Last month (24 February 2023) saw the West London Business Awards taking place at Twickenham Stadium.
EALING.NEWS caught up with Peter Johnson, founder and chairman of North Acton-based Vivalda who was recognised and received the Lifetime Achievement Award. We asked Mr Johnson what the award means to him, challenges his business faces and future plans.
What did it mean to you to be given the Lifetime Achievement in Business award?
A tremendous honour. My company went through some dark days pre-Grenfell when our firesafe cladding was being displaced by cheaper, demonstrably unsuitable products. Just to know someone has even so much as noticed old fashioned ‘doing the right thing’ gives my colleagues and me an enormous lift.
What does being based in Ealing mean to you?
The first premises Vivalda occupied when we started the business in September 1999 was in Acton W3, just off the A40. We moved across Western Avenue to larger unit in 2003 and have remained there ever since. The idea of moving outside Ealing is unthinkable. Literally – I just never think about it!
What are the challenges you face as a business in Ealing?
HS2. Oh dear, it’s been rumbling on for years and years with the road outside my premises having been dug up continually for what feels like decades, in fact longer than I even care to remember.
Space for expansion is becoming an issue – Park Royal industrial zone is becoming very compressed.
What can Ealing Council do for you to help your business?
Make the planning process easier to develop land purely for commercial purposes. Also it would be good if they could bang the drum for the solid manufacturing businesses like mine who thrive when all the usual ‘advice’ is to relocate to somewhere outside the M25. “Manufactured in London” would be a great banner and the message might surprise a lot of people.
What can the government do for you to help your business?
Don’t get me started! Ditch the proposed hike in corporation tax for starters. This is not a plea on behalf of Vivalda – the government’s policy will cause damage to all UK plc. If they want to recoup money from somewhere else, try cancelling HS2. When visiting my Birmingham branch the journey takes 1hr 20 minutes from Euston – what’s so wrong with that? I like Birmingham but I never stand outside New Street station saying to myself how I wish I’d got there ten minutes earlier.
A year from now, where do you see your business?
We’ve just appointed a gifted new CEO, Andy McEwan, who becomes only our third leader in nearly 24 years. With his experience in multi-billion distribution businesses I have every belief that Andy is the right appointment to bring new ideas & methods to the Vivalda Group which will take us to the next level. I believe any company electing to stand still quickly goes backwards; that will never happen while I’m around. If you rest, you rust!
What are you most proud of so far in what your business has achieved?
These days I set a lot of store by what I call business with a human face and by this I mean valuing each of my 163 (and growing) colleagues, many of who have served loyally for well over twenty years. Wages were paid at 100% during lockdown, we try hard to be flexible when it comes to childcare, £1,000 cost of living grants were awarded across the board in 2022 and the working week has been reduced to 37.5 hours. Construction media brings us stories each day of financial failure and ‘experts’ tell me how Vivalda sitting on a large cash pile is not businesslike. My response is to say that may well be true but at least it helps me and my fabulous team sleep at night. That said, we can’t survive without the profit motive; let’s just say we have a very good one!
Vivalda is located at 99 Victoria Road, London, NW10 6DJ