Award-winning construction contractor and entrepreneur, Danny Lucas has turned a local painting and decorating firm into one of the country’s top fit-out and finishing companies and best-known brands within the built environment sector since becoming MD of Lucas back in 1998. Last week, as a fitting finale to London South East Colleges' National Apprenticeship Week celebrations, he dropped by its Bexley Campus to tell students how he did it.

Answering a series of questions asked by Assistant Principal Ana Guimaraes and students from the audience, Danny told of his rise to success after leaving school with nothing.

“I had a disastrous education and really messed things up by the time I was thrown out of school just before I was 16. I didn’t even get to take my exams,” he said.

“Before I walked away from the school for the last time, my teacher told me I’d never make anything of myself. And if it hadn’t been for this wake-up call, and a love of the hit TV series Dallas, I think this may have come true.

I had been a fan of the show Dallas in which two brothers had taken their father’s oil business and turned it into a multi-million-dollar family dynasty. They drove around in fast cars, lived on a ranch and wanted for nothing.

From this moment on, my ambitions were firmly set on taking the family business forward big time.

From there on, I didn’t miss an opportunity. After a year on site learning the hard way with early starts, long days and 7-day working, I did an apprenticeship and attended college to do block release over a two year period and achieve a City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma in Painting and Decorating. I worked hard and gained lots of experience. I started reading books written by famous entrepreneurs to acquire the inspiration to build up a business and hit the very top of my profession.

In 1991, I became a director of the company, and by 1998 was running the whole show. The company has gone from strength to strength and I simply haven’t looked back. Lucas have fitted out the London Olympic Stadium, the Shard, Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, the McLaren Technology Centre, the Lexicon and we are currently engaged in completing the fit-out works at Battersea Power Station. This development will house the new Apple UK headquarters, a huge shopping and recreational hub and 10,000 new apartments.”

Danny has recently written an autobiography entitled ‘Get the tin out and paint the world’. He brought along signed copies and gifted them to the students who raised questions during the event.

He continued: “Having read books by Steve Jobs, Ron Dennis and Michael Bloomberg amongst many others, I wanted to put into words my journey from being an unworldly and difficult teenager to where I am now. I want to show that a bad start doesn’t mean a bad finish. You can pick yourself up, open your eyes and ears and listen. You can start to push the boundaries and make things happen. It’s not easy, there are pits and troughs, but as long as you stay focused, you can achieve anything you want.”

Level 1 Carpentry and Joinery student, Adam, 18, is full of ambitions and wants to build a career within the sector. He came along to the event looking for inspiration and guidance from one the construction industry’s biggest hitters. He said: “I’m so glad I came today. Listening to Danny, you get a sense that he was hungry for success from the word go but needed guidance, inspiration and a good dose of reality before getting his thoughts together and becoming the master of his own destiny.”

Ana Guimaraes summed up the event by saying: “Danny has shown the students in the audience today that anyone can achieve if they knuckle down and make the necessary changes in their lives to lead them to bigger opportunities. We (the College) can put them in front of the real movers and shakers of this world and today’s event is a classic example of that.”

If you think you have what it takes to become a construction trade professional and would like to build a successful career in the building services and built environment industries, we’d like to hear from you. We have a great range of courses and apprenticeship opportunities to get you started. Come along to one of our open events. Click here to learn more.

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