The Richard Stephens Partnership

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Richard Stephens Partnership's best practice article

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 The Richard Stephens Partnership is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Left to right: Stephen Cowlin,
Gerry Connor, Andrew
Paterson and Peter Smiles
The Richard Stephens Partnership (the RSP), based in
Edenbridge, Kent, was founded over 30 years ago, in 1987.
They are a building engineering services consultancy, with a
workforce of over 20 staff, including 14 qualified and permanently
employed engineers. In April 2016, they underwent a management
buyout, and their four directors, Andrew Paterson, Peter Smiles,
Stephen Cowlin and Gerry Connor, have attained steady growth
over the past two and a half years. Andrew here discusses how
they have achieved that, and the changes they have made.
We specialise in mechanical and electrical building services engineering design, working
for the healthcare, laboratory and education sectors in particular. We have had long-
term framework agreements with six major NHS trusts and three private healthcare
providers – a major proportion of our work is repeat business. We can undertake
projects in Autodesk Revit, industry-leading building information modelling (BIM)
software, and have utilised this in the building services design for a new MRI facility,
a new diagnostics and treatment unit, and a major hospital energy centre project.
Directly involved and focused on the future
We pride ourselves on our intake of engineering graduates. We try to provide them
with the necessary experience and foundation for a fruitful career, and allow them
to aptly develop their careers within our sector. We currently have three graduates
working with us – some of them have completed a pure mechanical or electrical
engineering degree, and we then provide the experience and hands-on teaching to
refine their abilities so as to specialise in building services engineering.
Another facet of the business we try to constantly maintain is the direct involvement
of one of our four directors on any given project. We pride ourselves on developing
long-term relationships with clients, and maintaining the ability to best understand
their building and site infrastructure – these two factors really do help us to then do
the best job. We understand, for instance, with hospitals, that one project we work
on might affect other facilities in an unforeseen capacity. We always try and look at
the bigger picture.
Decorated growth
Prior to the recession, we grew steadily, and though there was a dip throughout,
we have maintained a flat profile since. We’ve never truly struggled, and we
have seen a steady flow of work year on year with no redundancies. During the
recession and before the MBO, our turnover was around £1.5 million – we are,
however, now driving expansion, new clients and larger projects, which has
required some reinvestment. This will, however, hopefully propel further growth.
We work across a number of hospitals in London, including the Royal Marsden in
Chelsea and Sutton, the Royal Free in Hampstead, St George’s in Tooting, StMary’s
»Directors: Andrew Paterson,
Peter Smiles, Stephen Cowlin
and Gerry Connor
»Established in 1987
»Based in Edenbridge, Kent
»Services: Mechanical
and electrical building
and engineering services
»No. of employees: 20
»Turnover: £1.77 million
»Specialise in healthcare and
laboratory work
The Richard Stephens
Partnership Ltd
in Paddington, Great Ormond Street and
Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith.
We predominantly serve London and
the South East, but we do cover some
clients, such as BMI Hospitals, up and
down the UK. Hospitals make up the
lion’s share of what we do, and we
work with services supporting a vast
range of complex medical technology,
including a lot of radiotherapy and
radiology equipment. It’s incredibly
interesting – we get to understand
advancements in medical technology,
comprehending precisely where they’re
improving and how they work.
Our client base never really seems to
diminish, either. More often than not,
our framework agreements last four or
five years, and when they come up for
renewal, we win them again. Within
the NHS, people you know quite often
move from trust to trust or hospital to
hospital – and our network starts to
soon spread further and wider than
we could have previously anticipated.
We don’t do loads of marketing;
our quality, delivery and long-term
relationships all speak for themselves.
Concerns with British engineering
One of our biggest concerns is the
lack of UK-based engineers entering
our profession, something reflected
nationally in the STEM gap. All of
our graduates are from Ireland and
mainland Europe – we want to try
and establish a profile in local schools
and colleges, but the curriculum has
changed and there’s a lack of careers
advice. It’s bad for the industry, but,
moreover, it’s bad for the economy.
When I left school, I joined a regional
health authority and undertook an initial
technology course shortly followed by
a building services engineering degree.
Those kinds of specialised courses and
the desire to undertake them seem
diminished wherever we look – there’s
a real problem when it comes to the
kind of skills our industry needs, such as
technical drawing and metalwork, being
taught across secondary school curricula.
With regards to legislation, however,
the burden never really seems to
ease. Health and safety and all the
other areas of compliance we have to
maintain are ever-present, alongside
litigation concerns. The industry is
saturated with policy after policy –
they are necessary, of course, but
sometimes, it feels like overkill.
Our future and succession
As a company with no overseas or
European work, we feel positive about
Brexit – the work is always there in our
sector, and if there’s no money to build,
it’s spent on backlog maintenance
instead, which is something we still
handle. We are, to a degree, recession-
proof and legislation-proof. With the NHS
and the CQC, people are always going
to need regular maintenance – this keeps
our business model robust, and should
help us to keep doing what we’re doing.
In the long run, we just want to grow
the business. Of our four directors,
myself and another are older, and
have worked together since 1988; the
other two are 15 years or so younger.
There’s a succession plan here – there
will be generations of the RSP, and
we are thinking in terms of decades.
Primarily we just want to maintain
our delivery-focused ethos and the
dedication to quality that has seen us
come this far. Above all else, however,
we want to keep growing; we believe
that if you aren’t moving forward in
this industry, you’re going backwards.
The Richard Stephens
Partnership team
A major
proportion of
our work is

This article was sponsored by The Richard Stephens Partnership. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy