A huge congratulations to Simon Keeping, our Operations Manager, for 20 years of loyal service. Joining us in 1998 as an Installation Manager he has been a key member of the Conquest team and journey. We chat with Simon to find out more about his time at Conquest and any plans for the future.
1) What did you do before working at Conquest?
Immediately before Conquest, I worked as a Regional Manager for an image maintenance business in the petroleum industry. This involved reactive and planned maintenance for over 1,000 filling stations across the south of England. Prior to this, I had a variety of jobs including owning a successful surface-preparation business, managing a timber import yard and helping to organise Southampton’s 60th anniversary of the Spitfire celebrations. In between jobs I spent a year travelling across the USA and Mexico on a motorbike living mostly in a tent!
2) What made you decide to apply for a job at Conquest 20 years ago and what was the role?
Originally coming from a self-employed background and having worked for a large PLC I was keen to take on a management role where I could have a tangible and visible influence. Conquest was an attractive prospect for many reasons; the size of business, its heritage, that its family run, a pride in the product, time-served craftsmen etc. Probably the most important factor from a management point of view was that I would be looking after a fully employed team; Conquest’s policy of keeping everything in-house alleviated many of the headaches associated with managing subcontractors, and for me, this was a big plus.
3) How has your job changed over the years?
Probably the most significant change over the years has been the integration of technology. Looking back it seems unbelievable now but I had been doing my job for more than two years before my first office computer was installed. Bespoke software systems have revolutionised the way we work and technology, in general, has allowed me to manage multiple tasks and be far more efficient than ever before. Having the ability to exchange information between designers, surveyors, factory and site are invaluable. Many other things have not changed and I think Conquest is unique in its ability to retain staff. I cannot think of any other business where twenty years of service is not considered exceptional.
4) Tell us a little more about your current job with Conquest
Initially, I was employed as an Installation Manager scheduling the installers and technical surveyors and this is part of the role I still perform, however, as is often the case in SME’s managers have to wear many different hats. As Operations Manager I now have a far broader remit including customer service; health and safety; insurance; human resources; budgeting; legal compliance; fleet management; facilities management. As a keen photographer, I am also involved in documenting our installations and compiling and maintaining Conquest’s online image portfolio. For several years I have also produced all the images used in Conquest’s brochure, advertisements and on their website.
5) What’s the best thing about your job?
Having given this question some thought it is difficult to pinpoint a single ‘best thing’ about my job. Every project Conquest undertakes is bespoke and unique and this, combined with the many other facets of running a busy manufacturing operation, mean that my days all always interesting – so variety could certainly be up there with my ‘best things’. The people I work with are an outstanding and dedicated team who all share a common ethos in customer care and exceeding expectations and are a pleasure to work with. Our product is class leading and this is reflected in the overwhelmingly positive feedback I receive from our clients. These factors combined have kept me making the forty mile round commute to and from my Eastleigh home for the last twenty years.
6) What has it been like to be part of Conquests ongoing journey?
I have always been proud to work for Conquest. Companies of this calibre are few and far between and despite several hurdles and challenges along the way it has been good to be part of a forward thinking and progressive business that values its staff and produces beautiful hand-made furniture that delights its clients, many of whom have become good friends.
7) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Although it may not sound very ambitious I would be happy to see myself working in my current or a similar role for Conquest in ten years.