Engaging with members–Brexit, building materials careers & diversity

by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
29 January 2019 

John NewcombEvery new year brings a fresh start. For the BMF this means building on one of the most successful years in our history, which was topped by being named Best Trade Association in the Association Excellence Awards.

During the first half of the year we will be driving the implementation of the Building Excellence programme, announced at Members Day last September, through which we aim to help our members excel at providing materials and services. Leading up to the BMF All Industry Conference in Dubrovnik in June – which also has the theme Building Excellence – we will be undertaking a detailed analysis of our membership and their current patterns of engagement with their trade body.   

Our objective is to ensure that everyone gets the most from their membership, with services and support that are most relevant to their business. To do so, first we must understand why some companies are more engaged than others at present and, following on from this, tailor specific packages of services to support different “clusters” of members.   

European focus  

The impact of Brexit, in whatever form it takes, has been an ongoing concern for many members. With so many unknowns surrounding the process, the BMF ran a half-day Forum for members on 23 January, which considered the impact of Brexit on VAT and Customs & Excise, on UK timber supply and building materials generally as well as the wider UK economy.   

Europe is hugely important to our sector and the possibilities arising from the country’s new trading environment will no doubt feature again in a number of presentations and discussions at the BMF All industry Conference in June.  

The UK may be loosening its ties with Europe, but at the BMF we are strengthening our own European links as we believe it is even more important than ever to work more closely with our European colleagues and trade bodies.  This is why I am personally delighted that 2019 will be my first full year as President of UFEMAT, the European Association of National Builders Merchants Associations and Manufacturers.   

One of my main objectives is to create a European Merchant Group to promote greater exchange of knowledge and experience.  In line with this, we have invited our first speaker from UFEMAT to take part in our industry Forum at the BMF All Industry Conference.  I will be taking a group of merchants to the UFEMAT Conference in Montreux, Switzerland in October and we will be including merchants from Belgium in our Young Merchants Group annual overseas trip, this year to Knauf’s facility in Toulouse, France.  We are also arranging two benchmarking visits for European merchants to the UK, with a focus on Heavyside in March and Lightside in October, the latter involving our colleagues in FEST, which represents the national associations of wholesalers engaged in the distribution of plumbing and heating products across Europe.  


This year will also see the relaunch of our industry recruitment website, rebranded www.BuildingMaterialCareers.co.uk and no longer focusing solely on youth recruitment. The relaunch follows policy research with members who told us they wanted the BMF to help promote the widest possible range of job opportunities in our industry, fostering diversity and inclusion, helping members to recruit a workforce from a wide range of backgrounds and experience.    

This article appeared in the January 2019 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)