Ambition pays off as construction company targets bigger projects

SEH French directors Simon Girling, left, and Paul Rodwell Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX

SEH French directors Simon Girling, left, and Paul Rodwell Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX - Credit: Archant

Going for bigger jobs has paid off for an Ipswich construction firm after it saw turnover soar by 41% and profits rise.

SEH French was the builder working on Picture: JET BIELECKA

SEH French was the builder working on Picture: JET BIELECKA - Credit: Jet Bielecka

SEH French has reported a record year of trading for 2017 as turnover reached £22m with the delivery of two big projects.

A contract to build an impressive new headquarters for law firm Birketts at Princes Street, Ipswich, was worth £7.8m, and the firm netted a further £12.5m for a Snetterton project, which involved building a new factory for Natures Menu.

The two bid wins followed a concerted strategy to target larger jobs, explained managing director Simon Girling, who said they were “delighted” at last year’s results.

“Winning and delivering our two largest projects to date is testament to our fantastic in-house team and their capabilities,” he said. “As a regional contractor, our customer-focused approach has been the key to our success for a number of years, and we think it’s that which sets us apart from our competitors, especially on the larger projects.”

SEH French worked on Completed Natures Menu factory in Snetterton, Norfolk Picture: JET BIELECKA

SEH French worked on Completed Natures Menu factory in Snetterton, Norfolk Picture: JET BIELECKA - Credit: Jet Bielecka


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In 2014, after the retiral of fellow director, Jack Davey, the firm, which employs just under 50 staff and specialises in commercial property work, decided to restructure. Paul Rodwell came in as a director and a further three manager posts were created, as the firm raised its sights, he said. However, the business remains wary of going “too fast, too soon”, he said. “We recognised there was probably a bit of a gap in the market for larger scale projects. We felt that was a market we wanted to tap into.”

Tight industry margins have squeezed profits, but these still rose from around £250k/£260k in 2016 to about £280k in 2017. The firm is part of a larger group, One Group Construction, which is also celebrating a record turnover of £160m in 2017.

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It includes windows specialist SEH BAC, road surfacing contractor SEH Asphalt, house builder SEH Ipswich, and civil engineering firm Jackson. This year, SEH French has not been able to match last year’s contracts for size, but Mr Girling said the big contracts had put them in the running with a number of recent tenders, and provided a showcase for their work.

“We are probably unlikely to achieve the same figures this year,” he admitted. The firm looked after its sub-contractors, he added. “We like to treat them with respect, and sadly that’s not the case within the whole industry.”

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