Family roots – Naomi & Michael
Family is rooted in Russwood’s history, its culture, and its values. Beginning as a family business, Managing Director, John Russell took over his father’s coal business before moving into timber. Russwood was officially born in 1990, as was John and Isla’s first child Naomi. Naomi and her younger brother Michael have followed in the family footsteps building their careers at Russwood. Our Marketing Manager, Fiona Finnie, sat down with Naomi and Michael to find out more about their early memories of Russwood, their careers, and their hopes for the future.
Russwood has always been a part of life for Naomi and Michael. As a digger obsessed youngster, one of Michael’s earliest memories is of sitting on dad, John’s, knee while he loaded coal from the digger. Michael also recalls being at his Nanna Russell’s house, just along the road from the yard, where his nanna would answer the phones and take orders. His dad would then run up the road from the yard to collect the ticket before running back to process the order for dispatch. Thankfully both the efficiency of our ordering system and the robustness of our health and safety policies have advanced significantly since those days!
Naomi’s first memories are also of the Russwood yard. She tells me how she was terrified of Russwood’s ‘guard geese’ which John had bought to protect the yard after a spate of thefts in the area. Yes, you read that right. Guard geese. In addition to answering the phones, Nanna Russell had the important job of making bacon rolls for the Russwood team, which she would deliver, without fail, every day at 10.30am prompt. Naomi would help make and pack up the rolls, saying she felt like an important part of the workforce.
Sundays for the Russell family always involved a family outing which John called ‘mystery tours’. John, Isla, Naomi and Michael would travel the length of the country visiting museums, swimming pools and other visitor attractions. Coincidently (I’m sure) every single place they visited had a Russwood project or site that John would visit whilst in the area.
During their teens, Naomi and Michael spent their summers working at Russwood doing a variety of jobs, from working in the sawmill, to painting sheds, answering the phones and posting out Profile newsletters. One year a whole stack of Profiles went undelivered when Naomi accidently posted out a bunch of empty envelopes. Whoops. Michael recalls a long, hot summer, where he and Blair Mackintosh (Flooring Production Supervisor and son of retired Russwood Director, PJ Mackintosh) dug the foundations for Russwood’s ‘big shed’ under the harsh command of George Ralph who instructed them to “dig faster, dig harder!”
Naomi didn’t always have aspirations to work at Russwood. After studying Sports Massage Therapy at college, Naomi travelled in India, Vietnam and Thailand. She returned to work in sports massage for a while before joining Russwood’s flooring team, initially part-time, in 2015. Naomi had planned to try working in different departments to see what she liked best, but she found she enjoyed sales, and combined with her interest in interior design, she decided to stay in flooring.
Naomi soon moved into a full-time role, before taking up the position of Flooring and Interior Cladding Manager. More recently, Naomi has moved into a project management role, overseeing a number of changes to Russwood’s systems and processes.
Michael wasn’t sure which field of work he wanted to go into after school, eventually settling on a Business Management degree at Edinburgh Napier University. During his studies, Michael realised that he had a lot of real-life business examples he could draw on from his own experiences, which sparked an interest in building a career with the family business.
Michael joined Russwood as a full-time Cladding Sales Advisor in 2017. In 2019, he transitioned to a Business Development role working on orders for large commercial projects. As the demands of the business developed, so did Michael’s role, as he quickly stepped into a management position, overseeing the Architect Liaison Team and the then newly formed, Sales and Project Development Team.
Working with family may be a challenge for some, but it’s something the Russell’s seem to manage well. Both Naomi and Michael said they try to follow John’s example of switching off from work when not in the office. Family dinners can turn to work chat sometimes, but they try to keep it as a minimum. I asked them both what it’s like working with their sibling:
Michael on Naomi:
“Naomi and I are similar in some senses but very different in others. Naomi lights up the room, it’s her natural gift. She’s the one person I’d want on my team, even if she wasn’t my sister.”
Naomi on Michael:
“Mike and I have different strengths and qualities which makes us well balanced as a team. Although we are different, ultimately our core values align. I admire his determination and good humour, and he will always be my cheeky little brother!”
As Russwood continues to evolve, so have Naomi and Michael’s roles, with both being appointed company directors in May 2022. In their new positions, they hope to continue to build on Russwood’s strong foundations and core values. Both share a vision for creating a space where Russwood is a market leader in supplying beautiful, innovative products in as sustainable a way possible, while continuing to employ local people and retaining the company’s family roots.
Read more blogs about the Russwood team here.