Meet the Team: Laurie Cummings

Laurie Cummings joined Concrete Canvas Ltd. (CC Ltd) in Spring 2020 as our Technical Sales Representative for the Wales and South West region.

As our newest Sales recruit, we spoke to Laurie to find out how he’s settling in just over six months into his new role, what his previous experience has brought to CC Ltd, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his move to the company.

Laurie, let’s start from the beginning. You graduated from University of Plymouth in 2010 having studied BEng Civil and Coastal Engineering (2:1 Hons). What did you do next?

After Uni, I enrolled in the Army where I served with the Royal Engineers for six years. Then I moved on to work for Alun Griffiths Contractors Ltd. They’re a large Welsh civils contractor who operate across Wales and England. They deliver projects across Highways, Rail, Utilities, water management and various other sectors.

What was your role at Alun Griffiths and what did it involve?

I worked within the Highways sector on projects like the Cardiff Council Safer Routes in Community Scheme and Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone which, for me, involved delivering engineering on new offline flexible pavement constructions. In the Highways sector as a whole, I also gained experience in deep drainage, highway drainage and retention ponds.

You then made the move to join CC Ltd. How did that come about?

I was overseeing the installation of Concrete Canvas® (CC) on a project I was working on with Alun Griffiths known as Five Mile Lane. The client was Vale of Glamorgan Council. We installed over 2000m² of CC8 as a channel lining solution for a series of cut-off ditches at the crest of the large earth cutting excavated for the new carriageway.

During periods of peak rainfall the equivalent of an Olympic sized swimming pool drained off the adjacent field. This was stopping us from progressing with the road construction. Using CC to line the ditches meant that the water was controlled and directed away from the site to stop it flooding.

I met Phill [Greer – Business Development Manager for the UK and North America] on that project. We got chatting and he asked me to apply for a position at CC [Ltd] that he was interviewing for at the time. I think he recognised that I had transferrable skills and knowledge that would be an asset to the company. And I was already familiar with the product with a contractor’s viewpoint on it too, so I have an understanding of the procurement process, from tender to installation and through to aftercare as well. I was excited to be joining a rapidly growing UK sales team. I cover Wales and the South West, but we also have technical sales people covering the North & Midlands, the South East and Scotland & Ireland.

Completed shot of the Five Mile Lane installation that Laurie worked on in his previous role.

You joined us right at the start of the first UK national lockdown back in April. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your start with us?

Actually, it was OK! I was given the opportunity to settle in, get stuck in to the role and just get on with it. There’s a lot of autonomy and independence with this role. And trust. Obviously as I was stuck at home for a chunk of it, the key thing has been working on building a network to incorporate areas where I see opportunities.

How are you adapting the role to work around the restrictions that are in place due to COVID?

Just like everyone else, we’re learning how to operate as a business, and adapting individually, to the “new normal”. So instead of meeting people face-to-face or delivering presentations to groups of people in offices, we’ve put a lot of work into our webinar series and I’m in virtual meetings almost every day.

Laurie conducting an on-site toolbox talk prior to the installation of CC in Templecombe.

Have there been any learning curves or major challenges for you in terms of transitioning from an engineering role to sales?

There haven’t really been any negatives. Like I said before, I had those transferrable skills and prior knowledge of CC so it’s been smooth in that sense.

If I were to highlight something that’s been a learning curve, it would be that change in career direction. That’s always tough but I’ve had great support from everyone at CC [Ltd], so that’s made the transition a lot smoother and a lot easier for me.

What else does your experience bring to the role?

Coming from a contractor background, I’ve got an insight into the actual practicalities and realties of site work. So now when I deliver tool box talks to contractors at the start of a project, I know what the Project Manager and installation guys are dealing with, so I can help them in delivering those projects successfully. I’m also used to working with engineering consultants, and my civil engineering background is a real help when delivering CPD’s or working on specifications.

You mentioned that you have a lot of independence in your role. Is there anything else that particularly stands out to you about it?

There’s a lot of opportunity to travel and there’s a real range and variety of vastly different projects for me to work on, so it’s interesting.

We work across multiple sectors and the material is used for a number of different applications, so I can be delivering a tool box talk on a rail project on Monday; visiting a petrochem site on Tuesday to talk about weed suppression; meeting consultant engineers for a water utility client on the Wednesday for concrete remediation; a site visit for a local council on Thursday inside a culvert. The role is hugely varied.

The company as a whole is really good to work for though, I will say that. The Directors really care about their staff and because the teams are smaller, everyone matters. I like the strong emphasis on product, too. We know we have a good product which can and does outperform and outcompete competitors, and that shows. It’s also great to see such a strong Welsh company and a real sense of identity in that.

Looking forward at your role and future at CC Ltd – do you have a plan or strategy that you’re hoping to develop or put in place? Are you likely to focus on the Highways sector given your experience?

Actually, no. Obviously we work on projects across multiple sectors – Highways being one of those – but my strategy is to concentrate on building relationships with and getting CC specified by Local Authorities.

While Highways does provide large scale projects where CC offers real advantages over other forms of erosion control, if every council in my region regularly specifies CC for smaller jobs and we’re well-known by framework contractors, we can build a huge network of clients, consultants and contractors within the Wales and South West region. Those contacts will then, over time, begin to specify CC because they know it’s a product that works. They’ll know the benefits and cost savings and it’ll be considerably more beneficial and efficient for them to come straight to us time after time.

I want to build on the multiple projects we’ve done in the past with the likes of Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly Councils. There is a history of mining in Wales, a lot of the work up until now has been in mine legacy programmes, but there’s a real opportunity to open up other applications. I’d also like to work more closely with Natural Resources Wales, who have specified us on a number of projects in the past.

Now that I’ve stepped in as dedicated Wales & South West technical sales support, the company is in a position to work more closely with local clients, consultants and contractors. It’s an exciting time to be working in the region and building it up.

Hydration of the CC material at the A4060 project for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

Before I leave you Laurie, you welcomed your daughter into the world recently. How are you enjoying being a Dad?

I’m tired! Really tired. It’s not easy, but she’s incredible, so it’s worth it!

Thanks for your time!

No worries, thank you.

You can learn more about how Concrete Canvas® is used in the Road sector in our exclusive on-demand webinar – Coming Soon. If you’re based in the Wales and South West region, why not connect with Laurie on LinkedIn.

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