This interview is part of our meet the team series where you’ll get to see much more about how TVS Group works and what goes on behind the scenes. First up is Paul Lafone, the Managing Director and co-founder of TVS. We decided to catch up with Paul and find out what makes him tick, why he loves working for himself and what got him to start the company in the first place.
So, Paul how did you end up specialising in Acoustic control? It’s quite a niche.
Haha, it is a niche. I would even say it’s a niche within a niche. I actually fell into the anti-vibration world, which I know is a very specific sector to fall into. I have to say co-founding TVS Group is linked to my background. I left school and started an engineering apprenticeship at 16, studying mechanical engineering part time while working. I’ve always worked and wanted to further my knowledge and career by studying part time while learning on the job.
I never planned to move into vibration control but I think like a lot of things in life, they tend to happen when you least expect. I even remember sitting in a lecture, while I was studying mechanical engineering, listening to a professor talk about vibration control and thinking “This is so specific, who would ever need to use this?” It turned out I did, as very soon afterwards I was approached by a supplier offering me my first sales engineer role. Selling anti-vibration materials and mounts!
Learning my trade over a number of years on how to control vibration and shock from machinery from affecting offices, homes and other machinery. I actually really enjoyed it and realised the potential anti-vibration solutions could have for other industry sectors.
One day I received an inquiry from a gym. They asked if we could reduce unwanted structural noise from dumbbells being dropped onto their floors. So, I took my anti-vibration knowledge and engineered a solution for them. I was very lucky because that client was actually Fitness First and at that point they were the biggest gym chain in the UK. That’s when I decided the climate was right to set up TVS Group, along with my co-founder and Technical Director, Patrick Dent.
What do you like most about being the MD for TVS?
I love working for myself, I like the flexibility and how much scope there is to improve something that you’ve created. It also gives me a sense of achievement to empower the people that work for me and see them come up with new and innovative ways to do what we do. I like to lead from the front and give my staff responsibility. I believe a good leader is aware that their staff can do a much better job at their own role than I ever could. And I know that all too well because when we first opened our doors me and Patrick were running around like headless chickens doing all the jobs we now hire experts to do! It’s all about hiring the right people and trusting them to do an excellent job. Which I am pleased to say they always do.
I’ve always wanted TVS to be the type of place I wished I could’ve worked for when I was an employee. When me and Patrick set the company up, we took the things that worked well from our old jobs as inspiration and then added things that we felt were missing. I actually really care about who works for TVS and want to provide a good working environment for them so everyone can achieve their potential and actually enjoy coming to work.
I think we can all relate to that. So how would you describe your team then?
Dedicated. They are specialised and very capable. I know I can rely on every single person that works for TVS Group, from the warehouse and office staff, right through to our installers out in the field. I’m very proud actually that I have complete trust in my people. From the pallet to the client, every single person I work with does a fantastic job and puts so much effort into what they do so we achieve the results our clients expect from us.
I think actually the best thing about our team is that we all get on. It’s a nice place to work. We try to do things outside of office hours too. For example, for our 10th anniversary last year we flew the team out to Las Vegas to thank them all for their hard work and we all had a ball. It was a great round off to a fantastic 10 years.
And in those 10 years, what would you say is the TVS project you are most proud of?
That’s a good question. There are quite a few but the one that comes to mind most is Southbank Place for Canary Wharf Contractors close by to Waterloo Station. We were asked to step in and produce a vibration control solution for their high rise buildings yet to be constructed in the capital. The nearby tube lines were an acoustic concern as structural vibrations from the tube trains were predicted to affect noise levels within the new buildings. It was a complex and interesting project and we got to work in tandem with architects, structural engineers, acoustic consultants and construction companies.
The stakes were high because the construction project was worth multi Millions, and so getting the right solution fitted for each part of the building process was crucial. We were given the specifications and were able to suggest a cheaper and more effective system than was first considered. I love any project where we get the chance to value engineer a solution, and a building isolation project that uses so many different experts in the design and build is an exciting thing to be a part of.
I would also add, I really like any project where we can go back to the site and actually use it and see what we’ve added to the space. So for example we work with a lot of multi-screen cinemas, bowling alleys and gyms. It gives me immense satisfaction to be able to go to a cinema complex we’ve just fitted out, watch a film and know that I can’t hear the screen next door thanks to the acoustic floor solution we’ve fitted.
Speaking of having fun, what do you like to do outside of work?
Well, I’m not sure if this is me having a midlife crisis or not but I’ve recently got into sports bikes. I’ve always liked fast cars, but I was never that interested in motorbikes. My next door neighbour, who’s business McAMS sponsors a British Super Bike team, ended up persuading me to learn to ride. I found I really enjoyed it, took to it quickly, passing my test recently and buying my first sports bike. I find it blows away the cobwebs, which has been especially important this year while we’ve all been at home so much more than usual.
Thanks Paul for telling us a little bit about you and why you started TVS in the first place. We hope you enjoyed finding out a little bit more about what goes on behind the scenes at our Group. Stay tuned for our second edition of meet the team, out next month.