Interview with Russell Kay

PBM magazine, August 2009

Published: 25/11/2009 00:00
How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
I began working in the timber industry in the early 1980s, as a Production and Dispatch controller for Edinburgh-based company Garland & Roger.


Whilst there I moved into sales, starting at the trade counter and progressing to Internal Sales and Key Account Management.


In 1996, I moved to work for DW Beattie as Sales Office Manager. The company was a typical timber importer and sawmilling business serving Scotland. However, in 1997 when the business closed I was fortunate enough to be offered a position by Stanton’s Timber Services, the old Hunter Timber business based in Grangemouth, which then became Finnforest.

I was based at Finnforest Grangemouth in Scotland from 1997 – 2002. In 2003, I relocated south to Widnes in Cheshire to head up the Sales Operation covering Western England. I have now relocated back to Scotland and since 2006 I have held the additional responsibility of the Scottish, Welsh and Irish sales areas in addition to the English sales regions.

How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?  
Due to increased competition and rising costs it has been imperative that any company operating in this sector adds value to their business, through enhanced service provision, product development or diversification. Investment in production and business management technologies and staff development are also key to long term success.  

Many of our customers are now more financially astute and working from smaller operations. This puts pressure on us as a supplier to ensure we perform to and exceed their expectations. With Just in Time delivery a common feature of the sector, we need to ensure we constantly have the right product portfolio to ensure our customers are satisfied with our service levels and width and depth of our product range.

What are the current challenges facing your company? 
The biggest challenge is to ensure we maintain our level of excellence in servicing customers against ever increasing costs, maintaining a commitment to continuous investment to ensure the company remains a reliable market leader. The material shortages currently affecting the industry present our customers with a challenge, which can be overcome through working with a reliable supplier who has access to raw material through a robust supply chain.

Which individual has influenced you most in your career?
There are many to mention but the one person that stands out in my mind would be Alan Melville whom I worked with at both Garland & Roger and DW Beattie.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
In 2002 Finnforest acquired the Montague L Meyer softwood business, which had various sites and operations throughout England. I was given the opportunity to re-locate south and take responsibility for consolidating the Sales out of Widnes, which covered the whole western side of England and Wales.

As with all acquisitions, the implementation of merging two business models into one proves very challenging and this proved to be a great learning curve for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully still within the timber industry and enjoying the challenge of operating successfully in a market that constantly challenges us.