We recently had a chat with Bob Dennis, who has just taken early retirement with Bagnalls following 38 years with the company. We talked to Bob about how he got into the painting and decorating industry, his career and progression with Bagnalls and how he’s seen the business change and adapt.
What was it that attracted you to the painting and decorating industry initially?
At the time I was between jobs, and happened to talk to two painter and decorator friends who put me in touch with Bagnalls.
My Industrial course at college had included a painting and decorating module, but a lot of the work was things that I needed to pick up as I went. I was lucky to have a great group of people around me to support me and train me. My first area of work was painting the exteriors of flats and houses; everyone worked hard, but there was still a lot of friendly banter between the team and we all went out to play snooker after work on Fridays. The team I was working with were a big part of my decision to stay.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
The more I worked at Bagnalls and progressed my skills, the more I found myself specialising in industrial coatings. When I became a foreman, I looked after a lot of projects painting gasholders, working off cradles and painting the frameworks. These projects involved a lot of variety and problem-solving which meant that no two projects were quite the same and made each one a rewarding experience.
A particular project which was a highlight for me was an industrial coatings job we did working away in Glasgow. As it was a large contract, it involved painters from several different branches of Bagnalls coming together from around the UK and working together as a team. Once again, the people were what impressed me; everyone on the job was brilliant and hardworking. The job was a demanding one, but the planning was impeccable and everyone worked together to produce a fantastic end result.
What was it that led you to become a foreman?
As I continued to work and progress my skills at the company, I started to be given more opportunities to take on further responsibility. I remember doing a large piece of work at a fibreglass factory when I was asked by my supervisor to run a shutdown by myself; he saw the capability in me that I never did. Everything went well and I started progressing from there with encouragement from my colleagues and my wife. It helps when you have a good team around you who wants to support you like that – I wouldn’t have taken the initiative to take that step by myself.
How have you been involved in training different generations of the Bagnalls workforce over the years?
I’ve trained quite a few of our staff when it comes to the blasting side of industrial work. It’s great seeing them progress and improve within the business, but equally, I enjoyed learning from them. Something I’ve learned during my career is you can’t be right all the time; people who have been in the business for less time than me will sometimes come up with a valuable idea which I never would have thought of. Being able to be open, sharing ideas and responsibilities as well as asking questions, is an important part of our team.
How have you seen the industry progress over the years?
Health and safety have been a huge part of how the industry has progressed over the past few decades. At Bagnalls, we have constant safety reviews, including third-party audits which ensure everyone on-site is on the ball at all times. We also have frequent training updates and courses as well as emails, newsletters and safety briefings to make sure the whole team is on the same page. The training process is now extremely thorough, with more opportunities now than ever for people to take extra courses to specialise in their area of interest or grow their skillset.