Look to the Future: Kate Whatley, SPV Group

13 April, 2021
EDGE Clients
5 min read.

After over a year since the start of lockdown, the global business landscape has been changed forever. To mark this unusual anniversary, we’re looking to the future with a series of interviews with a range of businesses and leaders, discussing changes in their industry and life over the last year.  

This week, restrictions on non-essential shops and outdoor dining have been eased, bringing about a new sense of hope and positivity for many businesses and individuals.

Our next interview is with Kate Whatley, Commercial Director at SPV Group – who are multi-award-winning roofing and cladding contractors based in locations across the UK.

Who are you and what do you do? 

I am the Commercial Director at SPV Group. We are roofing and cladding refurbishment contractors working for a select list of blue-chip clients throughout the UK.

What are your long-term goals, did you achieve them and what’s left to come?

My long-term goal is to step into the role of Managing Director at SPV Group, once my father Howard steps down in the next 12 months. We had planned for this to happen in 2020, but the pandemic meant we decided to push this back.

What are your values as a business leader? 

At SPV Group, people are our biggest asset. I truly believe that unless you look after your people you will never have a successful business.

We have a fantastic team at SPV Group and everyone makes a huge impact to the company. Our people are all so valued for their skills and expertise.

I endeavour to lead by example and treat everyone with respect, encouraging our people to be the absolute best that they can be.

Our values at SPV Group are quality, safety, integrity, respect and trust. I live by these values personally and professionally every day.

How do you stay motivated? 

I often ask myself this! I am a very self-motivating individual and always try to do my best. I think this was instilled in me from my years at a Grammar School in Birmingham when we had a tremendous amount of pressure placed on us. I am always someone that wants to please. My high functioning anxiety makes we a worrier, but it also ensures I am usually overly prepared for situations. An asset and a downfall of my approach is that I always tend to say yes and try to help too much!

It has been very difficult to stay motivated during the pandemic while working from home and not seeing colleagues so much. I think that early on during lockdown my fight-or-flight response kicked in and has never really subsided.

I’ve been staying positive by spending time with my three children, Eva, Leah and Rocco, as well as my two dogs, Piers the Pug and Frank the Frenchie.

How has the last year affected your industry? 

We have been very lucky, being in construction. We did shut down for 2 months but then gradually returned to work whilst adhering to all government guidance and regulations. It was difficult and costly to adhere to all the new guidelines and ensure we were working safely and not putting anyone at risk, but we were lucky that we are able to continue to work unlike some other industries.

We have also had had to diversify as many of our clients in the hospitality and leisure industries cut their budgets early on in the pandemic. Nevertheless, we managed to secure 2 new large clients, Parkdean Holidays and The Co-Op.

The furlough scheme was a godsend at times, but we tried not to use this and continue as best we could.

Our current challenges include reverse VAT, IR35, Brexit, material increases and reduced availability. Our most worrying challenge at the moment is PI Insurance, which is limiting our ability to undertake some large-scale cladding contracts.

What has been your biggest challenge for the last year and how did you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge for us was to keep everyone engaged and in employment, which was a continual challenge throughout the year. We did this by actively looking for new clients, seeking new sectors of work, engaging regularly with the workforce through phone calls, e mails, newsletters and team meetings.

Have you had to adapt your business model due to the coronavirus? Have you altered your goods, services or offering in any way? 

As stated previously, we have had had to diversify as many of our clients in the hospitality and leisure industries cut their budgets early on in the pandemic.

We have also built up the Mastic Asphalt division and looked into other areas such as the Building Safety Fund work, where there are many projects being tendered and delivered.

SPV Group have also recently partnered with another company to set up SPV Carbon Fifty. SPV Carbon Fifty will assist schools initially, but all buildings in time, to apply for and obtain funding for carbon upgrading works and thereafter deliver these works, whether that be air source heat pumps, energy efficient lighting, roofing insulation, secondary glazing or PV panels.

What has been your favourite project over the last year? 

There were 2 standout projects from last year, including St Anthony’s Oxford, a large scale challenging heritage project, and The Hamptons Gillingham for NHBC, which was a large scale cladding refurbishment project.

How do you see your industry changing?

The construction industry will need to embrace digital transportation to evolve and become more efficient. There are many parts of the industry already embracing this, but I see this being a big change and a challenge in the future.

It’s also great to see the government putting incentives in place to take on apprentices. As an industry we need to attract the younger generation and show how many opportunities there are for young people in roofing. Our training centre is proving extremely successful at achieving this but there’s still a long way to go.

SPV Group are delighted that after previously having an aging workforce, currently 10% of our workforce is made up of apprentices!

All companies – not only in our industry – need to be looking at their carbon footprint now. The effect we are having on the environment is tremendous and with the government’s carbon neutrality targets for 2050, there’s a lot to be done!

As a result, SPV Group have recently invested in energy efficient lighting, hybrid vehicles and charging points and will look to change the fleet substantially over the coming years.

What are your plans for the future?

I look forward to continuing to grow SPV and continuing to deliver excellent service to our valued clients, going above and beyond their expectations.

I also look forward to continuing to build our training division, which we set up in conjunction with Juniper Training in 2019. This has been incredibly successful so far at attracting and training up the next generation of roofers. SPV Group currently have 12 apprentices as part of the team – equating to 10% of our workforce. I look forward to continuing to assist developing these individuals over time.

I also look forward to continuing to assist on the Board of the Institute of Roofing, helping shape the professionalism of the industry as well as continue to promote roofing as a career of choice – no matter your background. The work we have been doing with Women in Roofing has made a huge impact and I look forward to developing this further in the coming years once we can hold conferences again!

As one of the biggest advocates for networking – I simply can’t wait to see people again in person to network and share ideas and stories!

I’m looking forward to getting back to shopping, spending time with my friends, drinking gin and holidaying, and I am also looking forward to celebrating my 40th next year in Mexico.

EDGE Creative

Want to share your story? Email our Content Strategy Manager at jessica@edge-creative.com.

EDGE team member

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EDGECreative