Marketing Industry Sectors. “This was to help determine how Tata Steel Europe (TSE) would address the competitive marketplace for steel within targeted geographic areas,” said Jonathan. “The role formed the link between the Operational hubs and the functional centres of excellence in Marketing, Supply Chain and Sales.”

From there he became Head of Marketing Construction & Infrastructure at TSE, a post held for six years until 2019. This brought full marketing responsibility for construction sales of TSE. “I managed a team and associated processes covering 14 businesses in Europe and Middle East with over 4,500 direct customers and more than £1 billion revenue. We established Sustainability management, created new digital offerings including BIM and a new website plus developed our customer relationship management (CRM) systems, as well as bringing new and innovative products to market. During this period, we also introduced structured customer satisfaction analysis and a five year strategy for the construction sector.

“The voice of the customer must be heard, that is paramount.”

“This was a totally new department within the organisation and therefore having established the team we needed to develop the strategy, plan and processes from scratch. It was to support the creation of the new Construction sector within Tata Steel and was assembled to include the correct mix of skills and locations across Europe with the team resident in over six countries.

“In that job I spent time with the UK Government, the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in particular, a number of trade associations, universities and other bodies such as the World Steel. All of that will be relevant to working for BCSA, although the job will be about much more than just networking.”

For the four years until he left Tata Steel last year Jonathan was back at Catnic, this time as Managing Director, where he successfully undertook a business turnaround and cultural transformation. “Supporting a premium brand position in terms of service and product quality has been key in maintaining market share within the UK, Germany and France as well as returning some of the best margins in Tata Steel UK,” says Jonathan. Digital solutions were deployed across the business and lean manufacturing techniques were also implemented.” Last year he was named one of the top 100 Supplier Influencers by the Builders Merchant Federation.

“I had full profit and loss accountability for the first time at Kalzip, a role that I enjoyed and learned so much from. Catnic provided fresh challenges along with profit and loss accountability, including modernising the company culture. A lot of that experience is relevant to the BCSA as it moves to adopt a more businesslike approach.

“BCSA has always provided an excellent service to members but we are in a rapidly changing world and what clients expect from steelwork contractors is changing while the regulatory and economic background is also producing new challenges and pressures. That brings opportunity and there is a lot of opportunity out there for BCSA and its members. We have to develop new ways to create opportunity from challenges.

“One thing I have learned from marketing is that the voice of the customer must be heard, that is paramount. Having full profit and loss accountability also gave me insight into the pressures being felt by BCSA members in their day to day businesses. I fully understand why they must be focused on cash and profit as well as continuing excellence in their product, which is world leading.”

Turning Kalzip into a profit making organisation was a career highlight for Jonathan, and he intends to make his BCSA role as much of a success. “I’ll redouble on efforts that have been made over the years to convince non BCSA members that they will see benefits from membership. Non members benefit a lot from the work paid for by members, but there is a wider range of advantages from BCSA membership that the industry needs to be educated in.

“BCSA is providing a good service to members and a lot will be done to make sure that service continues and develops. We will have to become a bit more commercial in how we operate, keeping pace with developments in areas like IT and artificial intelligence. We need to explain our relevance to members, making sure we deliver services relevant to their needs.

“We will liaise increasingly with other organisations, sometimes piggy-backing on efforts they are making in areas of joint interest. There are mutually rewarding opportunities to be pursued with the academic world, for example, where we can help each other.

“We also need to press home to clients that there are clear benefits to them from insisting that their steelwork contractors are BCSA members. It is the best assurance of quality and compliance with the constantly tightening regulatory requirements, like proving the sustainability of your supply chain, that they can have.

“Some companies still ask whether they can afford BCSA membership. The question they should be asking is whether they can afford not to be members. One of my key aims is to convince them that they can’t.”

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