About Chris Hopkins
Chris Hopkins is an entrepreneur who has experienced just about everything the construction industry could throw at him yet he has worked endlessly through the ups and downs of his career to raise the profile of the industry and his own business alike!
Throughout his career he has worked tirelessly to change the public’s perception of a poorly perceived industry, actively promoting good practice. His visionary insights eventually lead to a position on the Governments Green Construction Board representing the interests of Small to Medium Enterprises
The positive impact Chris has had on the industry includes establishing his own award winning training school which gained both City & Guilds and NVQ status.
In 2011 Chris stepped into the room most feared by business entrepreneurs, delivering a solid pitch to the ‘Dragons’ and leaving the room victorious after securing investment.
His career has seen many ups and downs including having to find a way to survive through a recession, starting his own training school amid fierce opposition and propelling the solar roofing industry through his fruitful appearance on Dragons Den. He has seen outside influences result in the collapse of his own business and fought hard to re-establish his foothold.
Through sheer determination his company went on to be acquired by one of the UKs largest construction companies and Chris Hopkins himself went on to win the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Roofing Industry’ award.
Chris has now moved on and devotes a lot of his time to helping others as a business mentor. Passing on his experience and insight to help others move their business forward.
This is his story!
Chris Hopkins – MY STORY
I started my career in the roofing and construction industry 34 years ago. I can trace my love of roofing back to my teenage years. I did not always want to be a roofer. As a teenager I wanted to become an architect as I had a fascination for tall buildings. I went on to study architecture but struggled to pursue my dream. I am great with numbers but dyslexia caused me to struggle with the course.
I went on to work with my father in the construction industry where I developed my passion for roofing and in 1997 started my own roofing firm. Ploughcroft was established and I actively set out to change the public’s poor perception of the roofing industry.
I pushed the business hard and achieved Investors in People, ISO standards 18001: 14001 and 9001. At the time this was an amazing achievement for a small, local roofing firm and we stood out miles from the crowd!
Re-investing for the future
The business success allowed me to reinvest in the business, take on more staff and offer apprenticeships to the younger generation. However I became frustrated and disillusioned with the standard of training being offered. I began to dream of opening my own training school and this dream eventually resulted in my father leaving the business.
Everyone, including my father, said I was bonkers! Training staff to such a high degree so they could leave and set up their own businesses in competition. I admit that this did happen on several occasions however my passion for creating a better industry drove me on.
As far as I was concerned, supplying high quality and professional services required professional staff and there was only one way I was going to get them – to open a training centre and teach them myself!
Setting out to change the industry
My ambition to improve the construction industry continued with a deep routed understanding that I would need the following ingredients to make it a success:
- I would have to gain NVQ / City & Guilds accredited status in order to be recognised in the industry
- I would need to be charitable to the roofing industry by teaching my competitors
- I would need to drive the industry with new innovative courses and share these innovations with the industry
Despite facing fierce opposition from already well established colleges, the training centre was a success and within a year it was inviting other local construction firms through the doors, offering them training packages in a bid to improve standards across the industry. People said I was crazy to open a facility offering training to other roofing and building firms who are essentially my competition, but I’m passionate about roofing, training and health & safety so I was determined to focus on the bigger picture of improving industry standards.
The success of the centre paid dividends in raising the profile of the business and it was awarded full accreditation by the awards body, City & Guilds. We went on to be awarded the National Award Winner for Best Place to work in Construction and the Construction Excellence Award of 2008, along with a string of other accreditations and certificates.
Giving back to the community, Ploughcroft also worked with support organisation ‘LifeLine Additions’ to devise a training course to help those who had experienced difficulties returning to the labour market, by teaching the basic skills required to enter the construction industry.
Investing in solar
Ever on the lookout for new opportunities for the roofing industry, I spotted the potential for roofers long before the solar boom. It wasn’t long before I started upskilling his own staff in the installation of solar panels.
