The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
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‘Never give up!’ – Thomas Salomone, a deaf man who runs a successful UK construction company

Helena Grech Monday, 22 August 2016, 09:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

Thomas Salomone, a Maltese deaf man who runs his own construction company, explained that his proudest moment came when he was recognised as a professional, and others in the industry turned to him for advice.

After graduating from the University of Derby with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management under his belt, Mr Salomone was headhunted by a large construction company. The thrill of being sought after was short-lived however as he was unhappy with the way he was treated by the company.

This, together with massive drive, inspiration from his also-deaf father, support from his wife and a good education led Mr Salomone to embark on the brave mission of setting up his own company.

Where others failed, Mr Salomone made a name for himself and his company, proving to the world that obstacles only get in the way if you let them. Not only has Mr Salomone built a successful company, but he also employs around 30 deaf workers and sponsored the Great Britain Deaf Football Club.

One lesson he said he would pass on to all deaf people, especially those struggling to move forward, is to “never, ever give up. There will always be someone telling you that you are useless because you are deaf and your communication difficulties. Do not listen! You are capable of anything. Just because your hearing is impaired does not mean you are less intelligent or able than anyone else.”

His life is a testament to the above message. Mr Salomone explained that even while sitting for his degree, he worked as a self-employed builder to pay his way through university. It became a very successful business with a large client base, paving the way towards future success.

Following his stint with the large construction company which did not work out for him, Mr Salomone set up a company called TGS Building Co, a small business carrying out house renovations. The financial crisis created some challenges, however he managed to maintain his business until 2008, which is when a friend approached him and suggested they join forces by pooling their resources. This newly-formed company, Scorpio Building Contractors took on some notoriously difficult jobs and built a name for itself. This led Mr Salomone to again start his own company called Eguizabal Construction Limited, which is now enjoying great success.

On the subject of what drew him to the construction industry in the first place, he said “While in my final year at boarding school, I watched a new accommodation block being built and was fascinated with the work being carried out. My love of the outdoors also drew me in.”

Turning to what led him to take the plunge and start his own company, Mr Salomone said: “I left university to work for a large national construction company and was not happy with my job and my treatment which prompted me to leave and set out on my own as a builder. 

“Sheer drive and ambition was the determining factor which sparked the process, as the money was not good. When setting out on my own and building a name for myself, I had contacts in the construction industry that were able to give me good advice and were very patient. My wife and my parents who supported my choices” also pushed him to get where he is today.

Asked about his most proud moment while working in the construction industry, he quickly replied:

“That would be when I was finally recognized as a professional construction manager and other construction professionals approached me for my advice on how to make improvements to the infrastructure of their projects. Gaining the respect of several prominent architects in London who recommended me and my company to their clients on multi million pound projects was also a very proud moment.”

 

Obstacles

“I can say it was my father, who is also deaf and had worked his way up as an accountant, who taught me that deafness is only a barrier if you let it be a barrier. He also taught me that anything can be achieved with hard work and drive, and that deaf people have to work twice as hard as others who are not deaf to prove ourselves. Due to this, I had a good understanding of what was ahead of me which helped me achieve my success.

On difficulties which may crop up due to having such a high number of deaf persons within his workforce, Mr Salomone said “The challenges were overcoming the personal differences my workforce had. The deaf community is a small community and everyone practically knows each other but do not necessarily get on! Another challenge is the language barrier as some of my deaf workforce come from East Europe such as Latvia, Poland and Czech. Sign language is different in all countries, just like spoken languages. We therefore all had to learn some international signs to communicate while the East European workers learnt the English language and sign language. The reward was ultimately a close team with fantastic teamwork and camaraderie.

“I can say the workforce is very motivated as they motivate each other to do work to exceptionally high standards out of pride. This is because they were never given the chance to shine in their previous companies and they are given a sense of purpose and responsibility in my company.”

Asked how clients view his particular company, and whether it can be difficult to compete for contracts, he explained:

“I used to have this difficulty when setting out in the industry but now we are well known and come highly recommended by prominent architects and former clients. At this point, the work just comes in and clients are willing to wait months even a year for us to undertake projects for them! One example: I was approached by a property developer based in Mayfair in London who had heard of my company and was determined to have us work on his project.

“The project entailed building six four-bedroom houses in West London with each house worth in excess of a million pounds. After completing this project we were then approached by the client's associates to build a block of 200 student flats in Nottingham. Now we have been awarded another contract to build another block of 400 student flats and will commence in 2018. The clients are willing to wait that long for us to take on this project, rather than employ another construction company who could have started the project sooner.”

Mr Salomone said that there is no effort to employ deaf persons, and that “this has happened organically as we don't actually go out searching for deaf tradesmen and we do employ tradesmen with normal hearing. We also recruit deaf tradesmen recommended by our deaf employees.”

As mentioned, his company sponsored a deaf football team by providing new uniforms and equipment. He also sponsors a biennial event which celebrates deaf people in the sporting community. 

“There have always been issues in getting funding for deaf sports from governments, unlike the Paralympics, due to budget cuts. Great Britain Deaf football club approached me to see if we would be willing to sponsor them with new football kits which we were happy to do, and we have also sponsored Deaf Sports Personality of the Year Awards which occurs every two years with a black tie event held in prestigious venues.”

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