Glencar Construction was founded in 2016 with the aim of providing best-in-class construction services, from conception to completion. Headquartered in St Albans, the business operates across a range of sectors, but has a particular specialism in the construction and repositioning of industrial, logistics and distribution warehouses and facilities, with growing expertise in life sciences.
Glencar Construction feature at number one on this years’ edition of The Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales over their latest three years.
We spoke with Managing Director Eddie McGillycuddy, Director and co-founder Chris Gleave and Tom Tutty, Head of Finance.
Can you tell us about your growth and the journey your business has been on over the past 12 months?
Chris: We’ve had great growth in turnover, exceeding our expectations in our original business plan.
Tom: We’ve been roughly tripling our turnover each year. At the end of our first financial year, 2017, our turnover was roughly £700k – which we grew to £22m for the year to March 2019, and to £66m to March 2020. Our current target is about £250m for the year ended September 2021.
Eddie: In the last 12 months we’ve tripled our headcount, increasing the quality of our team. We have attracted some serious talent, people who have come in and brought different perspectives and ideas and allowed us to be more reactive to the market conditions.
Our customers range from large blue chip to well established SMEs, many of whom are in the logistics and distribution sector. As a result of lockdown, demand for their services has gone through the roof, so we were well positioned to react to the demand and we have managed to get the right people in the right places and deliver for our clients.
As well as building logistics facilities, we’re building the new Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre in Harwell. We secured that contract prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, so that got fast-tracked. We were only going to do the shell of the facility originally, but because of the pandemic and the instruction to deliver it a year earlier, we were asked to undertake the fit-out as well. The fit-out work is very specialist and was something we were going to diversify into, but this has accelerated our entry.
How have you managed this rate of growth?
Eddie: Our ambition was always to scale the business quickly, in order to serve a growing customer community, so we invested in people ahead of the growth. We brought in people from previous employers and with experience in our industry. They come in and get used to the team and Glencar’s culture, and then we go after the work.
The sector that we work in is somewhere we flourish and know like the back of our hands, so this helps us control the risk associated with rapid growth.
We have a high percentage of repeat business, which is a good testimony to our authentic way of working and building relationships.
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On the flipside, what hasn’t worked so well?
Eddie: Thankfully, things have gone better than expected. That said, because of our fast growth and focus on the principal drivers of our business, we are playing catch-up with some back-of-house support – such as HR and accounts. We are evolving those departments now and we are doing a lot more training and investing in our people. Over the last 12 months we have been concentrating on developing the business and getting the right people in the right places. So now it’s about looking at the wider offering for our people – keeping them trained and engaged.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your growth ambitions for the coming 12 months?
Chris: Our growth has definitely been accelerated by the challenges presented by COVID-19 and Brexit. They just added fuel to our fire in terms of our growth. We are agile and proactive in all aspects of the changing environment in which we operate.
Eddie: The increasing trend towards stocking goods onshore is a further boost to our customers’ activities and therefore demands for space.
To what extent has your business had to adapt due to COVID-19?
Eddie: All our jobs are big field sites, so keeping people distanced has been quite easy. It’s only when we get to fit-out projects where people are close to each other. So we have adjusted our programmes and resources accordingly. Every one of our clients has been understanding and has worked with us. Our supply chain partners have been the same, working with us – so it was a real team effort.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your people strategy?
Chris: The unfortunate thing for many businesses is that they have had to furlough staff or lay people off. Fortunately for us, that has played into our hands. A year ago, when most businesses were trading well, it was hard to get people to consider moving roles. But with some bigger businesses having to reduce headcount, that gives employees a nudge to think that they might benefit from a change.
Eddie: Having a smaller team at the start of lockdown allowed us to be a lot more agile. Two of our team who were shielding for medical reasons were put on furlough, but otherwise we weren’t forced to use the furlough scheme.
Tom: Our headcount has more than tripled this year, from an average of 26 last year to 89 in November 2020.
Chris: We will remain agile and customer focused always.
How have you fared from an operational cashflow perspective? Do you feel government measures provided enough support?
Tom: Because we were working on sites of high importance during the lockdown, we didn’t encounter any operational cashflow issues. We managed to keep all of our sites operating as normal, within the guidelines for safe working.
So in terms of cash coming in and going out, it was business as usual at a time when that’s unfortunately not the case for a lot of businesses.
Eddie: We work with well-established customers and build long-term relationships, which serves all parties well during unprecedented times.
What do you see as the main barrier or opportunity for your business’ growth over the coming 12 months?
Chris: Let’s assume COVID-19 falls away through the course of the next year! But the pandemic is shrouding the issues that are looming on Brexit.
Eddie: Brexit affects people and tariffs. One thing Brexit has thrown up is the UK’s reliance on imports. So it should drive demand for onshore manufacturing – and what we do at Glencar should increase.
Chris: But we will have to get the people – the workers – back to do it. With Brexit, the biggest risk is the ability for tradesmen to work in the same manner they do today. Our European friends might not want to work here now. That might be the biggest issue – or it might not be an issue at all. We just don’t know yet.
Tom: There could also be delays in transport. If there’s loads of paperwork for imports and exports, if there are lines of lorries in Dover, then increasing lead times could cause delays.
Eddie: We are planning, but until there’s some concrete advice and direction from Government, it’s hard to put a firm plan together.
Chris: You can only deal with what you know. We’re surveying our supply chain partners, who are at the coal-face with regards to issues and deliveries, and that will paint an interesting picture as to where the issues might be.
The boom in online retail and e-commerce was a catalyst for Eddie and me setting up the business. It has led to more distribution and logistics hubs – which is only continuing to accelerate at pace. Even without Brexit and COVID-19, the way we live as human beings and our shopping habits are changing and moving online.
What about international growth? Is that on the horizon?
Eddie: Not at the moment but we are not ruling it out. We have been approached by a few logistics clients about setting up internationally. So it’s something we are reviewing.
Chris: That’s the only way we would do it – by expanding overseas with the support of a number of customers.
What advice could you share for other business leaders?
Eddie: Believe in your people. Empower your people to make decisions and then support them and help them learn if they make the wrong ones.
We run all our sites autonomously. The teams on site make the decisions. They determine their own supply chain and the programmes, and they monitor quality. We trust our people. They are fully empowered and that runs through our business.
Our people are fundamental to our success – they understand the Glencar message and want to be with us for the journey.
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