B4 Property Day. A view from Beard, Director, Dean Averies

Rewind nine months to March and we were quick to react and protect our business. In April many of the projects we had priced were put on hold and new tenders were slowing down. Our customers were telling us that now was not a good time to spend vast sums of money. Even the customers that had the finance secured, did not want to be seen spending money frivolously.

As Beard has a flat management hierarchy and excellent IT systems we were quick to batten down the hatches and made the following changes: Around 30% of staff were put on furlough and we were quick to roll-out safe Covid working practices on site, in compliance with Construction Leadership Council (CLC) guidelines. All our staff have laptops, mobiles and remote working practices already set-up so could work from home the next day.

We unfortunately had to make some of our workforce redundant and introduce a temporary pay cut. Significantly, we invested heavily in new work-winning practices, for example we employed a top marketing agent to produce a new slide deck that we could use to present at all tender interviews. It focussed on why customers should choose Beard, for example our strong financial position and our values. We have never positioned ourselves as the cheapest, our proposition lies with the complex projects we can deliver and the problems we solve for our customers at a fair price.

Throughout the summer, we undertook a sales campaign with consultants and customers and focused our bidding on Public Sector work.

What we have found is that gestation period from getting an order and getting onto site has been painfully slow. And that is understandable because our customers are rightly pausing, reflecting, looking at any significant capital expenditure and making the decision as to whether they do or don’t press the button. As a result, everything is taking longer.

However, I’d say one of the things that has surprised us is the types of projects which remained consistent. In previous recessions, we found that the larger, higher value jobs were paused but this was compensated by a significant increase in our Special Projects department (lower value schemes) – simply because customers were making the decision to refurbish rather than knock down or re-build. At the moment we’re not seeing that….the smaller jobs aren’t coming through as regularly but the larger projects are holding their own. So it certainly feels different.

We are now in the privileged position of having quite a healthy order book for 2021. This has been achieved through the hard work of our entire team who consistently deliver from pre-construction to aftercare. Also, our customers have awarded us the contracts, over the competition, because they trust us to spend their money wisely and deliver them the best-value building over its lifetime. We are not always the cheapest contractor, but we pride ourselves on being the best.

And lastly, I want to emphasise the point that the relationship we have with our staff is a two-way thing. They have worked tirelessly for us and have endured team members being furloughed plus a pay cut for 3 months. However, the future is looking clearer, we have repaid all the temporary pay cuts, bonuses are being paid and we have re-employed some staff who were made redundant. We will continue to look after our staff as they look after us!

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