Championing Change – An Interview Kate Tinsley, CEO of MKM Building Supplies

Kate Tinsley MKM Building SuppliesKate Tinsley CEO of MKM Building Supplies will shortly be opening the business’s 92nd branch. We chatted to her about the key to successful leadership of a rapidly growing business where everybody is welcome.

 

Can you tell us a bit about MKM Building Supplies and what sets it apart in the market?

We have built the business around the concept that skilled, local people best understand the needs of their customers and as a result, each of our Branch Directors have a share in their own business.

This means that each branch has the freedom to deliver the products, services and resources that its local customer base requires. It also means our people are more engaged in the business as they have a direct influence and can impact on its success in a much more personal way.

We offer a full product portfolio in each branch, focusing not only on building materials and plumbing and heating supplies, but also fantastic kitchen and bathroom showrooms.

 

Have you seen many changes in the construction market in your time in the industry and how do you respond to these trends?

I’ve been working for more than 20 years in the industry now; primarily within the merchant market but have also had a couple of stints working for manufacturers, namely British Gypsum and Ibstock Brick. You would expect that during these past two decades, I would have witnessed significant change, but I have found that change has tended to be more gradual.

When embarking on a building project, most contractors would agree that you can’t predict with 100% certainty the issues you may face along the way. In that respect, the same challenges that have always existed; problems with groundworks, supply disruptions, labour and skills shortages, still remain today and its our role as merchants to try and help solve them.

I think it’s fair to say that one of the areas that hasn’t changed is that the merchant industry remains focused on building great relationships. The adage that ‘people buy from people’ still rings true today, and I believe this is where merchants have a key role to play in offering that friendly, helpful and knowledgeable point of contact.

“If I could pass on any of my 20 years’ experience in the industry, it would be that it’s a great place to have a career. There is something quite straightforward about the sector – it’s meritocratic and I feel people are judged primarily on their abilities.”

 

MKM Building SuppliesYou’re one of the driving forces behind #YesSheCan. Can you tell us a bit about the initiative and why you got involved?

I got involved with the #YesSheCan campaign, as I wanted to try and give something back. The initiative was established to inspire, empower and engage women to help them reach their career aspirations, I thought I should try and help if I could!

For me, I just want the construction industry to attract the very best people. I think things are shifting and the focus is becoming much more centred on attracting the right calibre of candidate for the role, regardless of any of their personal characteristics.

 

What else do you think we need to do as an industry to attract the best people?

The construction industry doesn’t always have the best image which in many ways is unfair. We need to keep promoting our industry to ensure that we can keep attracting the very best people. If I could pass on any of my 20 years’ experience in the industry, it would be that it’s a great place to have a career. There is something quite straightforward about the sector – it’s meritocratic and I feel people are judged primarily on their abilities. So, it doesn’t matter where you went to school or where you come from. In that respect, it’s actually a perfect place to be more diverse!

 

For Merchant Margin Maker, we interview many business leaders. What do you think are the most important attributes for a leader in the current economic climate, where new working models and patterns are emerging?

Certainly, the pandemic has changed the way that many businesses operate, but not necessarily the key attributes that a leader should possess. I do think with the current shift to more hybrid ways of working and potentially, a more remote workforce, we need to change the way that we connect with our teams and find new ways to engage our people.

However, despite all of the changes in the last 18 months, leadership qualities remain the same. I believe leaders should have complete integrity, a desire to help and support their teams and also the willingness to seek counsel from others – none of us have all of the answers. Furthermore, we should treat each other with respect and kindness.

Certainly, the pandemic has changed the way that many businesses operate, but not necessarily the key attributes that a leader should possess.

Leave a comment