CHRIS HOPKINS is one energetic businessman.
The managing director of Brighouse-based Ploughcroft Building Services Ltd hasn’t let the grass grow since setting up the roofing firm with his father in 1997.
For in the space of 15 years, he’s turned it into one of the UK’s biggest names in renewable energy – with a string of awards to its name and high profile backing from Dragons’ Den investors Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden.
Energetic doesn’t tell the half of it.
Chris, who grew up in Luddenden, near Halifax, says: “I’m not one to sit around and do nothing.
“When I was in my teens, I’d help the local farmer collect eggs and milk the cows before going to school. I’d do a paper round and then I’d be washing pots and pans at The Java Restaurant in Sowerby Bridge.
“I have always been a very active person – that’s why I’m so busy in my work and enjoy coming into work every day.”
Chris also took up bodybuilding when he was 14 and reached a high standard.
He says: “I used to get picked on at school because I couldn’t read too well. I am pretty dyslexic. I started training to build up my muscles and put the bullies off picking on me. It worked brilliantly.
“The bullying stopped once they saw me working out in the gym and in PE lessons!”
Chris took up bodybuilding seriously, rising to become UK under-21 champion and second to the world champion in the novice category as an adult.
Now he draws parallels between the discipline and effort needed to succeed as a bodybuilder and the sort of determination to do well in business – with both requiring the right training and presentation skills.
“I have adapted everything I learned in bodybuilding to my business role,” says Chris. “It works, but it is a long-term thing. Building a good physique took me 15 years – from 14 to 30 when I was at my peak. It has also taken 15 years to build up Ploughcroft.”
But Chris believes his business is nowhere near its “peak”.
He launched his roofing business based on a love of tall buildings. “I remember going to St Paul’s Cathedral and looking down from the inside of the dome,” says Chris. “I learned everything I could about roofing and set up Ploughcroft in 1997.
“For seven years, we were a small roofing business covering Huddersfield and Halifax until in 2004 I decided I could design a roofing college to teach other roofers.”
Training bodies were sceptical, but a year later Chris has achieved his ambition and Ploughcroft was recognised as an accredited centre by industry training body CITB.
It was a development which led to a break with his dad, who thought Chris was “crazy” to set up a college teaching rival firms how to mend roofs. Chris bought his father out and began running courses in the evenings and weekends – unlike the other colleges – when mature roofers who were working all week could attend.
As “green” issues became more pressing, Chris introduced solar panel installation training to his roofing college and in 2007 designed the UK’s only NVQ in solar roofing. Now the training business operates from centres at locations across the UK.
In 2008, when the recession hit, Ploughcroft was turning over £1.9m, but made losses of £200,000 as it felt the impact of the downturn on the construction industry. “In 2009, I sold my car and put the money into the business,” says Chris. “I was at my overdraft limit and I went without a wage for six months to be able to continue. But I believed absolutely in the company.”