Harris hails its blue-chip links

Nando's on Great Portland Street in  London
Nando's on Great Portland Street in London
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The rapid growth of food and drink companies Asda, Coca-Cola and Nando’s is helping a Yorkshire construction group to boost its turnover by 50 per cent, increase its office space and create new jobs this year.

Harris Construction Management (HCM), based in Leeds, is expanding, despite the downturn, and has undergone a restructuring to create three divisions, which will specialise in construction management, fit-out work and facilities management.

The divisions are called hcm projects, hcm interiors and hcm facilities.

The company, which launched in 2007 ahead of the worst recession on record, has grown to a turnover of over £20m in four years and is expecting that to grow 30 per cent in the next 12 months. It is also increasing its profits and expects to take on six new staff in the next 12 months, taking its team to 30.

Managing director and founder Jason Adlam said: “We started the business in late 2007 when the economic downturn was hitting the construction industry hard and most people thought we were mad, but our strategy of delivering on our promises meant that we secured contracts with several leading blue-chip companies including Asda, Coca Cola and Arla Foods in our early years and all these are all still with us today as long-term clients.

“The launch of these three divisions reflects our confidence in the business which has grown in line with our clients over the last five years.”

The company will also expand into a larger office at Thorpe Park, where it is already based, next year.

It will move from a 2,800 sq ft office to 3,500 sq ft in January.

HCM is the contractor of choice for Asda’s distribution depots and it currently runs 30 depots across the UK.

It is also rolling out a 2012 capital and revenue investment programme with a combined value of over £8m.

Recent contract wins include a multi-million pound deal with restaurant chain Nando’s to manage the refurbishment of its Edinburgh and Kent restaurants.

It has already delivered a number of other projects for the chain over the last two years, including the £1m Great Portland Street restaurant in London, a converted former two-storey Lloyds Bank building.

In addition, the company has recently started work on two further restaurants for Goodman at Mayfair and Canary Wharf in London.

Further contract wins for HCM include projects for Coca Cola and Pepsi.

Earlier this year it carried out a project for Arla Foods in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, to remove plant and equipment and demolish a redundant dairy.

Unusually, HCM has retained all is clients since it started and said the majority of new business came from existing client referrals.

Mr Adlam said: “We don’t do public sector work and that is what has suffered in the last few years. The private sector is coming back.”

HCM’s five-year plan is to grow its turnover to £50m and double its number of staff.

Although it is currently on course to achieve this goal, Mr Adlam said he was conscious that the growth might not be so fast in the future. “We need to maintain momentum otherwise we will stagnate,” he said.

One of the biggest growth areas, he said, was facilities management, which it currently carries out for Asda, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Wincanton.

“That’s the side that will grow the most in the next couple of years,” said Mr Adlam.

“Currently 70-80 per cent of our work is construction but that will change now we have restructured the business and are focused on growing each of the three divisions.”

Launch timing proved right in a tough market

Harris Construction Management was founded in 2007, just before the banking crisis and the subsequent recession.

Jason Adlam, managing director, decided to set up the company after getting the opportunity to work with Asda’s distribution division. “There were mumblings of concern in the property industry in 2007,” he said. “But despite the market, the time was right.”

Mr Adlam was previously commercial director at Miller Construction. He has worked at a number of contractors and developers over the last 20 years, including Scarborough and Edinburgh Property Company and Premier Property Group.

He said he wasn’t surprised when the property downturn happened, but he was struck by how quickly the public sector work disappeared.

“When I was working at Miller Construction, five out of six of our projects were canned,” he said. “The private sector dropped off but it couldn’t disappear completely because most people are employed by the private sector.

“They reduced their spending but they were still able to spend.”

The construction market has become increasingly competitive during the property downturn.

“It is cut-throat,” said Mr Adlam. “You’ve got to be very careful what you spend your time doing. You could spend all your time tendering for work you don’t get but we have ended up with a niche market with repeat work from clients and that has helped us to grow.”

He added: “Year-on-year the main challenge is adding extra value for the client – the things you do for free. It is now expected by the client and it helps to build relationships.”