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Top industry honour for Keith Builders Merchants boss Jeff Smith

By Lewis McBlane

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KEITH Builders Merchants (KBM) boss Jeff Smith is "chuffed" to win an industry award after 30 years in the business.

Jeff Smith (right) says he is chuffed to receive the honour.
Jeff Smith (right) says he is chuffed to receive the honour.

Mr Smith is the only north east name in a new list of the top-100 most influential people in the UK's builders merchant industry, an honour awarded by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and Builders Merchants News.

The long-time KBM boss is also involved nationally in the industry, sitting on the National Buying Group which negotiates prices with suppliers for the entire UK industry.

Despite his long service and national role, modest Mr Smith says he still cannot believe he has received the award.

He said: "I don't know how or why I got to be nominated but somebody must have thought somewhere that I was worth it.

"I suppose I must have said something that made somebody smile at some point.

"I have been with Keith Builder's Merchants for 30 years, though I am still not sure who I have influenced!"

Mr Smith was given the award at a special awards ceremony in Birmingham earlier this month, where he was the only guest from the north east.

The event, at the city's Bellfry Hotel, also saw Mr Smith inducted as a Fellow of the Institute of Builders Merchants.

He said: "It was just nice for somebody local to be recognised.

"You have guys from big national companies from across the UK and there was only a handful from Scotland, and nobody else from the north east.

"I was quite chuffed and quite proud of myself.

"Though I am involved nationally, most of my time is really spent in Keith and Forres working on KBM.

"We have taken KBM from a small, rural builders merchant to a big business in Keith and Forres and that is what drives me, what puts pounds in my pocket and what pays the mortgage.

"My focus is always firmly on Keith Builders Merchants.

"We are here to run a company, and it is difficult, but at the same time it is enjoyable when you get something like this."

Jeff Smith's award and membership certificate of a pretigious trade group.
Jeff Smith's award and membership certificate of a pretigious trade group.

Despite his own hard work, Mr Smith says staff and customers have been the most important part of the business.

He said: "Quite simply, without the staff and the support they provided throughout the past two years there wouldn't be a KBM.

"We have to recognise the effort of every person in the business.

"Everybody here is passionate about KBM and everybody here enjoys coming to their work and has clear, defined roles.

"They know what they do and they all do it well.

"Everybody here goes home knowing they have put in a great day's shift and have made a genuine contribution to the overall running of the business.

"Without them there is no KBM. They have been absolutely amazing."

Part of the criteria for the top-100 list was a strong history of community work.

KBM are no exception to this, giving back to the community through the Covid years and also through sports team sponsorships.

Mr Smith said: "We do try and get involved in the community without losing focus on why we are here.

"Charity-wise, when Covid struck, we were donating money every month to charities, which we had not done for years.

"We had a charity fund set up where you could apply online.

"We also try encourage a lot of fitness-type activities and encourage people to get out and be active by sponsoring football teams, cricket teams and all sort of other things."

The relationships built up between KBM and the Keith and Forres communities during Mr Smith's time in the business is also something he holds dear.

He said: "There are customers here who were dealing with me 30 years ago, when I first came in.

"To have somebody coming in for 10, 20, 30 years, you get to the stage where you are not just selling them stuff and they are not just buying.

"You get to know them. You speak to them.

"In a place like Keith or Forres, it is a small community and you need to be visible. You need to do your own little bit, and I think we do.

"I might be slightly biased, but I think we do."

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