It was a memorable and enjoyable occasion as a guest list comprising of GGF Members, Senior Staff and Members of the trade media, welcomed Mark Austin as the new GGF President at the President’s Reception at The Landmark Hotel, London on 4th February.

In a speech laced with interesting facts and good humour, Mark started his address with an overview of the political background that the industry and country finds itself in.

2020 is not only a leap year, but the start of a new decade, and it’s a decade that starts with considerable change and challenges for our country and industry. With the UK having left the European Union for better or worse on 31st January. There’s still an air of uncertainty in the business world, so trade organisations like the GGF will become increasingly important to not only help companies cope with change, but also to help shape the future of our industry. I don’t have 2020 vision, but I doubt back in 2010 we’d have all been expecting that 10 years later we’d no longer be in the European Union and seeking to do trade deals with the rest of the world as a matter of urgency.”

The presentation took a lighter tone as Mark provided a brief outline of his considerable background in the industry and also touched upon his 14 years in the professional football industry with Wycombe Wanderers F.C. and quipped “as you may gather my work was off the field of play and not on the pitch”.

In 2007, Mark agreed to join family owned and run independent double-glazing manufacturers and installers Hazlemere Window Company Ltd as Marketing Director and during his presentation he thanked his colleagues for their support.

“I have worked for Hazlemere Windows in High Wycombe for the last 12 years and in 2011 Hazlemere became Conservatory Outlet Dealers who are also GGF Members. Without their support I would not have been able to become the Chairman of the GGF Windows & Doors Group back in 2017, sit on the GGF’s Home Improvement Executive, nor have been able to join the GGF Board of Directors in September 2018. I’d therefore like to sincerely thank my Managing Director Rachel Braham-Hill, my Chairman Stuart Braham and my CEO Tony Beale for their trust and backing, plus enabling me back on 1st April 2019 to reduce my hours to 3 days a week in order to be able to do the GGF President’s role justice. What you have each done for me, along with your unwavering support for me is very much appreciated and I can assure you it never has been, and never will be taken for granted.

The Landmark Hotel was the setting for the President’s Reception and it was an apt choice as Mark explained in his speech,

“It is rather fitting that today’s Presidents reception is in the Landmark Hotel, and it’s got nothing to do with my name being Mark! One of the meanings of the word landmark is that its “an event or discovery marking an important stage or turning point in something.”

We are not gathered today in the Empire Room because the GGF wants to become an Empire, but simply to celebrate and landmark how far this exceptional membership organisation has come with your support, and how proud the GGF is to be able to count each of you as GGF Members.”

Mark conveyed his praise to the GGF staff and commercial companies for their contribution and successes over the last few years and referenced some outstanding facts;

On the GGF’s Technical influence: “The GGF technical team has produced over 120 technical publications that integrate the most current international, European and British standards. The GGF sits on all the major standards committees of ISO, BSI and CEN where the GGF cascades Members’ technical comments, suggestions and concerns to help shape the standards that regulate our industry.”

On the GGF’s Political Voice: “The GGF’s voice to Government has grown stronger over the last decade on major issues such as Fire Safety, Energy Efficiency and more recently on Brexit. This is clearly evidenced when the Government commissioned the GGF to inform and help guide companies who manufacture, supply and install glass and glazing products to get ready and deal with the UK leaving the European Union. Thanks to James Lee, GGF Director of External Affairs, the GGF secured a £50,000 Government Grant to develop a new web portal “The Brexit Hub” to help GGF Members and the industry prepare for the impact Brexit may have.”

On the Federation’s Membership growth: “In the last 8 years, the GGF Membership has grown considerably with 220 new Members joining the GGF since 2012. To put this in context, the GGF has around 470 Members in total, so it’s a healthy number of relatively new companies who have joined the Federation.”

On Marketing and Brand Awareness: Last year was the highest ever visitor numbers to the GGF website and its consumer advice website MyGlazing.com. Over 300,000 users visited these sites and when combined with the tens of millions the GGF reaches with its trade and consumer PR, it’s clear that the GGF’s audience, as well as its influence is growing.”

On Training: “In 2019, a major topic of discussion was the importance to our industry of both training and qualifications, which culminated in an open forum with many GGF Members represented to debate the issues further. Since then we’ve reviewed the training and qualifications currently in the UK market, and I am delighted to announce that in the coming months, we will be launching a new GGF Training and Qualifications Academy. This vehicle, working with industry and training providers partners, will provide both training and qualifications opportunities to GGF members, and is a platform that we can use to add further schemes to help train the future generation of people we need in our industry sector.”

Mark moved from GGF successes and plans to the GGF’s commercial subsidiaries with praise for their achievements to date and also acknowledging their vital services to the industry.

“At present the Commercial Managing Director Anda Gregory is on maternity leave, having left the 5 commercial businesses in the very capable hands of each of the commercial business heads, overseen in her absence by Chris Beedel, Head of FENSA. The commercial businesses all continue to make a vital contribution to the GGF Group.

In terms of the GGF’s commercial businesses many GGF Members use the insurance services of InstallSure (formerly GGFi), one of the largest IBG providers in the Double Glazing industry.

BFRC is the largest & most recognised window and door energy rating service in the industry and again is widely used by GGF members, as well as the whole supply chain, in particular for compliance by installers for Approved Document L.

RISA is a relative new company to the GGF, and they carry out thousands of assessments, inspections & audits across the UK, undertaking both pre-installation evaluations as well as post installation assessments.

FENSA was the first GGF Commercial company to be set up 18 years ago, and it continues to go from strength to strength, having overseen 14 million FENSA window and door installations since 2002. Every day more than 6,000 windows & 1,000 doors will be installed by FENSA Approved Registered Installers. To date approximately 62 million individual window and door products have been installed by FENSA registered installers since 2002. Quite staggering numbers that everyone associated with the GGF Group can be rightly proud of.”

Steve Rice, GGF Managing Director is set to retire at the end of February with John Agnew taking over the role from 1st March and Mark in his speech paid tribute to both employees.

“Under Steve Rice’s leadership championing the technical department for decades, the quality of GGF Technical output remains strong, and is for many in the industry the go to place for technical advice, guidance and help. The GGF’s renewed focus on improving our technical offering and access for GGF Members will continue under incoming GGF MD John Agnew following Steve’s retirement on 28th February after 30 years loyal and faithful service. My sincere and grateful thanks to you Steve for your dedication to the GGF, we all wish you every happiness and good health in your retirement.

As President, I can tell you I’m absolutely delighted along with the rest of the Board about John Agnew’s appointment to take over the reins from Steve. Not only does John bring an understanding of the industry having been Managing Director of Independent Glass for many years, but also as my predecessor as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, John has a firm grasp of the GGF. I very much look forward to working with you John during my 2-year tenure as President.”

In his closing remarks, Mark reassured Members of his commitment and responsibilities as GGF President.

“The GGF as the industry’s leading trade organisation, and voice to the government, has also achieved a huge amount for the industry and its members since its formation in 1977. The Federation has undoubtedly a unique place in this industry and a responsibility to serve its Members and the wider industry.

As President, I will never forget that I’m here to represent you as Members, and furthermore I’m able to bear witness that ever since I was elected to the Board of Directors that every Member of the Board makes decisions always very mindful of the fact we are your custodians, and all Members like yourselves. I’m therefore extremely humbled and honoured to be your President for the next two years.”

Mark closed his speech, thanking all in attendance for their support and ensured that Members’ views and concerns would be listened to and that the Federation would continue to act in their best interests. His first speech as GGF President was well received and the audience gave him a warm round of applause.