Langdale Associates

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Langdale Associates is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

www.langdaleassociates.co.uk

BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
48 | WOODEXPERTS
most of these boards were either
abolished altogether or merged. In
the case of the wood industries, the
closure of the Furniture and Timber
Industry Training Board at the start
of the 1980s led almost immediately
to the cancellation of any worthwhile
education and training within those
industries. In other words, employers
would willingly provide training, so
long as they had to pay out anyway
and could get that money back, but
as soon as training became voluntary,
they stopped it almost completely.
The lack of training of personnel in the
wood industries was so bad that by the
year 2000, we had lost two decades’
worth of people who understood both
their industry and their material. Of
course, our consultancy practice has
benefited from this state of affairs, by
having even more site investigation
and expert witness jobs when things
have gone wrong. The main issue
here is that the drastic change in
government policy from 1980 onwards
has had a dramatic effect on one
of our most important and leading
wealth-generating industries in the UK.
Even modern apprenticeships haven’t
helped. The money that is being raised
from the levy on those companies that
are deemed to be in scope with the new
requirements is almost impossible to get
back through employing apprentices.
The paperwork required and the hoops
to be jumped through are enough
to put many companies off applying
altogether. Even those who do bother
are usually told that the particular course
they want to put their apprentices on
is not appropriate for any grant money
to be allowed. Our own fully accredited
Level 4 certificate and Level 6 diploma
in wood science and timber technology
are cases in point. Some companies in
the timber trade are using them – to
plug that two-decade knowledge gap –
but others that require more incentive
will not put employees through this
important step, since wood science
isn’t approved for any grants under the
modern apprenticeship scheme.
Making the necessary
improvements
I may be seen as just a member of that
past generation for whom everything
was always better in hindsight, but
that would be unfair. I have lived long
enough and have enough industry
experience to be able to see what
works and what doesn’t in terms of
government policy.
Some things that successive
governments have done in the past 30
years – closing the gender pay gap and
moving against religious and ageist
discrimination – are to be applauded.
But the policy on education and
training has been so fragmented and
ill-thought-through that we have lost
a generation’s worth of knowledge
within the timber trade and wood-
using industries.
If the UK leaves the EU, we will soon
feel the lack of knowledge as we try
to make it alone. My hope is that
Brexit will be stopped, but if we do
leave, we will need a drastic change
in the manner in which we approach
education and training and its funding,
and in how easy it is to get hold of
that funding infuture.
The policy on
education and
training has
been so
fragmented
and ill-thought-
through that
we have lost a
generation’s
worth of
knowledge
within the
timber trade
and wood-
using
industries
Packs of Diamond Mark-
quality roofing battens
in Estonia for export to
the UK
49LANGDALE ASSOCIATES |
CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING
Founder and Director James Ellis
100 Union Street – where the architect’s
vision is created by the construction team,
while remaining on-time and on-budget
Established in 2013, Langdale Associates have undertaken
steady and sustained growth. Their projects have ranged
from restoration and the Victoria Palace Theatre to the
award-winning Eight Artillery Row development, and they pride
themselves on the quality of their service. Prior to establishing
the company, Director James Ellis developed his expertise
within the industry and uses this knowledge in both their
recruitment process and their project management. He explains
the need for subcontractors to take on projects only within
their means and the uncertainty that currently affects the
construction sector.
I started the company in 2013 when an opportunity arose to undertake a project
in Purley, Croydon. Having worked in the industry previously, I had experience of
companies that had excelled and the pitfalls of this sector. I could see the issues
they had faced and the aspects that had contributed to their failures. I thought my
experience would help me to ensure a safe future for the company.
Developing repeat customers
We based the company on the quality of service that we offered. This was allied
to an extensive supply chain that could be relied upon, supported by a few key
companies who we knew were dependable. Our level of service has led to a
high proportion of repeat business, and our appeal rests on the quality of our
workmanship and what we are able to offer our clients. There are many bricklaying
FACTS ABOUT
LANGDALE ASSOCIATES
»Founder and Director:
JamesEllis
»Established in 2013
»Based in Bexleyheath, London
Borough of Bexley
»Services: Brickwork, blockwork
and stone subcontracting
»No. of employees: Fluctuates
between 50 and 120
Langdale Associates
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
50 | LANGDALE ASSOCIATES
contractors in the market – it truly is
a vast industry – so it can be difficult
to stand out. Larger concerns often
try to corner the market, quelling
smaller competitors. I knew that in
order to survive and thrive, we needed
to grow slowly, ensuring that we did
not overstretch ourselves. We kept
any profits within the company and
after a couple of years of growth, our
structure significantly expanded and
we had achieved a 90 per cent rate of
repeatbusiness.
