Martin Vella has spent three decades with Pexhurst, joining as a Contracts Manager back in 1991. During that time, he has seen many changes – from technology advancements to major world events – and worked his way up to Managing Director, a role which he took over in 2003.
In this article, Martin talks through some of these changes and reflects on his own time with the company.
What has been the secret to Pexhurst’s success over the last 30 years?
Our DNA is to work hard and retain clients, treat every job as your first and not to become complacent. I have always valued the team around me and aim to retain them for the long term – They become part of my extended family!
Is the business today where you would have expected it to be 30 years ago?
Honestly no, but in a good way. I came into Pexhurst in a deep recession in 1991 and the focus was survival. As we got through that period, we then started to invest in growth and bring in key team members that are still with me today. We work closely to ensure we continue to deliver for our clients the best we can and stay ahead of our competition.
What have been the biggest challenges over the last 30 years and what lessons have you learned from them?
Recessions and more recently the pandemic. Being established and well financed has helped but another key factor, and probably the most important, is loyalty of staff; the people that will happily ride out a storm as part of the team and work together to get through challenges that are thrown our way. You learn to invest wisely in procedures and recovery plans whilst times are good, because if you leave it to when you need it you cannot respond quickly enough, and chances are that you will not have the means to do so.
What are you most proud of having achieved?
Being at the helm of an SME company that still excites me and which I want to see continue to be a market leader in our sector, with careful organic growth and staff investment. I’m a strong believer that if you get those foundations right, the rest will follow.
How important has having the right people at Pexhurst been?
There’s no doubt that without the right people we would not be where we are today. Pexhurst is structured to run autonomously without the Directors needing to be involved in the day-to-day, which is essential when you grow as you cannot do it all yourselves. Building a culture of trust has been essential.
Who have your biggest influences been?
My family and in particular my father who brought me into the business. His advice was simple; work hard and the rewards will follow. I’ll admit I doubted him many times and thought ‘what have you done to me?’ but it was true and it’s the same advice I offer to everyone today. But do get that work-life balance right!
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
On our Cannon Street project, which was my first high-end office fit-out, I accidentally ordered the doors in imperial and frames in metric. I didn’t tell the architect and spent all weekend adjusting them. On Monday morning, I received a call from the architect asking how the weekend had gone but I didn’t reveal anything. It turns out my father had told him the week before and I learnt from that day forward, however big or small you mess up, it is best to share it with the team as we all make mistakes!
How have you personally changed over the years?
Maybe you should ask the team who have known me over the years! I’ve always tried hard to spend time with everyone that works for or with Pexhurst, from staff to clients, supply chain and anybody else that is part of the wider team. Nowadays, I rely more on technology to help me do this. I also try to find more ‘me time’. Close friends will often say in my 20’s I seemed like I was in my 50’s, so now I must be past virtual retirement… But in reality, that’s not in my DNA so I’m here to stay!
What has been your one regret from the last 30 years?
There are times in business when decisions are made that are not necessarily pleasant for all involved, but I have no regrets and I’ve definitely learned some lessons along the way.
What is your hope for the next 30 years?
To continue to grow and deliver projects successfully. We are investing in the next generation and would like to see some of these grow into roles that the current Directors hold, then I will know that we have done a great job in safeguarding Pexhurst as we approach a centenary!
If you could travel back in time and give one piece of advice to younger Martin, what would it be?
What do you mean, I am still young! Seriously though, the hardest thing for me was releasing some of the responsibilities as the company grew in size. My 20’s and 30’s were dedicated to Pexhurst, everything else came second and it was probably only as I entered my 40’s and lost my father that I started to appreciate all the other things outside of Pexhurst and the importance of living life!
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