Humans of ARC – Neil Weeks

Humans of ARC – Neil Weeks

12th June 2024

“ARC first came to my attention in 2011. Dedicated to quality and doing the right thing, it was the up-and-coming supplier in the fire barriers market looking to establish itself amongst housebuilders and main contractors. This was my world and so the founders, Andrew and Russell, leant on me for introductions and support. I admired what they were trying to do and quickly built a strong relationship with the ARC team.

“Fast forward to 2018, and I was approached to become the business’ new Managing Director. In that time, it had transformed from a small family-run enterprise to a genuine SME and, with plans already in the pipeline to grow the product range and move to new premises, the opportunity was too good to turn down. At this point in my career, the challenge of running a business really appealed to me, and I knew – with their support – we would be a success. It was an easy decision, and I started as Managing Director on January 1st, 2019.

“I look back now on my first year with a lot of pride. I had a completely blank canvas to work with, and we ran with it. It was a lot of fun, and we learnt a lot along the way. I remember my first big tasks were to find ARC a buyer and secure a new factory to move into. As it turns out, finding a buyer was easy – moving factories certainly wasn’t! It taught me a lot about what leading ARC needed to look like. This isn’t a business where people just turn up, work and go home; it means more than that. Our people really care about ARC and what we do. Everyone bought into what we were doing, and that made a huge difference. At one point, while we were waiting for our new offices to be finished, I was pitched up in the canteen in my own makeshift office. That passion and get-up-and-go is still with us today and is one of the fundamental reasons for our success over the last 15 years.

“Then came the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career – lockdown. Just like that, overnight, everything changed. There was no plan, no guidance – nothing anywhere. We were forced to adapt to a new way of working, and we had no idea what that looked like. We set office staff up for remote working, and there was more tape on the factory floor than you could shake a stick at. It was a steep learning curve but one we came away from with our heads held high. I’m very proud of how all our people handled that situation; it is a credit to them all that they just cracked on and did what was required.

“During this time, our biggest issue was waiting to get product out the door. Housebuilders were forced to close temporarily, and construction halted. We had to take a different approach and use the time to our advantage. There was a five-week period where we reached out to all our customers and offered to run product training sessions over Teams. At one point, more than 80 site managers from all over the country were on one call and, let me tell you, that’s pretty unheard of. These dedicated sessions proved invaluable, giving their installers more confidence in handling ARC products and ensuring correct installation first time. When it comes to safety in homes, this knowledge and experience cannot be understated and it meant, when construction started again, they weren’t going in cold and could install our products with confidence. These types of sessions continue to this day.

“These sessions also helped our team to understand the challenges surrounding fire protection installations and enabled us to devise an innovation strategy to tackle some of those issues. You see that today with our Open State Cavity Barrier, TCB Square, Retrofit Eaves Insulator and the integration of QR code technology across our range; many of these products and ideas started from those pandemic sessions, and huge credit needs to go to the team for turning them into a reality.

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned to be resilient – to be ok with a little failure, as long as you learn. This approach makes the wins more rewarding. I think you need that to succeed. I started my career out of school at 16, taking customer orders in a small builder’s merchant in the North East. I had no idea what a concrete lintel or damp-proof membrane was; I had to learn fast, but it was the best grounding I could have had, and it set me up to deal with pretty much whatever else my career would throw at me.

“I try to instil this same mentality at ARC. We are one team where everyone plays their part in a focused environment. Take London Build last year for example: we had two colleagues on that stand who’d never even attended a trade show; by the end of the two days, they were off chatting to customers, putting ARC’s very best foot forward. It’s ok to be unsure and to feel uncomfortable; it’s a part of the personal development process, and that’s how you’ll get the best out of people.

“I am told by our customers and competitors that ARC is a business that is admired for how we do what we do. From a small family-run premises to a manufacturer of really innovative and lifesaving solutions, what we do has grown but the fundamentals remain the same. The model of fit-for-purpose products made by good people has stayed the same and will always remain that way. I think that’s what I’m most proud of. We’re in a position now where, if I left tomorrow, the business would still run exactly the same. Honesty, integrity and quality: that’s what we live by, and this team have it in abundance. In our markets, that’s so important, and we never lose sight of that. I owe great gratitude to each and every single ARC person; their hard work and commitment every day does not go unnoticed.”

Neil Weeks, CEO

Neil started his career in the merchant sector at just 16 and has over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry.