Celebrating 25 years of success, the team behind VIVALDA look back on the company’s long and storied history 

The story of UK-based cladding distributor, VIVALDA, spans 25 years and three generations of leadership. It all began in 1999 as Founder and Non-Executive Director, Peter Johnson, begins: “I started the business in September 1999, and here we are on the verge of our 25th anniversary. Like so many of the unknown leaps we take in life, it was fortunate that at that time, the economic climate had been positive for a while; better still, it was on its way to getting better. 

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“Having witnessed the market since 1980, it was becoming clear that demand for rainscreen cladding would increase and at the time the construction market was booming.  Certain projects needed what were then considerable amounts of material, up to 1000 square metres, and those contracts were very competitive because it was seen as prestigious work. This is just one of the ways the industry has changed since we started. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for us to supply projects comprising 16,000 square metres of facades, with some larger developments using 30,000 square metres of material.  

“Like every new venture that prospers, the history books will record times of good fortune when the wrong decision could have been made instead of the correct one. But it wasn’t all luck because the type of product we were selling was becoming increasingly fashionable with architects and specifiers. In other words, the risk was minimised. Looking back, the company was primed for growth from the beginning. 

“Ben Jayes joined the business a few months after I’d started, having worked together at a previous company. He had a range of skills and experience which were invaluable to the company, and I was thrilled to have him on board. I’m more comfortable with logistics and administration but when it comes to the bread and butter of business, such as closing deals and making strategies for the future, Ben was a major asset. Once he joined, things really started to take off. We were the perfect team.  

“In the beginning, we lived and breathed the business. Every day was a battle to make sure we kept our heads above water, and eventually it paid off as by 2003, we had grown to a sort of critical mass. We had enough cash to take us through, even if we had a standstill month. That was a good position to be in because we could start expanding and investing. We purchased our own warehouse as well as some new cutting machines, all of which needed operators and delivery drivers. This expansion marked the start of a real growth spurt. Thanks to Ben’s leadership, we employed more salespeople, taking the company to the next level.   

Agility and adaptability 

“In 2008, I had just passed my 51st birthday and felt it was time to hand over the reins to Ben. He was doing an amazing job leading the business forward and I knew it was time to make way. Under Ben’s management, the company’s turnover rose from £8 million to £40 million. In that time, he navigated the business through the financial crisis and the Covid lockdown which hit everyone very hard. I think that shows just how capable he is.”  

When the 2008 recession hit, Ben, now MD at VIVALDA, was tasked with navigating the company through rocky economic waters. “When faced with external challenges like the recession, you must get stuck in and try things. We were still a relatively young business, and we weren’t over ambitious. While others were retracting, we decided to change to a much more expansionist strategy to invest in the market as a means of gaining advantage from economic turbulence. Many internal systems were adapted, transforming the way the business operated on a day-to-day level. This gave it a more professional edge and we tackled recession head-on by aggressively acquiring market shares,” he reveals.  

The hard work undertaken by Ben was recognised by two inclusions in the London Stock Exchange Group’s ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ in 2018 and 2020. Under his guidance, the business evolved into a supplier and distributor of high specification decorative rainscreen cladding panels, building boards, fire protection boards, moisture resistant boards, direct render boards, and CP boards. Increasingly, customers were using VIVALDA’s in-house cutting and shaping facilities to benefit from improved cut accuracy and lead times.  

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Moving on, another 15 years and it was time to pass the torch yet again, as Ben details: “Andy McEwan took over in January 2023. He joined us at a time when the company was growing, and its needs were changing. The business had reached a stage and size where it needed a different direction. Overall, the strategy was successful, and the spread of business was good, especially in terms of organic growth. However, I got the feeling that after so many years I’d become too close to it. It was time for a different viewpoint from somebody coming in with a more helicopter view and corporate approach to the way we worked daily. That’s where Andy came in. He’s restructured the business and taken it into a more professional domain.”  

Best practice 

Andy is ushering in VIVALDA’s latest chapter as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. “It’s been a huge transition for Peter and Ben, and the business as a whole. They worked for a long time as owners, running the business for themselves. It’s their baby, something they built over 20 plus years. It’s a massive responsibility to have it passed over to me and I really take my hat off to them. They’ve successfully stepped through different phases of growth, various economic challenges, and huge changes in working culture. It’s a great testament to their skill because so many businesses falter during those periods of transition. A lot of the time people hold on too long,” he asserts.  

“The business they started, with two people in an office in London, requires a very different set of skills compared to running a business with over 150 people across ten different sites, which is where we find ourselves today. Peter founded the business; he built it from the ground up. Ben took it to the next level through an accelerated period of growth, and frankly, I couldn’t have done what either of them did. I can’t drive a warehouse truck, operate a saw, or form a business from nothing — but what I can do is run the right systems and processes at scale. I take best practice and increase collaboration throughout the broader company structure.” 

VIVALDA now stands ready to face the future as the UK and Ireland’s number one supplier of cladding panels, building boards, and fabrication services. “Ben and Peter have given me a platform to do what I do best. Now, we’re lucky enough to be part of a profitable, cash generative business that’s been taken into its next chapter. Everything that came before was necessary in bringing us here, it’s been a 25-year relay race, and I’m proud to hold the baton,” Andy concludes.