Q&A: Dennis Hughes
5 March 2021
Dennis Hughes is managing director of Genquip Groundhog, the Neath-based designer and manufacturer of mobile and static welfare accommodation units. He’s very passionate about the business – and Swansea City.
It is extremely good at the moment. The construction industry and related sectors seem to be very positive. Demand is strong across our welfare unit range and much of this is driven by social distancing regulations: whereas previously a site manager might specify one of our 3.6m units for six people, they are now taking two or, even, three for the same number. This demand is obviously feeding through to the hire industry and, in turn, to manufacturers like us.
What is the biggest challenge facing your business or the wider industry?
Ensuring our supply chain partners are as robust as possible as we continue to meet the demand the market is dictating. We’ve installed additional machines to the value in excess of £1.2m at the factory to help increase production. Our other challenge is to ensure our workforce remains safe during these times, so stringent measures have been put in place to ensure we manufacture our products in a safe and sustainable manner.
And what’s the biggest opportunity?
The sheer demand from hire companies, who are reporting utilisation rates of as high as 90% or 100% and need to expand their fleets. The number of new accounts we have opened in the last 12 months has been amazing and we look forward to serving these in the future and to them becoming part of the Groundhog family.
What are you most proud of in the past 12 months?
I have been extremely proud of our team. They have stood up to the challenges put in front of them and in doing so have made the business even stronger.
Who or what inspires you?
At the moment I’m inspired by smaller business in different sectors than ours that are facing tougher times because of the lockdown, like hospitality and leisure. The imaginative ways in which some companies have adapted or found new markets should be recognised.
What annoys/frustrates you?
Negative people. I’m lucky in that I’ve always been surrounded by a positive team.
How do you relax after a hard day?
Mainly with my family although we obviously cannot do as much as we would normally at the moment. We enjoy walking with our daft dog Jacko, a rescued mongrel we acquired seven years ago. He’s black and white – the same colours as my beloved Swansea City!
What was your favourite school subject?
I was not really a big fan of school. I took the first opportunity to get out and work.
So how did you get into the industry?
I signed up to a 12-month government YTS (Youth Training Scheme) initiative designed to get young people into work [this was introduced by the Thatcher government in the 1980s as a measure to tackle unemployment]. I joined a family-run plant hirer in Port Talbot called MEJ, specialising in welding machinery, which was the forerunner of what later became GenSet and Genquip. I then did an apprenticeship for three years, progressed to become a service manager, depot manager, regional manager and then an area director. Ten years ago I had the opportunity to buy shares in Genquip and I became MD.
If things had been different, what other career might you have chosen?
I would not change anything.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given, or that you would pass on to others?
Look after people, because you never know when you will need looking after yourself.
Tell me a surprising fact about yourself or your business.
I would never have thought that I would become the co-owner and MD of the business I joined 45 years ago on a YTS scheme. I am very proud of that achievement.
I think I can guess which sport and team you follow?
As I said, I am mad about football and my beloved Swans. I have supported them for many years and, if we dare to dream, we are going back to the Premiership next season.
What new skill would you like to learn?
I would like to speak Italian. I’ve visited Italy so many times to visit suppliers and on holiday, and the people bend over backwards to communicate with you in English.
What are you most looking forward to once life returns to normal?
I cannot wait to have a great night out with friends and colleagues, as well as having a holiday - and getting back to the Liberty Stadium to see the Swans.
What’s the secret of success?
Look after the great people you put around you.
Finally, is there anything you would like to add about the business, the current trading outlook or future plans?
Although the outlook for the immediate future looks very promising, I think we have all learnt that following this pandemic the world will never be the same and we will all have to adapt in different ways.