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Business Live interview with Tony Kay

What was your first job (and how much did it pay)?

The Sunday newspapers used to be distributed through wholesalers and I worked for one of them as a teenager. It was the early hours of Sunday morning but the three hours paid more than a week of morning and evening paper rounds that my friends were doing.

What is the best advice or support you’ve been given in business?

Good luck comes from being prepared. There is no doubt that you can get a lucky break in business but there is never a truer saying that you make your own luck, which invariably means you have put the hard work in.

What are the main changes you’ve seen in your business/sector, and what are the challenges you’re facing?

Probably like many businesses, increasing regulatory challenges and an erosion of skill levels. We are all in competition to attract a limited pool of enthusiastic young people into our industry. It is up to us all operating in the construction sector to greatly increase the engagement we have with colleges, schools and pupils. There are some great initiatives taking place across the North East to ensure that is now taking place and there is more to do. We need to show young people that the sector offers fantastic career opportunities and very attractive salaries.

How has the pandemic changed the way you work?

At last, London design and construction teams have discovered video conferencing and you don’t have to have a six hour round trip for a one-hour meeting. Of course, meeting up with customers, suppliers and colleagues face-to-face is stall very important but video conferencing combined with hybrid working is the way forward for so many companies.

Who is your role model in business?

Not sure if this is a role model but I am constantly impressed by the ongoing investment and reinvention at Fenwick’s Department Store. It is an iconic business that has a special place in the heart of the people of our region. Fenwicks is faithful to its traditions and values but always has an eye on the future and being innovative.

What would your dream job be?

Involved in the music industry as a record producer or tour manager. What an exciting life that would be and I’m sure there would be so many tales to tell!!

What advice would you give to someone starting out a career in your sector?

Put the effort in to learn then find a specialist area that really interests you. Part of the learning process is ensuring that you listen intently and absorb what is said. Also, never be afraid to ask a question, it’s a vitally important part of the learning process

What makes the North East a good place to do business?

It’s quite a small village, so building relationships really pays off. Trust is so important in relationships and that can only be built over time by demonstrating that you deliver on what you say you are going to do. There is an old adage that trust arrives on foot but departs on horseback.

How important is it for business to play a role in society?

One word – sustainability. It is the responsibility of every business to make a positive impression on the communities in which they operate and the markets which they serve.

Outside of work, what are you really good at? I can cook a bit but always need at least an extra hour. I’d be useless on Masterchef.


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