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Keystone Lintels’ Spotlight on Women in Construction: Julie Chandler

  • 20 Feb 2019

Julie Chandler, MD at Chandler Material Supplies Ltd, explains how family is at the heart of everything they do, in the latest of Keystone Lintels‘ ‘Spotlight on Women in Construction’ series.

With women currently making up approximately 11% of construction industry professionals, it is expected that the considerable debate and promotion taking place right now on the subject will result in this number rising, as more and more women choose construction related jobs.

Chandler Material Supplies Ltd is a family business that was originally established by Julie’s grandfather in the 1950s. Since then, the company has grown to 50 employees, including Julie’s two children.

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What is Chandler Material Supplies Ltd?

We are a family business, my grandfather moved to the site in the 1950s to operate his building business. It was a large yard and in addition to storing his excess building materials he rented out space to some smaller builders, they saw all the extra materials they wanted to buy from him and that’s how he started selling.

That business grew, eventually we formed a limited company in 1980 which I joined from school in 1981 and progressed from there. We now have just under 50 employees on a three acre site and we are doing well.

How important have supplier relationships been to your growth?

Working with major brands like Keystone has been paramount to us because our customers know which brand they are looking for. We also like to offer customers brand consistency, so our relationships with companies such as Keystone is really important to us. Our ideal supplier profile includes; reliability, integrity and good support, where we know they will support us if something goes wrong.

Who is Julie Chandler?

I am Chandlers through and through and as I now have two children who also work in the company, it really is the focus of family life. I am quite a hard task master and I expect a lot from the people who work for me, but we have a great team, so long as they are doing what they are supposed to do then I’m a happy person.

For time outside of work I love to get involved in volunteering for good causes through my involvement in Chelmsford Lions Club, which is part of the world’s largest service organisation.

How did your career in merchanting develop?

Totally accidentally, but a very fortunate one for me! When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At that time, we had six million unemployed in Britain, which was horrendously scary but my uncle had just set up Chandler Materials, and needed a typist and asked if I would be interested in working in the business.

It all started from there and I quickly grew to love the interaction with customers on a day to day basis which gave me a great grounding in the products.

I had been in the business for around 25 years before my appointment as MD, so over that time, I had gained first hand experience of most things.

I still get the same fundamental satisfaction seeing a sale from start to finish and knowing that at the end of the day, the customers get what they want, when they want it.

My role is now all about improving the experience for the customers. Many of them have been with us since I first started, so it is re-assuring to see them stay with us as we make changes. For example we recently invested in new yard logistics and improvements in the shop floor layouts.

What advice would you give to anybody considering a career in construction?

It’s an amazing industry, not one that women automatically think about, but it’s so interesting. If you can look beyond the dust and look at the products and the people, then if like me, you fall in love with it, you’ll be hooked even more.

Unfortunately, I think it’s still true that as women we need to work harder than men, we probably need to prove ourselves rather than just being accepted.

At the minute there is a big drive to encourage more women into our industry which I think is a terrific thing. About 20% of the workforce at Chandler Materials are women, which is higher than the norm and I’m very pleased about that.

What is next for Chandler Material Supplies?

To carry on as we are and get even better. Will there be a Chandler 2? Yes I hope so. It’s not on our fixed timeline but it is something I would love to see. The next generation of the family are already working here so we are here to stay, and we are here to grow.

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