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1st person: M&E specialist LJJ

LJJ was established in 2001, offering both design and installation expertise. Growth continued during the downturn and the company’s robust strategy has ensured that it is ready to break through the £50m-turnover mark next year.

Founded: 2001

Location: Stockton on Tees, High Wycombe, Midlands

Specialism: M&E contractors

Turnover: £42m

When our managing director Ian Rennison set up the company in 2001 he saw a massive opportunity for a building services specialist offering both design and installation expertise. And he was right.

Back then, the market was booming and by 2007 we were not only a multi-million-pound business but we’d also developed a national reach, opening our southern office in High Wycombe.

Strategy to survive

For the first couple of years of the recession we continued to grow at a rapid rate but it became clear that some of the work out there was risky because reduced budgets and late payment had become an issue across the delivery chain.

Unlike some of our peers who were firefighting to survive, we put in place a robust strategy and decided to ensure we remained a strong business by being selective about the work we took on.

What that meant in practice was that our profit margin and cash flow was never compromised during the recession even though our turnover went down.

In 2014, we’ve seen just how much that strategy has paid off with a £42m turnover and £36m worth of contracts already booked in for 2015.

This year’s figures represent a £12.1m increase on last year’s total and we’re confident of breaking through the £50m mark by August next year.

Repeat clients and customers

We’ve done it by focusing on repeat business and building relationships with contractors that trust us to do a great job. That trust works both ways and, by working with clients that we can trust to pay on time, we’ve continued to avoid the cash flow problems that have afflicted so many in the sector.

Focusing on repeat clients also means that our business processes are very streamlined because we’re not chasing our tail preparing for endless beauty parades. What our clients get in return is peace of mind about the consistency and quality of the people on our teams.

We’ve worked hard to ensure that consistency: building services is a sector where there is a lot of competition for talented people because there are so few to go around.

Our approach to tackling that is to make sure that LJJ is a great place to work, not only in terms of remuneration but also in terms of opportunity for talented and motivated people and a positive workplace culture. We’re also doing our bit to nurture young talent by creating apprenticeship opportunities.

Moving forward, it’s becoming more of a seller’s market for building services because of the recovery in the construction sector and the limited capacity in the building services industry.

It will be interesting to see whether that dynamic helps to address the late payment issue.

John Daly is director of operations at LJJ

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