Meet the Team: An Interview With Clive Hawes
We are pleased to introduce to you the newest member of our team, Clive Hawes. Clive has joined our team as Head of Development and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in the signage industry. Clive Hawes may be a name that you are already familiar with, having had many years of invaluable experience running his own signage business and working with many national and multinational brands. Over the years, Clive has built a strong reputation for himself and we are delighted to have someone of his stature, join our already skilled workforce.

We are already seeing how passionate Clive is about his work. Having been in the industry for many years and having lived through some pretty significant changes we decided to sit down with him and discuss his career, the evolving signage industry and his time with Merson Group so far:

Q. Can you explain a little bit about your role at Merson, and what an average working day looks like?

A. My main job is to help fill the order book, using my knowledge of the market and, of course, talking to the people and customers I have met over the years to see how Merson might be able to help them, as well as looking for new contacts. My average working day includes researching potential customers, using phone and email to contact decision-makers and influencers as well as working on proposals and tenders when they occur. There are other days where I am out of the office either travelling to meet potential clients and or taking customers to visit Merson’s factories as part of the sales process.

Q. What attracted you to become part of the Merson team?

A. I’ve known Merson’s CEO Roddy Angus for many years and we have worked together on a number of contracts, either as competitors in a joint-supply situation or with Merson acting as a subcontractor for Hawes. When Hawes sadly ceased trading I had a chance conversation with Roddy, which led to me joining Merson as a member of the team.

Q. You came to Merson with a wealth of experience in signage; can you tell me how your career path has evolved over the years?

A. To put decades of experience into a nutshell: As Managing Director and Joint Managing Director of the Hawes Signs I experienced the pitfalls and pleasures of growth from £2m sales and 60 people to peak at £33m sales with more than 300 people. Along the way, I gained a great deal of experience in a “whole-life” design, manufacture, install, maintain and recycle business. My focus was sales and marketing, developing new products and services, opening new markets and winning new customers.

Q. Many people aren’t aware of how complex signage projects can be - there’s much more to it than simply knocking together a sign and putting it in place! What would you say is the biggest misconception about the process of a successful signage project?

A. The time scales involved in preparing for a project, never mind the actual project rollout. A sign is essentially a simple product: a set of letters or a decorated panel supported by a framework which may need to accommodate a source of illumination. Easy! Or not…
The exact construction will depend on many factors including size, text and graphics, location, method of illumination, access for installation, maintenance and many more, all of which have to be considered to ensure that the customer gets what they want - safely. And all that information is needed just to work out how to make the sign! Another common timely task is getting the right permissions such as advertising consent and landlord’s approval, which can take many weeks and sometimes months if a complex road-closure is required. Also, there will often be a discrepancy between what the customer’s design standards indicate for each location and what is achievable, resulting in time-consuming “negotiations” about the site-specific scheme, which might include non-standard work needing further approvals.

Q. You have worked in the signage industry for a significant number of years and I’m sure seen many changes – which have had the biggest impact on the industry?

A. Health & Safety regulations have significantly improved over the years and with the focus now on sustainability and environmental performance, the transformation across the industry has been quite staggering. Other significant changes include buyers trying to “commoditise" a complex product (which is actually more of a service), engineering processes replacing craft skills, international procurement and overseas competition, LED illumination, digital print and, increasingly, digital signage.

Q. What’s the most challenging aspect of staying profitable in the signage industry?

A. Signage is a highly complex and varied business which can make it difficult to control costs. On top of that, the seasonal nature of many customers’ requirements as well as the peak demand created by big rollout programmes means that many sign companies can face a "flood or drought” aspect to their order book. The decisions taken by Merson Group to acquire different businesses and open new markets will certainly help us to stay profitable.

We are delighted to welcome Clive to the team at Merson Group. In an industry where nothing stands still it’s imperative that we are always one step ahead and having someone on board like Clive who comes to us with an abundance of knowledge and experience in the market is a huge advantage.