We keep our margins competitive so
we can focus on the development of
repeat business with our clients. In our
first year, we were fortunate enough
to pick up a large project, which led
to an annual turnover of £800,000.
We have grown steadily since then;
in our last year, we achieved a
turnover of close to £4 million. This
increase in turnover enabled us to
grow our structure while ensuring
that we would not be left exposed.
We made sure that our payment
channels remained open, and one
of the biggest lessons we learned
was the necessity of having sufficient
finances and resources to deal with
late payments.
Utilising industry expertise
The projects we undertake range
from supply and fix to labour only.
The sizes of our projects differ too:
we have worked on various buildings
of significance, including the Victoria
Palace Theatre. We have received
industry plaudits for our projects – our
work on Eight Artillery Row received
the Brick Development Association
Award, and our work on 100 Union
Street won various architecture
awards. We are currently involved
in the transformation of Bow Street
Magistrates’ Court into a hotel, and
we also undertake projects across the
residential, education, healthcare and
entertainment sectors, for which we
have built up an enviable reputation.
We have a core team of employees,
but, within our industry, a large
amount of the regular labour is
subcontracted. Much like with our
clients, we have developed long-term
relationships with our subcontractors,
based on repeat business, so we
are always sure of their high level
of workmanship. When working on
a project, we implement a robust
structure to help to organise the
work: an SMSTS/SSSTS supervisor,
an experienced contracts manager,
health and safety advisors, quantity
surveyors, the accounts team and I
always have personal oversight. As I
come from a bricklaying background,
A three-year, high-spec
development replacing
external facades to three
residential blocks; now
50 per cent complete
One of the
biggest lessons
we learned was
the necessity of
having
sufficient
finances and
resources to
deal with late
payments
51LANGDALE ASSOCIATES |
CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING
I have a personal interest in the
workforce, some of whom I worked
with when I was a bricklayer. This
expertise helps during the recruitment
process too: when I take people on,
who have gone through the project
management scenario, I know the
questions to ask. My supervision
during their first project helps
me to decide if they will be up to
ourstandards.
One of the key elements of being
successful in our industry is flexibility.
For every project undertaken, you
need to be flexible to change, and
it is extremely uncommon for the
outcome of the project to fit the plan
perfectly. Key to this adaptability
is problem resolution: sitting down
with everyone involved and helping
them to find the best way through
their issue. We always concentrate
on fulfilling the project and ensuring
that it is delivered on time and to
the quality that is expected. This
always needs to be balanced with
the client’s financial requirements,
ensuring that the project remains
within budget while fulfilling their
commercialrequirements.
Keeping within our means
One of the main challenges we face
is balancing the amount of projects
we can take on while retaining our
financial stability. We are comfortable
moving payment outside of the
agreed dates within reason, but there
are companies who go beyond this
or fold. This can have significant
repercussions further down the supply
chain, so we have to ensure that we
never overstretch ourselves and leave
ourselves liable to financial difficulties
through delayed payment. Often,
smaller developers will form a specific
company purely for the completion
of one project. If this company folds,
there is very little recourse to claim any
money owed.
The market is also currently shrouded
in uncertainty. Investors and
developers are nervous, and smaller
concerns can end up folding. It is
essential not to invest too highly in
oneclient and instead to spread money
evenly. We are also concerned about
possible labour shortages if Brexit has
a negative impact on the movement of
European workers.
Beyond this, however, we plan to
keep on growing organically. This
will include continuing to increase
our turnover but always remaining
mindful of the rate of this growth,
ensuring that we can remain flexible
but robust.
