[Q&A] Backstage with Unibeton CEO Robin Jones
With more than 30 years’ experience as an international construction professional, Unibeton Ready Mix’s Director of Strategic Business Development and Marketing, Robin Jones is well aware of what it takes to stay ahead of the industry curve.
Now, having been with leading Middle East ready mix concrete company, Unibeton for more than five years, Jones outlines the philosophies and tactical decisions being made behind the scenes that have led business to becoming one of the most innovative sector players, not just in the region, but on an worldwide scale.
Business Review Europe & Middle East (BREME): What typical day-to-day activities does your role consist of?
Robin Jones (RJ): As part of Unibeton Central HQ Team, we assist as an “outsource team” for the country locations with strategic BD & Marketing activities to enhance their “in-house” source based teams. Performance & corporate governance monitoring are completed to make sure we have a homogenous balance throughout the company. In addition, we assist with specific project procurement & strategic negotiations as required by the country.
BREME: How do you feel the company has progressed under your guidance and what achievements are you most proud of?
RJ: The UB objective of international growth was a bold and aggressive one since the recession in 2007 / 2008. The owners had a clear vision of where the company needed to be positioned within the GCC region and with our core teams of diverse professionals we are now very well placed within the region in Saudi Arabia and Qatar along with our home base of the UAE.
This has been a fast track expansion, but with our many local & international business partners and experienced track record we were more than able to overcome the risks & progress to a state of success as we realise now.
BREME: What is your approach to the development of skills and personnel within both the Group, and the region as a whole via various CSR initiatives?
RJ: Over the years, Unibeton has been involved in many CSR activities. We are continuously looking into new initiatives that fall within our CSR objectives for all of our operational locations and the specific market perceptions that are apparent at the time.
The group as a whole has an ongoing, diverse set of CSR activities that cover all aspects of our business units which encompasses our clients, customers, employees, community and the ever increasing environmental awareness that is now apparent.
Unibeton with its core business of producing RMC products believe we are at the forefront of the environmental awareness throughout our operational life cycle, hence the international accolades which have be bestowed on us through the years.
BREME: What roles do you have outside of Unibeton, within the industry? Eg. A member of any associations or consultancies?
RJ: Over my career I have been active within the “built environment” fields, within Project Management & Construction Associations, management of sporting, & leisure clubs and I have benefited greatly from long-term charity work, whereby a motto to keep in mind is “give something back”.
BREME: What are the specific trends and challenges that you are noticing within the industry at present?
RJ: Since the recessional influences to the entire construction industry, price of construction commodities has become prescriptive which can and has had a detrimental effect on quality of product and the allied services surrounding it.
However, Unibeton has, since its commencement in the early eighty’s, invested substantial time and cost in “innovative technologies” thus providing solutions to the field of ready mix concrete.
This has been of great advantage and an integral part of our continued success and more importantly our international growth. This has alerted our clients to not just sit back and decide on the cheapest price but even in the aftermath of the recession have continued to request a complete solution encompassing all facets of what a RMC supplier can provide.
BREME: How are you guiding Unibeton to adapt and react to these challenges and trends?
RJ: Unibeton has a very integrated ethos within its management and operational teams. This allows us to overcome the industry problems and differing market forces that challenge us.
We have seasoned professionals in all facets our business who understand the complexities of the RMC industry and more importantly adapt to the constant changes that occur.
We are a leader in “innovative technology” and this brings with it the need for a “learning curve strategy” to educate clients, consultants and contractors and public sector bodies alike of these technologies that will benefit the industry. With this initiative breeds integrity and commitment which in turn leads to long term relationships and strategic alliances for guaranteed ongoing workload.
BREME: How you think the industry needs to change or improve in the future, and how do you anticipate these issues unfolding in the years to come?
RJ: As the concrete portion of any construction project is a costly one, the industry needs to adapt and find ways to provide economic RMC solutions to their projects.
The challenges of environmental impacts are now becoming extremely important and regulations are tougher, so the industry needs to change with it
Concrete manufacture was in the past viewed a dirty and dusty industry but nowadays it’s a necessity and in some instances a complex science. This requires a high level of expertise of which Unibeton has many.
The industry requires new, innovative products and uses; projects requiring environmentally and carbon free concrete with ever increasing durability, workability and strength requirements. This will change the RMC industry into a creative mode to meet the challenges. Unibeton is already well established on this path, and will always be looking ahead.
Below: Robin Jones
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.