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Amiri hails record-breaking quarter thanks to targeting growth sectors amid recession

Amiri Construction was founded in 2005 with the aim of creating a £20m-turnover company. The firm quickly achieved that aim and MD Grahame Pettit explains how education and housing will help maintain its size.

Founded 2005

Location Fareham, Hampshire

Number of employees 22

Turnover £17m

Hampshire-based building firm Amiri Construction had a tough year in 2012, with turnover falling from a peak of £21m in 2011 to £17m.

But Q2 2013 has seen the company achieve its single biggest run of success in any one quarter since it was founded in 2005.

The firm won seven projects with a total value of £10.6m – all in the education sector.

“Three of these were negotiated contracts and the others were won from being on a tender list,” says managing director Grahame Pettit.

“Clients are looking more for best value now, not just the lowest price. We won by demonstrating how we would avoid having any impact on the pupils at the schools.”

Maintaining turnover

Mr Pettit worked for Willmott Dixon before founding Amiri Construction with co-director Kevin Lendon in 2005.

“We enjoyed working with £20m-turnover companies and we decided that we would focus on what we were good at by aiming to maintain a company of a similar size,” Mr Pettit says.

“We looked at that market and realised that high-net-worth individuals would see the downturn as the best possible time to buy”

Grahame Pettit, Amiri Construction

The firm is equipped to complete jobs ranging from £50,000 to £5m, encompassing both new builds and refurbishments, with the majority of work falling between £750,000 and £3m.

“In reality, we’re not as competitive below £250,000 so our bread and butter is above this,” Mr Pettit says.

Around 50 per cent of the firm’s work in the past few years has come from the education sector, with this skewed downwards by economic conditions. “It’s picked back up now to around 70 per cent of our workload,” Mr Pettit adds.

Targeting high-end housing

Work has increased this year, though, thanks to that record-breaking run of wins. “It’s been the busiest estimating period since we started,” Mr Pettit says.

And it’s not just education projects that have kept the firm busy; Amiri decided to target the high-end residential market once the downturn hit.

“We looked at that market and realised that high-net-worth individuals would see the downturn as the best possible time to buy property,” he says.

Award-winning projects

One of the firm’s high-end residential projects, a development at 124 Panorama Road in Poole, has been shortlisted in the Luxury Homes category of the Sunday Times British Homes Awards 2013.

“Subcontractors are significantly busier and we’ve been struggling to keep up with the level of pricing opportunities”

Grahame Pettit, Amiri Construction

The development was built on a tight site in Sandbanks and consists of 7,700 sq ft of internal living space and a further 2,800 sq ft of outdoor space. The house comprises a basement along with three levels on top in a “minimalist, modern style”.

“It’s nice to receive recognition with the award nomination,” Mr Pettit says.

Signs of recovery

The unprecedented recent run of success for Amiri is one of many signs that the industry is beginning to recover. “From looking at the statistics and listening to consultants, we can definitely see things improving,” Mr Pettit says.

“Subcontractors are significantly busier and we’ve been struggling to keep up with the level of pricing opportunities available to us. We’re also seeing long lead-ins for suppliers now, too.”

The firm will continue to focus on its core sectors of education and housing, with both “picking up”.

Need for government help

But Mr Pettit does express concerns about funding for SMEs as the industry recovers from the downturn.

“We really need the banks to come on board as they have been very unhelpful so far,” he says. “We never needed any further funding, but when we wanted a little extra help we weren’t able to get any.

“We take a can-do attitude but we know our limitations. If you overplay a strength it becomes a weakness”

Grahame Pettit, Amiri Construction

“The banks have been very harsh and very risk-averse and I think government intervention is required to fix it.”

The government could also be required to ensure new developments are meeting sustainable building standards.

“This is particularly true in commercial building,” Mr Pettit says. “When it comes down to the retail price, very few tenants will pay a green premium. Until the government subsidises green building, for both offices and schools, it is a box-ticking exercise without really being sustainable for the future.”

The focus for Amiri’s management is to maintain the company’s current size and continue building a positive reputation.

“We’ve always tried to show loyalty to our clients, staff and supply chain,” he says.“But we also make sure we know when to say no.

“We take a can-do attitude but we know our limitations. If you overplay a strength it becomes a weakness, and we won’t do that.”

Education projects won in Q2 2013

  • Performing Arts Centre, Ludgrove School, Wokingham – £1m
  • 62-bed student accommodation, Ovingdean Hall International Language College, Brighton – £2.8m
  • Phase 1 of Motor Vehicle Workshops, Sparsholt College, Winchester – £0.8m
  • Recladding and refurbishment at Basingstoke College of Technology – £1.1m
  • Music hub – Richard Taunton Sixth Form College, Southampton – £1m
  • Nobel Building design and build, Barton Peveril College, Eastleigh – £1.5m
  • Lulworth teaching block – Lytchett Minster School – £2.4m

Total: £10.64m

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