Since featuring on our very first front cover, Tom Knight – Highly Commended in the BMI Apprentice of the Year 2017 – has continued to have great success in his roofing career... Total Contractor met up with him on site near Truro for a chat.
“What I remember most about the competition is the Q&A sessions”, says Tom, recalling his success in the 2017 Apprentice of the Year. “It was a great chance to talk to trusted people in roofing – like Andy King (of A L King Roofing and then president of the NFRC), Simon Dixon and Gary Walpole (both also from the NFRC). They’ve had fantastic experience and expertise to share which has really helped guide me in my roofing career”.
It wasn’t the only stand out part of the experience for Tom. “The section on estimating was brilliant. It’s been a real help to me when it comes to quoting. The fault-finding session was also great, especially when it comes to repair jobs and when you’re the one that has to identify the issues. It’s been really useful indeed.”
Prior to entering the roofing industry, Tom was a chef after leaving college. But the pay and long, anti-social hours meant it wasn’t for him. Having been offered a labouring job in roofing, Tom found himself enjoying the work and with a knack for the trade.
Consequently, his employer supported Tom in his career and provided him with the opportunity for an apprenticeship and to become a skilled worker. It was an opportunity he seized with both hands and – following his training on the job and with Alan Lander of RoofTrain in Exeter – his talent blossomed, winning South West SkillBuild as well as placing highly in the BMI competition.
Having qualified as a roofer and after spending some years honing his skills with his employer, Tom found himself with the opportunity to broaden his skills and work with close family. “I’d have happily stayed for another 10 years”, says Tom, “but a change in circumstances and being able to work with family resulted in what I’m doing now”.
Initially Tom worked with his builder uncle, which broadened his skills and experience and allowed him to build up his own tool bank. He then teamed up with his dad on roofing which was a really positive time – it was “massive”, Tom recalls.
Following his father’s final retirement (he’d tried before!), Tom took the opportunity to start his own business, with a newly financed van and help in the shape of mate Jack Newton – himself a national SkillBuild finalist in 2015 – and his roofing and property maintenance company was born.
Once again, another key skill Tom picked up during the BMI competition came to the fore. “I am really conscious of the need for marketing, and it’s something we work hard at,” says Tom. “I’m proud of our website and promote our business through Yell. It’s our main review platform, and we get a lot of work out of it.”
Tom’s not wrong: his is the most, and best, reviewed business in his category in the Truro area and dozens of former customers aren’t shy in singing his praises. “It’s also very motivational. When jobs aren’t going well or there are other problems, like Covid, it’s a booster to drop onto the site and read the reviews. We also make sure any Google reviews feed into to it as well, so we’re covered all ways.”
This superb word-of-mouth and engaged approach to marketing means that Tom has six months of work booked ahead of him. Current goals then are to maintain the business at a consistent level post-pandemic – and get to New Zealand.
Tom was married in 2018, and the big dream was to travel to New Zealand in 2020 so his wife Kioni could meet up with her NZ relatives for the first time. “We had the tickets and everything – and then Covid came along. At least we got our money back, and at least we’ve been able to work outdoors ever since the lockdowns, which was a result.”
In summarising his thoughts about the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition, Tom says, “We all got a lot out of the competition, which was more like a two-day course. It really boosted my confidence, and I learnt a lot from the knowledge sharing. I’d recommend entering to anyone”.