Some people dream of the days when they will be able to finish their final day of work before going into retirement to concentrate on their hobbies, or just spend time with their significant other exploring the world. John Clugston, 77, is not one of these people.
Still dedicating his life to the family business, Clugston Group, after starting as the third generation in 1958, he has put his heart and soul into not only his work but the 20 plus different institutes and organisations that he has been a member of or invested in.
Clugston Group has grown and adapted over the 77 years that it has been going, in a battle to change and survive through difficult times. Consisting of several different branches, the group now operates in construction, distribution and commercial property.
This feature interview was first published in issue 54 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at www.lincsbusiness.co. Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.
“We’re in tough industries,” said John. “When you see the results of some of these big construction companies this last year or so they haven’t been making any money, you look back at it and think ‘why aren’t they?’
“I think that when the recession came, they just weren’t buying work. We didn’t either and we suffered. We suffered badly for a year and we had to make 200 people redundant. But we survived it!”
John’s grandfather set up a builders’ merchants, timber and joinery business and transport company, JG Clugston Ltd, in 1922. But when all the iron and steelworks in Scunthorpe closed down in 1924, the company was invited to work on one of the slag banks to help create employment on road construction for the town.
John’s father realised that slag had huge potential for something that was seen as a waste product at the time, so he created Clugston Cawood in 1937. This is where John started his career, working for his father but also working in steelworks in Germany and France from 1958.
“I grew up in the slag industry, taking blast furnace slag from the steelworks and developing products for it. It was a waste product in the ’30s. It was only then that we got into it, because it was waste. No one wanted it.”
The test of time
Clugston Group is a company that has made its mark in history, playing its own part during WWII. It took on simple contracting work, such as erecting poles in large fields to stop enemy gliders landing, as well as the construction of air-raid shelters and the building of anti-glare pits.
John worked his way up the company starting as Assistant to Works Manager on production matters in 1961 and becoming Chairman of various divisions of the company until eventually he became Chairman and Managing Director of Clugston Holdings Ltd (now Clugston Group Ltd) in 1984.
Within this time the company has grown significantly. Contracts now include schools, hospitals, reinforced concrete reservoirs, supermarkets and much more. But having gone through several recessions, John has done well to continue the growth of the company.
“When there’s a recession, it’s always the construction industry that goes into it first and it’s always the last one out. We’ve had our ups and downs with the company and lost money in some years. We hadn’t been doing very well in the last few years with transport but I think we’ve got it right now.
“As life’s gone on, a lot of the steel plants have closed. We’d been in construction all of our life, but in a small way during the war. It got to the stage where we said ‘we’re going to have to concentrate on construction.’
“One has to adapt. That’s the point. I think we’ve done remarkably well to survive it all as a private company.”
The full cover interview with John Clugston is available to read in full here. For the latest dispatch of business news from across Lincolnshire delivered in your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the Lincolnshire Business magazine.