Steve Hunt has grown his company from scratch over the past 24 years to become a £930,000 turnover business with 20 employees, and recruitment and skills helped the firm survive the recession.
Specialism Building Services Engineering
I started Steven Hunt Associates at the tender age of 24 with just a small office and a telephone.
At the time, I’d spent eight years working for an M&E contractor and was frustrated that there was so little co-ordination between the design and installation of electrical and mechanical services.
I wanted to be able to work directly with clients and work the design backwards from the end goal to make it better for the building and easier for the installer.
For the first 14 years we grew to around five to six people and stayed at that point before moving premises and really targeting growth, becoming a team of about 20 by 2008.
Since then, it’s been a tough few years in the sector and quite a few of our competitors have gone under. Our regional focus, relationships and track record across a number of sectors, including healthcare and education, have helped us weather the storm.
Return to growth
Last year saw us return to significant growth, with a 23 per cent increase in turnover, and we’re now winning much more private sector development project work as well as maintaining a strong presence in the public sector new-build and refurbishment markets.
“Our regional focus, relationships and track record across a number of sectors, including healthcare and education, have helped us weather the storm”
We still have a team of 20 people and our key strength is in the calibre of expertise within the company and our no-nonsense approach to providing the best-fit solution for the project, rather than simply following the brief we’ve been set.
Recruiting the right kind of people that fit in with our solutions-driven culture and the high standards we set can be tough, particularly in the region.
We tend to promote from within and invest in training our own people: we have one apprentice who is halfway through his four-year training with us, we plan to take on another later this year and two of our former apprentices have been with us for more than a decade.
For me, skills is a really important issue in the sector and I do a lot of work with schools and colleges to help school-leavers understand what building services engineering actually is.
I’m also a director of the Sector Skills Council’s Summit Skills and the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technology.
With the increasing emphasis on renewables, the sector really needs to focus on skills if design and installation companies are to deliver best use of renewables technology in a co-ordinated and practical way.
With even more stringent energy-efficiency requirements due to be introduced thanks to the updates to Part L in April, design skills in the building services engineering sector are going to be challenged even more as we move forward.
It will be critical for developers, architects and design-and-build contractors to work with building services specialists from the earliest stages of project design and for companies like ours to keep investing in skills and training.
Steve Hunt is managing director of Steven Hunt Associates