‘Women have been the bane of my life!” David Archer laughs, before quickly reiterating that he would not be here today were it not for the love and advice of some amazing women (he was raised by his mother, grandparents and aunts), and that he owes them much of his success.
In fact it was in an office of 14 women that he found himself having the lightbulb moment that led him to form The Builders Club some 20 years ago: “It was one of those conversations you couldn’t help but overhear,” he smiles “and it wasn’t a one-off either, which is what got me thinking.”
David’s colleagues were exasperated that they couldn’t get a decent tradesperson for love nor money – they found them all to be unreliable, dishonest and overpriced.
“That’s when I thought to myself, ‘it doesn’t have to be this way – I could do something about this’,” says David, adding that although he had very little experience of the building trade at the time, he knew he could make a real difference to an industry with a questionable reputation.
“Don’t get me wrong,” adds David, “there are plenty of good tradesmen out there, which is why I have such a large team of guys now, but there are also a fair few rotten eggs who’ll happily take you for a ride without a second thought, and that’s not right.”
Initially, David set up entirely on his own. His aim with The Building Company was to create a trusted portal where people could find a decent, honest tradesperson – but also walk into a building and actually meet them beforehand if they so desired. Two decades down the line he has a team of 25 and has built his own seven-bedroom house from scratch. So how has he managed this?
“Trust is everything,” says David matter of factly. “In Seaford, where we’re based, there’s a tight-knit community and an ageing population – I refuse to take advantage of people, which is why mine is the company they know they can trust – always has been and always will be.”
This mantra has stood him in good stead over the years, but he says the road hasn’t always been an easy one: “The problem is that not everyone has the same way of thinking. In fact it’s one of the things I find most disappointing in people and in fact in life – dishonesty. It really grinds my gears.”
Beyond dishonesty (which he says has lost him tens of thousands over the years, as people have taken advantage of his trust in them), David has had some physical low points too. A decade ago he ripped both biceps in a powerlifting competition and had to endure a two year-long rehabilitation process. But even that had a silver lining: “I decided that as I couldn’t work on the tools myself, I needed to create a business big enough that I didn’t have to, so that’s exactly what I did.”
It was that excruciating injury that drove him to form Your Construction Shop. As he puts it: “So many decent, hardworking tradespeople were crying out for work but had no concept of how to advertise or market themselves, so I created Your Construction Shop to do exactly that. The concept was – and remains – that by creating business for them I could create business for me and ensure that no customers were being ripped off along the way.”
He calls this revelation “lucky”, but with two successful businesses under his belt, one suspects there is slightly more to it than that.
In the same vein, (and drifting back to the formative women in his life that have shaped his career), he says it was happy coincidence that brought him Cheryl. In “a stroke of luck” he was doing some work on the building for Seaford’s The Moon of India curry house when they offered him the tenancy on the building next door for his showroom. He accepted but quickly realised he needed someone to run it.
“I advertised in the local paper and got a single reply – Cheryl. She turned up for the interview and I told myself that of all the boxes I had written down, she had to tick at least 20. She was nearer 50. I have never looked back. I was fully prepared for the business to barely break even in its first year – she turned it around to such an extent that I was making a profit after 12 weeks. She’s a real kingpin.”
Be it down to his hard work, that of his ‘kingpin’ or the luck he so frequently mentions, there can be no doubt that both businesses are now flourishing. But where to next? And what of the dreaded COVID-19 virus and its impact on things to come?
In the nearest David comes to being downbeat during our conversation, he emits a small sigh, before returning to his normal, buoyant self: “I have three more sites in the offing, in Eastbourne, Hailsham and Bexhill. They were going to open this summer but now that nobody’s really sure what the economy is about to do, that plan’s been put slightly on hold. It’s just a matter of timing though – I hope to open them in 2021.”
Beyond stalled plans he says enforced time at home in lockdown has had its upsides too… it has made him realise how much he enjoys spending time with his children and it has changed his way of thinking. He wants to be at home more often going forwards and realign his schedule so that he can do that.
He says it’s also reinforced what he already knew about his attitude to adversity: “If you knock me down, I will get back up. If you knock me down again, I will get up again. If you run me over with a car, it’ll take me a little longer to get up, especially as I’m getting older. But believe me when I say I will get up again. My aim is to leave a legacy for my children and nothing will stop me from doing that.”
David’s passion for life is palpable. For his business, his family and also the people he works with (in particular he mentions Bez the Iranian plumber, who he’s worked with for 20 years). But beyond the “many women” who’ve made him who he is today, he says there is one man that’s made it all possible: “Alan Jenkins. I owe that man everything. I worked for him 22 years ago and his words still ring in my ears today. He was like a father to me [David lost his own father when he was very young] and the man was a grafter. He taught me so much, but in particular my work ethic, my thirst for knowledge and my values – he said ‘always do right by people, always do a good job. It won’t always be the easiest or most affordable path, but it will always pay dividends in the end.’ Those are words I live by. He instilled those values in me.”
David speaks frequently about trust, honesty and that what goes around comes around, and in his case, it really does seem to ring true. •