We always
concentrate on
fulfilling the
project and
ensuring that it
is delivered on
time and to the
quality that is
expected
Sutton Projects –
providing 151 residential
units
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
50 | LANGDALE ASSOCIATES
contractors in the market – it truly is
a vast industry – so it can be difficult
to stand out. Larger concerns often
try to corner the market, quelling
smaller competitors. I knew that in
order to survive and thrive, we needed
to grow slowly, ensuring that we did
not overstretch ourselves. We kept
any profits within the company and
after a couple of years of growth, our
structure significantly expanded and
we had achieved a 90 per cent rate of
repeatbusiness.
We keep our margins competitive so
we can focus on the development of
repeat business with our clients. In our
first year, we were fortunate enough
to pick up a large project, which led
to an annual turnover of £800,000.
We have grown steadily since then;
in our last year, we achieved a
turnover of close to £4 million. This
increase in turnover enabled us to
grow our structure while ensuring
that we would not be left exposed.
We made sure that our payment
channels remained open, and one
of the biggest lessons we learned
was the necessity of having sufficient
finances and resources to deal with
late payments.
Utilising industry expertise
The projects we undertake range
from supply and fix to labour only.
The sizes of our projects differ too:
we have worked on various buildings
of significance, including the Victoria
Palace Theatre. We have received
industry plaudits for our projects – our
work on Eight Artillery Row received
the Brick Development Association
Award, and our work on 100 Union
Street won various architecture
awards. We are currently involved
in the transformation of Bow Street
Magistrates’ Court into a hotel, and
we also undertake projects across the
residential, education, healthcare and
entertainment sectors, for which we
have built up an enviable reputation.
We have a core team of employees,
but, within our industry, a large
amount of the regular labour is
subcontracted. Much like with our
clients, we have developed long-term
relationships with our subcontractors,
based on repeat business, so we
are always sure of their high level
of workmanship. When working on
a project, we implement a robust
structure to help to organise the
work: an SMSTS/SSSTS supervisor,
an experienced contracts manager,
health and safety advisors, quantity
surveyors, the accounts team and I
always have personal oversight. As I
come from a bricklaying background,
A three-year, high-spec
development replacing
external facades to three
residential blocks; now
50 per cent complete
One of the
biggest lessons
we learned was
the necessity of
having
sufficient
finances and
resources to
deal with late
payments
51LANGDALE ASSOCIATES |
CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING
I have a personal interest in the
workforce, some of whom I worked
with when I was a bricklayer. This
expertise helps during the recruitment
process too: when I take people on,
who have gone through the project
management scenario, I know the
questions to ask. My supervision
during their first project helps
me to decide if they will be up to
ourstandards.
One of the key elements of being
successful in our industry is flexibility.
For every project undertaken, you
need to be flexible to change, and
it is extremely uncommon for the
outcome of the project to fit the plan
perfectly. Key to this adaptability
is problem resolution: sitting down
with everyone involved and helping
them to find the best way through
their issue. We always concentrate
on fulfilling the project and ensuring
that it is delivered on time and to
the quality that is expected. This
always needs to be balanced with
the client’s financial requirements,
ensuring that the project remains
within budget while fulfilling their
commercialrequirements.
Keeping within our means
One of the main challenges we face
is balancing the amount of projects
we can take on while retaining our
financial stability. We are comfortable
moving payment outside of the
agreed dates within reason, but there
are companies who go beyond this
or fold. This can have significant
repercussions further down the supply
chain, so we have to ensure that we
never overstretch ourselves and leave
ourselves liable to financial difficulties
through delayed payment. Often,
smaller developers will form a specific
company purely for the completion
of one project. If this company folds,
there is very little recourse to claim any
money owed.
The market is also currently shrouded
in uncertainty. Investors and
developers are nervous, and smaller
concerns can end up folding. It is
essential not to invest too highly in
oneclient and instead to spread money
evenly. We are also concerned about
possible labour shortages if Brexit has
a negative impact on the movement of
European workers.
Beyond this, however, we plan to
keep on growing organically. This
will include continuing to increase
our turnover but always remaining
mindful of the rate of this growth,
ensuring that we can remain flexible
but robust.
We always
concentrate on
fulfilling the
project and
ensuring that it
is delivered on
time and to the
quality that is
expected
Sutton Projects –
providing 151 residential
units

www.langdaleassociates.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Langdale Associates. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.