The Gloucester-based builder believes a return to pre-recession revenue is within sight. MD Simon Carey explains how it’s all down to exploring new markets, exploiting IT innovations and valuing reputation above all.
- Three companies in one group
- Getting through the downturn
- Saving money through efficiencies
- Hope for the future
Simon Carey joined Barnwood Construction as managing director in 2004. Like most other construction firms, Barnwood saw business drop off during the downturn.
Unlike some, however, Mr Carey believes his firm is about to return to the level of success it enjoyed before the financial crisis hit.
“Our turnover at the moment is £26m and over the next 12 months it looks like it’s going to go up to £35 to £40m,” Mr Carey says. “This would be a return to pre-recession levels.”
Three companies in one group
Barnwood Construction forms part of the Barnwood Group along with its sister company Barnwood Shopfitting and another general works company.
The construction arm specialises in commercial, industrial, retail, residential, health and education, as well as doing some refurbishment work.
Barnwood Shopfitting works mainly on the high street for clients such as Nationwide, WH Smith, Debenhams and Primark. It has a turnover of £9m, which is expected to rise to £20m in the next year.
The group is based in Gloucester but carries out construction work throughout the South and South-east of England, while it undertakes its shopfitting work across the country.
“We aim for jobs anywhere between £1m and £10m on the construction side, and anything up to £10m for shopfitting,” Mr Carey says.
Getting through the downturn
Mr Carey anticipates a return to pre-recession turnover levels as developers start to become more active again.
The firm has just won an £8.5m contract to build two office blocks for MEPC in Milton Park, Oxfordshire. “The offices are a speculative development, which says it all,” Mr Carey says.
The company also recently completed another £8.5m contract for a new Morrisons store on a reclaimed railway triangle site and an £8m contract for a 212-bedroom student accommodation block for the University of Surrey in Guildford.
“We try to be proactive, always making sure the work we do is right and resolving any problems as soon as they happen”
Simon Carey, Barnwood Construction
Barnwood is winning jobs like this again after seeing business fall away over the past few years.
“Our clients are mostly developers so this dropped off a lot,” he says. “We decided to spread geographically into the South-east and the Thames Valley in order to maintain our size. We didn’t grow but we didn’t lose any employees.”
The firm’s ethos is ‘reputation is everything’. “We try to be proactive, always making sure the work we do is right and resolving any problems as soon as they happen,” Mr Carey explains.
Saving money through efficiencies
The MD also emphasises the company’s “traditional business values” as an important part of its success.
“We don’t borrow money and we always pay within 30 days – that’s vital for us,” he says.
Maintaining a positive reputation is crucial to staying competitive and securing future growth, Mr Carey argues.
“We have no marketing department so we really rely on our reputation,” he explains. “We have to run a lean organisation because margins are still very low.”
“We’ve linked all of our sites via broadband or 3G so that they have the most up-to-date information”
Simon Carey, Barnwood Construction
The firm owns and operates its own plant, including nine telehandlers and a fleet of excavators, dumpers and rollers. It also has its own joinery works, employing 31 people to carry out work in a 12,000 sq ft facility.
The company has also invested heavily in its IT infrastructure to find savings.
“We use a data management system that enables us to store and retrieve paperwork online,” Mr Carey says. “We’ve linked all of our sites via broadband or 3G so that they have the most up-to-date information.
“This gives us large efficiencies; the industry is traditionally very last-minute, but the investment in the system is saving us time and money.”
Hope for the future
“We’ve worked hard to keep busy, but I still wouldn’t count my chickens yet,” Mr Carey continues, highlighting future resources as a major concern – in terms of both staff and materials.
“I think that we’ll be all alright because our training and staff retention are both good,” he says.
“But some specialists will find themselves in demand as the workload increases and so will put their prices up, and this could have a knock-on effect.”
But he remains optimistic about the potential for future growth. “There are signs that the industry is improving now and we’re optimistic for the future.”