I teamed up with the ‘NFRC’ and ‘Construction Skills’ to develop a unique training course to train roofers in the key competencies of installing solar PV and solar Thermal. This won Ploughcroft the National Home Improvement Council Award for Innovation in Training 2007 and resulted in me teaching the course to other roofers in colleges around the UK.
This new course has now been formally recognised by City & Guilds C.A.A and is now an NVQ qualification. This lead to me being awarded the ‘Exceptional Contribution to Training’ award from the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.
Springing out of the recession into solar!
2008 was the start of the recession and got off to a terrible start for Ploughcroft and the construction industry as a whole. I remember returning to work after Christmas and the telephone hardly ringing for months. We had invested so much in training a great workforce and I didn’t want to lose any of them, but there was literally no work coming in at all. Nobody was spending any money.
I reinvested everything I had to keep my staff employed and borrowed as much as I could to keep the business afloat.
Looking back now, I don’t know how I did it! I could have lost everything but for one lucky break! A chance meeting landed a massive solar contract which literally saved the business. If it hadn’t been for the investment we had made in upskilling our staff and other roofers on installing solar we would not have survived.
My company, Ploughcroft, went on to be the first roofing business in the UK to achieve MCS Accreditation.
Pushing solar forward
With more and more roofers requiring training, Ploughcroft gained CSkills Accreditation from the CITB for its Solar PV course for roofers.
This was the first time that a solar PV course had achieved this prestigious industry recognition. We trained dozens of roofers and other construction industry professionals in our training centre every week and it was extremely rewarding being part of helping to raise standards within the Solar roofing industry.
Slaying the Dragon
In 2011, in an attempt to raise the industry profile, I stepped into the room most feared by business entrepreneurs around the country. Standing on ground where hundreds had been slain, I prepared to do battle with the Dragons.
After a solid pitch and a set of challenging questions from the dragons, I left the room victorious with an investment from Leo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden.
I felt that my performance on Dragons Den really raised the profile for the roofing and solar industry and the business grew rapidly.
Then came the blow which saw hundreds of solar companies, including the solar side of my own business, go in to administration! I partly blame the collapse of the business on the cuts the Government made to the feed-in-tariff. However I also attribute some of the problems to winning the backing from Dragons Den. The subsequent high profile led to an explosion in volume of business which we struggled to maintain.
We were like a rocket heading for the moon which suddenly became subject to gravity!
I was forced to put the solar side of the business in to administration, but despite the turbulent times in the industry, my passion remained and I was forced to refocus the business and literally start again.
Refocussing and moving on!
Despite the turbulent times and having to refocus and start again, I rebuilt the business and it went on to be successfully acquired by the Avonside Group in 2017. I remained the driving force and innovator behind the business until the end of my earn out term.
I felt very honoured that my achievements were recognised at the ‘RCI Pitched Roofing Awards’ where I won the very first award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Roofing Industry’. The judged commented ‘During his career to date, Chris has contributed to making a visible difference within the roofing industry. Going above and beyond, Chris promoted good practice and has experienced just about everything the industry could throw at him. Chris continues to lead by example and act with professionalism and integrity at all times’.
Now it is my time to share and use my experience in business to help others through the ups and downs and potential pitfalls.
Chris Hopkins – Achievements
- Numerous industry awards from 2008 through to 2019 covering equality, diversity, business, entrepreneurialism, leadership and strategy
- The creation, innovation and implementation of a CITB training school
- Writing the Solar NVQ QCF298 qualification which is now taught in colleges throughout the UK
- Author of ‘Dragons for Breakfast’ – from winning at Bodybuilding to winning at business
- Propelling the dollar roofing industry through a fruitful appearance on Dragons Den
- Creation, development and production of the Roof Anchor system – theroofanchor.com
- Creation of a rehabilitation training course with HMP
- Guest speaker at many Eco-Build events over the last 10 years
- Winner of ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Roofing Industry’ award at the RCI Pitched Roofing Awards 2019
- 2020 – Member of MCS Steering Group
- 2020 – Route Panel member for the Institute of Education