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Awards, hard work and local tradesmen are secret to FJ Charleton’s success

The construction industry in Northern Ireland is not an easy place to be at the moment, but FJ Charleton is making it work. Teresa Fitzherbert finds out how.

Founded 1935

Location County Down, Northern Ireland

Turnover £1.5m

Number of employees 12

Specialism Building contracting and private development

Growing up in a small fishing village in Northern Ireland, David Charleton had to make a choice between becoming a fisherman and following his father into the family building business, FJ Charleton.

He chose the latter, and now is managing director of the 78-year-old business with no regrets. “I’m glad I did that!” he says.

Busy despite the difficulties

This is despite the ongoing economic difficulties that have hit Northern Ireland particularly hard. “We’re busy,” he says. “It is particularly reassuring that we’re still getting enquiries even though there is a drought over here at the moment.”

FJ Charleton is a family business dating back to 1935. Founded by Mr Charleton’s grandfather, Francis John Charleton, it employs 12 people and has an annual turnover of £1.5m.

David and his brother Alan took over from their father in 1988 and have now been joined by their sons in the business. “With my sons and my brother in the company we run a tight ship. We work well together,” Mr Charleton says.

Adaptability vital to survival

The company specialises in several areas including new builds, renovations and extensions, commercial, listed buildings and private development. “Our business is very adaptable,” he says. “We can do one-offs but we’re small enough to do small extensions as well as big commercial work.”

“With my sons and my brother in the company we run a tight ship. We work well together”

David Charleton, FJ Charleton

When he founded the company, Francis Charleton felt employing top local tradesmen would be an important aspect in building the company’s reputation and success, something his grandsons agree with.

Last year the company won the overall category in the Master Builder of the Year awards, which has helped grow the prestige of the business. “It has put our name out there – it has been a tremendous selling point for us,” says Mr Charleton.

Awards, reputation and respect

But it is not just winning awards that has kept FJ Charleton in business. “We work hard, we work long hours and we travel a lot. We’ve had to broaden our area of work. We used to be fairly local but now we have to travel much further.”

Maintaining a good reputation and treating customers with respect is also crucial.

“When we take on a job we do our homework, we explain to folks what they’re getting for the price and then we do the job as best we can and we give our customers a good service,” explains Mr Charleton.

Working further afield

Working for the family business has also allowed Mr Charleton to use his skills beyond Northern Ireland as far afield as Uganda, where he travels every year to undertake various building projects for the charity Fields of Life. “Building has taken me in so many different directions,” he reflects.

This year he is going with a team of 49 to build a boys’ dormitory and an A-level block for a local school. “If I had been a fisherman I would never have had the same opportunities.”

While Mr Charleton does not see much improvement in the market for another five or 10 years, he remains positive about his company’s future prospects. “We’re starting the New Year with a strong order book and I am optimistic.”

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