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Comment – Should I stay or should I go…?

Debacle at National Federation of Demolition Contractors’ London region robs Federation of dream team.

So one afternoon last week, my phone lit up like Times Square at Christmas. I was told – initially – that London and Southern regional chairman Rob Collard and his vice chairman Matt Phillips had both quit in a fit of pique amidst frustration with the Federation’s current status quo.

I know and respect both guys. I know and respect NFDC president Paul Brown. And so I called all three to try to get to the bottom of what had actually happened; why it had happened; and what it might mean going forward.

It quickly became clear that those initial reports were correct; but that they had not allowed for a post-meeting cooling off in which Collard and Phillips got to give more thought to their decisions.

Downwell Demolition’s Matt Phillips stuck to his guns and has officially resigned over what he describes as “differences with president Paul Brown”. Rob Collard – who had initially quit in a show of solidarity with his vice chairman – has since reconsidered and is staying on.

So one is going and one is staying. And, weirdly, they are both right.

In Matt Phillips, the NFDC had a rising star whose company – Downwell Demolition – is enjoying an increasingly high profile within the industry. That company, and the way it operates, gives an insight into Phillips’ psyche.

Faced with poor repair and maintenance support for his extensive fleet of demolition tools and attachments, Phillips formed a new division within his company to do that work in house. When he found he was paying too much for hydraulic hose replacements, he invested in a fully-equipped hose repair van that would rival anything on offer from the likes of Pirtek.

Phillips is not content. He is constantly looking for ways that things might be improved. That constant striving for improvement could and should have been of enormous benefit to the NFDC. And not just at a regional level.

Although I am not sure how either of them might feel about the comparison, there is something about Matt Phillips that reminds me of former NFDC President David Darsey.

Neither are much for airs and graces; but both are young, dynamic, vocal and passionate. It is those factors that made Darsey probably the best NFDC President I had the good fortune to work with. And it is those factors that could have propelled Phillips to the very top of the Federation.

But Phillips’ unstoppable force met the NFDC’s immovable object. And something had to give.

Phillips was probably right to leave. And, equally, Rob Collard was right to stay.

Change and reform – both of which are needed within a Federation that has seen declines in both membership and influence – can really only come from within.
And so Collard – the very epitome of the modern demolition man – has decided to hang on.

He is every bit as passionate as Matt Phillips; but Collard’s passion comes wrapped in a blanket of diplomacy; the kind of diplomacy that will be required by the shed-load if he is to bring about the modernisation he believes is required in the Federation’s hallowed halls.

But don’t be fooled into mistaking that diplomacy for weakness. You don’t build a £30 million demolition company or become the industry’s leading exponent of waste minimisation by being weak. And anyone that has seen Rob Collard in action in the British Touring Car Championship will know that he is ruthlessly competitive.

So, as I said before. Matt Phillips was probably right to resign. His decision is admirable. Maybe – hopefully – his time will come again. And Rob Collard is probably right to stay on to fight for reform from within.

The only loser in all of this – as far as I can see – is the NFDC.

In Collard and Phillips, they had the makings of a regional dream team that really could have helped forge the Federation of the future. Sadly, we’ll never know just how far they could have gone together.

You can listen to a longer audio version of this comment piece – complete with predictable musical input from The Clash – below:

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