Next up in our meet the team series is Patrick Dent, co-founder of TVS Group and Technical Director to boot. He talks about how he met his co-founder, Paul Lafone, his favourite things about his job and why he’s a problem solver at heart.
Hi Patrick, so tell us how you ended up becoming the co-founder of TVS Group?
Well, me and Paul have a similar backstory when it comes to how we fell into the industry. I guess most people who work in niche industries don’t wake up one day and decide to go into that niche, they tend to end up there after a few crossroads. Noise and vibration control certainly wasn’t the area I imagined working in when I was growing up. In fact, during my Masters degree, when I was sat in lectures on vibrations, I would have happily taken a bet from anyone who said this was going to be my chosen career path!
To be honest, growing up I was never one of those people with a vocation, someone who knew exactly what they wanted to do. I was always good at maths and physics, enjoyed problem solving, and this lent itself to going down the route of a Mechanical Engineering degree. Even whilst I was at University though, I wasn’t sure whether I would end up following a career in Engineering or finish up in Finance.
When I graduated, I went travelling around Africa and then did a ski season in France, thoroughly enjoying myself, but I guess delaying the inevitable decision of what career to pursue. When I came back home a recruitment agency called me about a role as a sales engineer for a company specialising in Noise and Vibration Control. I thought, why not, if nothing else it will be good interview practice. It actually seemed a really interesting role and I ended up getting the job and haven’t left the industry since. It’s funny how things work out because I actually really enjoy what I do. I love the variety of it, no project is the same. I enjoy a challenge and I’m definitely a problem solver. I like complex problems that have definitive solutions, which I tend to deal with on a daily basis here at TVS.
And how did you meet Paul, the other co-founder of TVS Group?
He was actually my interviewer for that job I got! I ended up working under Paul for 18 months. Due to some structural changes in our company at the time, we felt it was time to move on and actually set up on our own. We had a very similar vision about how a vibration control company should be run. We both felt that we wanted to focus more on solving complex acoustic solutions and having that as our driving force.
It’s funny because a lot of people (understandably) tried to dissuade us from setting the company up. It was 2009, so we were in the middle of the recession and a lot of people felt we should sit tight and ride out the worst of the economic crisis and then launch. But we had quite a strong vision and we knew it could work. In hindsight, it was actually the exact right time to start, so I’m glad we listened to our gut and believed in what we could achieve.
Do you think the timing of your launch affected your overall success then?
Oh definitely. As Paul mentioned, we ended up securing a big Gym brand as one of our first clients, which built the solid foundations we needed for each growth stage of the company in the years to come. Of course, the people you hire, the work you put in, plus investing in the right sectors is key for any company to thrive. But so is luck, which not enough people talk about really. Sometimes it’s just having the right idea at the right time and then building on it. Even meeting Paul when I did was good timing. In my experience, success is a mixture of luck, seeking the right opportunities and working hard to achieve the end result.
But I do think the main reason TVS has grown from strength to strength is because of the people we hired. We are lucky because we are a very tight knit team and I am able to manage on a personal level rather than simply looking at the numbers. We have such a solid team, willing to put a lot of effort in for the overall good of the company. I also love being able to reward them for that hard work. I’ll never forget when we took the entire team out to Las Vegas. Me and Paul and I sat with the team looking over the Las Vegas strip drinking a celebratory beer with everyone. A perfect round off to 10 years that I never thought was even remotely possible when we first started.
Sounds like a fantastic way to celebrate 10 great years. Has your role changed much since you first set up in 2009?
It’s definitely got a lot more specific as we’ve grown. When we first started me and Paul were doing everything, we even got on the forklift truck to load our materials onto the wagons. It was actually a bit hard to step back at first but the best thing we did was hire experts. For example, when we hired our first project managers they not only improved how the projects were run, delivering solutions more quickly and smoothly with increased profitability, they also freed up time for Paul me and Paul to concentrate on new projects and run the company in a more strategic way. I do sometimes miss driving that forklift truck though!
My role is still very varied, which I love. But I now focus my work very much on the technical aspect. I would say I split my time pretty much 50/50 between dealing with my own projects and providing technical support for my colleagues. My own projects predominantly involve building isolation solutions for large construction projects in built-up, urban environments that require isolation from trainlines, tube lines and other noise sources. Also, from the initial phases of a project, including talking to acoustic consultants, architects, structural engineers and clients about specifications, parameters and possible outcomes. I’ll then progress to developing the solution alongside our international suppliers, running the calculations, and producing drawings to give a clear visual of how the solution can be integrated into the building design. I’m also involved in pricing the solution, negotiation and securing the deal, as well as overseeing the technical aspects of the project delivery alongside our project managers. The other half of my role is providing technical support to the rest of the TVS team. For example, they might need to know about the performance of a particular floated floor they are considering for a cinema, or the effect on the reverberation time that our TVS ABSorb panels would have on the wall of a classroom. They’ll ring me up, drop me an email, or pop their head in the office and I’ll get going to calculate it for them.
And when you aren’t problem solving complex building equations, what do you like doing?
Well, because I spend a lot of my working day sat at my desk, when I’m not in the office I like to be very active and outdoors. When I was really young I wanted to be a professional sportsman, so I guess that passion followed me into adult life. When I was a kid, I loved all sorts of sport including rugby, skiing, football and golf. After years of only managing a few rounds each year, I have recently joined a local golf course and am enjoying getting back into regular competitions. I still love to ski, and I play weekly 5-a-side football matches with my friends. I think it’s really important to be active for my general wellbeing and health, so I try my best to do as many sporting activities as possible. Obviously now with the second lockdown that’s a little tricky, so instead I’m going for lots of walks with my wife Jo and my Bernese Mountain dog Bear.
Thanks for sharing a little bit about who you are and what you do for TVS Patrick. Next month we’ll be talking to Chris Taylor, Projects Director. He’ll be sharing what it’s like to be out in the field fitting acoustic solutions in urban high rises and is going to talk about an exciting new project he’s currently working on in central London.