For almost six years he has performed one of the most high-profile roles in Birmingham’s business community.
But next week Paul Faulkner will step down as chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to take on a new post with Dudley’s Richardson family business.
The 42-year-old has steered the chamber through a tricky period in its history as it faced down and then plugged a gaping hole in its pension scheme.
This was alongside staying abreast of the ever-changing pre- and post-Brexit landscape, working with a new regional combined authority and battling to support its members during the coronavirus crisis.
He has remained a fervent supporter of the Greater Birmingham region throughout and leaves the 208-year-old business body with a heavy heart but in good stead going forward.
So what are his reflections on the period since he joined the chamber in summer 2015?
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“I have loved this role and having the ability to play a part in driving the city and regional economy forward and having that real sense of purpose,” he told BusinessLive.
“I thought we needed to ensure that the chamber was fit for purpose and relevant for the audience. You’re constantly reinventing yourself – as any business does – so it was key to make sure we were modern and dynamic.
“Future Faces (networking group) had just started when I arrived but it has grown from under 100 members to well over 500 and has since incorporated BPS Birmingham.
“We have also taken general chamber membership from around 2,000 to just over 3,000 over the past six years. I’ve loved it and what we’ve been able to do with the team here but this has felt like the right time for me personally to move on.”
It emerged in 2014 the chamber was dealing with a multimillion-pound pension deficit and rumours were abound that developers were circling Chamber of Commerce House, the Edgbaston building designed by city architect John Madin which it has occupied since 1960.
Although there was talk of Chinese investors eyeing the site, a £4.75 million sale and leaseback deal was finally struck last summer with Birmingham-based Mercia Real Estate which is now planning to redevelop the building.
It has safeguarded that future of the building and meant the chamber could switch from being a landlord to simply a tenant and therefore focus on its core remit.
“Selling the building here was really, really important for the chamber,” Mr Faulkner said.
“The top few issues on our register of risks were all linked to the building and the pension fund so being able to sell it frees the chamber up for hopefully an even better future.
“I never feared the chamber would cease to exist, it was never that bad, but I think we’ve worked hard to make sure we run a good business. We’ve developed a lot of commercial offerings so we now have a really diverse model which means it’s robust.
“The pension situation was never something that terrified me but it was a millstone round the our neck so we were able to get rid of it and not have to service all of that debt.
“It has also allowed some funds to come into the chamber which will be used for investment. We’re no longer a landlord and it’s nice not having to deal with that.”
A self-confessed “generalist”, he says his core skills have always been business development in his various roles.
After studying history at university, he joined the MBNA graduate scheme in Chester before transferring to the firm’s operations in Delaware.
It was in the East Coast state where he met and eventually worked for Randy Lerner, a move which would see him return to the UK in 2008 as chief operating officer then chief executive of Aston Villa follower Mr Lerner’s £62.6 million buyout two years earlier.
Following a brief spell with Nottingham Forest, he became the chamber’s youngest ever chief executive at 36 but will be superseded in that title when its 30-year-old chief strategy officer Henrietta Brealey replaces him in April.
After Easter, he will join the Richardson family’s group of businesses.
While synonymous with the Merry Hill Centre in Dudley, which brothers Roy and Don Richardson built in the 1980s, it is now their sons Carl, Lee and Martyn who are leading the charge from their Oldbury HQ.
The firm now has a broader and more global outlook with its work encompassing growth capital investment into established businesses both in the UK and abroad.
Its roster of projects includes an artisan baker with operations in Singapore, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia and a New Zealand-based fruit company while closer to home it has invested in a health drinks brand and niche property lender.
As its newly installed chief of staff and operations, Mr Faulkner will be looking for new opportunities for the group.
“What excited me about the new post was the blend of the history the family has but also what they want to do going forward,” he said.
“While they’re very well known for the property development here in the region, over the last 15 or 20 years the business has developed even further.
“They have stakes in businesses all over the world and part of what we’re looking to do is become less known for what’s been done in the past and be seen as a really modern, dynamic organisation with roots in the West Midlands but a global view.”
Mr Faulkner said he was confident the city region would bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic but urged caution that it might not happen as quickly as people would want or expect.
He said the region must ensure it did not get overlooked but was buoyant about the impact next year’s Commonwealth Games would have, especially when it came to dispelling the tired old stereotypes associated with Birmingham, something he encounters more at home than abroad.
“I think the future is really positive here but you have to fight for it – that’s really, really important,” he concluded.