The Future of Social Value at Bell Group – Post Covid

This time last year I don’t think anyone could have imagined what we were about to face. I surely couldn’t.

I’d like to start by looking back at what we have achieved in the last 14 challenging months despite the lockdowns, furlough, fear and uncertainty. These figures below are a reflection of the dedication, resilience, and compassion of not only our team of Community Engagement Co-ordinators but our wider network of employees and leaders. 

What’s Next?

Reflecting on the future of Social Value during 2020, we made some significant changes to the Community Engagement Team. These changes involved the restructuring of the team to create regional Community Engagement Roles which will be supported by local Community Project staff. The Pandemic has taught us that to deliver effective Social Value we need to look at the long-term impact of our activities – not focus on quick short-term gains. We have also recognised that we need to stay at the forefront of digital advancements and therefore created a National Social Value Programmes Development role to create our digital and online offerings. These programmes will enable us to reach a wider audience quicker, and, whilst social distancing is still a consideration, ensures everyone remains safe. Furthermore, our ability to facilitate change in local communities remotely and digitally has increased the sustainable benefits to the environment, for example, a reduction in our carbon footprint.

Our current strategy is to ensure all our business activities have a positive impact on the Planet, Places and People. We want to ensure everyone we come into contact with; be they employees, customers, or communities, understand their purpose and the role they play in helping us all to build back our future.

We have a suite of offers all sitting under our key themes; Education, Training & Employment; Health & Wellbeing, Social Inclusion and Investment; Community Regeneration & Environment.

In addition to the structure of our Community Engagement Team, we have created a whole new Customer Service Department to support our operational teams, and ensure all our customers are receiving an exceptional customer experience.


“Our Community Engagement Team has changed, however, our Social Value offer has expanded and developed. Our Regional CECs will deliver longer-term, more sustainable projects generating greater impact. Our Social Value Programmes Development Manager is developing our digital offerings, and our Customer Service Department will be ensuring each and every customer has a positive experience.”


Anna Higham – Head of Corporate Social Responsibility

The Journey from Apprentice Decorator to Director

I left school in 1985 with what I considered to be ‘pretty average exam results’ so I decided to attend night school for two years to improve them and it became clear to me that I was meant to do manual works as I excelled in Woodwork, Metalwork and Art. Aged 16, I got my first placement in Liverpool to study Joinery and then got a work placement to do decorating and with a push from my parents who said “Go for it!”. 

Shortly after, I then got taken on as an apprentice P&D with Vale Decorators and completing a 4-year apprenticeship with Advance City & Guilds and stayed for 6 years making my way up to Senior Foreman by the age of 22.  

After getting married I was keen to progress my career and went in search of high-quality work in London. After developing my skill set further, I decided to move back home to both further my career and spend more time at home. I managed to secure a job in Liverpool as a foreman and within 12 months the owner asked me if I was interested in working in the office as a Training Manager, I was just 25 years old and I stayed with this company for 13 years. 

I was really happy at this stage of my career and with lots of hard work was finally in a management position with loads of experience and all by the age of 35. I was in some ways content, but I knew I wanted more both in terms of personal challenge as well as for the future of my family.

It was at a business event I met Craig Bell and it soon became clear from that Bell Group shared the great family ethos and values that I have as well as real ambition to grow. Soon after I meet Paul Steedman, George Bell, Ian Henderson and Craig Bell and I thought “WOW, these guys have taken the time to meet me and convince me to join the business. I want to be part of this”. 

My Bell Group journey began in November 2010 as Regional Commercial Manager and I was tasked with opening an office in Stoke and from day one, it was clear to me that I would be supported by the business to implement new ideas and bring in and develop people and new clients. After 5 years helping the region grow under the guidance of Paul, I was invited to attend a board meeting and was asked to bring some new ideas to the table. I was a little nervous but thought “It’s great to be sitting around a table with these inspirational leaders”. I enjoyed the day so much and after attending several further board meetings I was formally asked to become a Board Director in 2017.

The key message from this is that no matter where you start your career, with hard work, drive and ambition the sky is your limits. It might not happen overnight and in my case circa 30 years, but I am now a board Director of the country’s largest Painting Contractor currently overseeing 6 offices, 4 sub offices and I have responsibility for over 400 valued members of staff.

To all the operatives, apprentices, foreman, contracts managers and engineers across the country, if I can do it so can you.

John Jones