Brakel Airvent Profile – Tony Barry
Welcome to a new series from Brakel Airvent where we’ll profile members of our team, helping customers to understand what makes us tick and, in this instance, where the company came from in the first place.
Tony is Brakel Airvent’s managing director and he started the company 30 years ago this year. From working in the ventilation product sector he spotted an opportunity and a clear need in the market – while smoke control products were being widely installed, their maintenance was considered an afterthought and system failures were troublingly common.
So, Tony bought a van, left his job at NuAire and set about not only making smoke control systems more efficient in the long term, but also improving the image of an industry which – at the time – was more about call outs and repairs than system surveys, service specifications and collaborative working with modern, sustainability-focused facilities managers.
He explains what makes his approach different, and how it’s helped to develop the company to where it is today: “Innovation. This company hasn’t just climbed to the top of its industry, it has played a major part in creating it. Smoke control service used to be carried out by mechanics or electricians without standards to work to or established industry norms to follow.
“These days it’s so much more – nothing to do with oily rags and box-ticking. Today it’s about working with highly professional facilities managers to better understand their buildings, keep them and their occupants safe and enhance sustainability and energy conservation.”
Tony started the business initially to service an obvious need – for quality, reliable service – but quickly saw that the industry needed more than just competence. Smoke control systems are designed to save lives so there can be no messing around from a servicing point of view, but there are so many other aspects – from health to air quality to energy use and cost management – that a service partner can offer.
“It’s not been an easy process, getting the industry to where it is, but we’ve combined technology with an attitude to business that revolves around listening to customers. By maintaining equipment you extend its life, saving money. By maintaining equipment you ensure it works when it’s supposed to, saving lives. Technology and legislation can move quickly so we move quickly too, to protect our clients’ best interests – it’s almost to the point where the physical security of a building is only a part of the superior service we offer. Before we started, maintenance provers wouldn’t even supply a breakdown of their works following a site visit – things are so much more professional now. In this way we’ve helped things like the FIRAS scheme and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to come into being.”
So what is Tony most proud of after three decades at the company? “It’s all about the people,” he explains. “Employing people, training them, motivating them and treating them well. I think that’s something we’ve really got right at Brakel Airvent.
“I try to ensure that I always lead by example, passing on my beliefs in an approach to business that’s about relationships, teamwork and above all people and their families. We work with people when they experience challenges in their personal lives and this empathy is repaid with loyalty and dedication.”