As the City of London livery company for the furnishing industry, our membership is as diverse as the many people, functions and sectors that work within this wonderful trade.
Every month we cast the spotlight on one of our members, learning about their job and discovering what it is about The Furniture Makers’ Company that resonates with them. This month it is John Conroy, who was admitted as a liveryman in March and who has taken up the chairmanship of our North East region.
Tell me about yourself, background and company you work for.
I work for a Novuna Finance as a strategic relationship manager, and deal with companies across a broad spectrum of sectors. My background in furniture allows me to advise the company on the industry, from working with the marketing team, helping with customer issues, to simply introducing potential new customers. I had a bit of a career change in August 2022 to do this, and it is very different to my previous role which included designing, quality checking and selling sofas! Outside of work I like to spend a lot of my time watching football and following Newcastle. It is great to see us trying to compete again.
How did you break into the industry and what is it about the sector that made you stay in it?
I was brought up in furniture, my family had a furniture retailer (Conroy’s) up in the North East which had 12 shops at its peak. I met a lot of great people through that, and after spending time in other industries, I decided it was time to go back to my passion.
When did you first hear about The Furniture Makers’ Company and who encouraged you to join?
I was actually looking for the FTBA (my dad was North East chairman in the nineties) and my search brought me to The Furniture Makers’ Company which took over the charity. I connected with Immediate Past Master David Woodward on LinkedIn and after learning more about the Company, I decided it was something I wanted to join, and I am still honoured that I was allowed to.
What area of the Company’s output resonates most with you and why?
Welfare and Education are the two big areas for me. I have been working with the team on a project (I must admit, they have done the work to get my idea off the ground!) that will see prisoners being trained in woodworking, upholstery and sewing and helping them to get employment when they are released. This has been a passion project since my days selling leather, with Frankland Prison in Durham being a customer. I learned that the prisoners who work in the workshops and try to get something out of their time are highly unlikely to reoffend, and the ones who do regularly blame a lack of opportunity. If we can give opportunities, we can help cut reoffending rates.
What events have you got planned for the coming livery year in your region?
Not a lot… yet! We need more members from the North East, and I will be looking to do something as soon as possible to try and get a new event off the ground.
Can you share a highlight or fond memory of your time involved with The Furniture Makers’ Company?
In my early days as a member, I got in touch and mentioned a friend who had been badly hit by COVID, and was unable to work for a while. The company got straight in touch with his family to see what assistance they could provide. It was just great to see the process working.
Have you got any advice to any new members regarding getting the most out of membership?
Don’t be afraid to make suggestions or ask questions! The people involved in the company have a huge collective experience, and everyone I have met has been more than happy to offer whatever help and advice they can. Without the help of the Company, my prison idea would still be just that, an idea. Also, get involved and get networking.
Finally, tell us something your fellow members may not know about you – a secret talent, an interest outside of the world of furniture.
I have a love of luxury watches, and all things horology. I can’t walk past a jeweler without deciding what my next watch will be (it doesn’t happen as often as I would like!), and I can spot a watch from 50 yards. The craftmanship and mechanics to make some of these timepieces are incredible. I would love at some point in the future to visit a watch fair in Geneva.