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How I Built My… with Addam Smith

Addam Smith, a landscaper from Lincoln, has quite the story to tell.

When he found out that one of his employees, Keith, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he went above and beyond to help him and his family.

He went straight to the Builders’ Talk Group on Facebook and reached out to tradespeople to offer whatever help they could. It ended up with more than 50 tradespeople totally renovating Keith’s house in just seven days.

This video explains the process better than BOB ever could – and it includes some stunning before and after footage. Have a watch before we get started.

Addam, it’s great to have you. Tell us, how did you get started in the trade world?

If I’m honest I never really intended to get into the trade world. I was in the Grenadier Guards for nine years then after that just jumped from job to job. I was lucky as I fell into labouring and groundwork and found it really suited me. I have an eye for landscaping and I work hard, so it was a natural fit.

And what do you do now?

I’ve had my own business, ALS Fencing and Landscaping, since 2002.

Describe your typical day

It’s so broad, which is exactly why I love this job. One day I could be putting some decking in with elaborate spindles and another I could be digging a driveway or totally redesigning a garden.

It’s an interesting combination of art and hard graft – I’d say that about 20% of the job is landscaping and the rest is just sheer hard work.

How would you say you go that extra mile for your customers?

I think it’s about never talking about problems, but solutions. It’s also about finding that balance between advising them and totally taking over. At the end of the day, they’re the ones putting food on my family’s table so I will guide them with ideas but never tell them what they want or what they should do.

How do you unwind off-site?

Over the past eight months I’ve not really had the chance to unwind, if I’m being honest. It’s all been about fundraising for Keith and his family.

During the renovation project I spent a lot of time talking to tradespeople and suppliers to get them on board and now I’m fundraising to get Keith’s house bought for him!

I’m a family man too, so I love spending time with my wife and two young children. Having a family of my own just made Keith’s news hit so much harder.

Addam 1

We think we might know the answer to this, but what are you most proud of?

Obviously helping Keith and his family out, it was one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. But I don’t want people thinking it was just me.

So many people pitched in to help, on some days we had 25 people on-site. It really came across when Keith came back from his holiday and saw what we’d done, loads of people turned up to welcome him home. It was very emotional.

I’m also in the process of setting up a group called Band of Builders, which I’m hoping could be a charity one day. It’s all about helping tradespeople with terminal illnesses. As so many of us are self-employed, situations like that can be even more devastating in terms of job security and finances.

Band of Builders

What’s your favourite bit of kit?

I’m obviously going to say my Band of Builders kit. My Pasload nail gun is probably up there as well, as it comes in useful.

We’re brewing up – what’s yours?

The answer to this is written on the back of my work shirt: tea, milk and two sugars, please!

Finally, what’s your top bit of advice for anybody thinking of starting out in a trade or undertaking a massive project like you did?

It might sound a bit odd, but it can help to be a bit naïve about how much time and hard work such a project will take. If you start thinking too much about that side of things it can be hard to get started. Just throw yourself into it, work hard and deal with any obstacles as they come.

You’ve got to treat people right, too – be polite and treat others how you’d expect to be treated. What I’ve learned from this experience is that you’d be surprised just how much people will offer out of their own generosity.


BOB (Bricks or Banter) is the Jewson monthly newsletter, bringing you bricks, banter, expert advice, competitions and loads of other stuff. You can sign up here.