When success means a new purpose-built premises and implementing positives changes to your infrastructure
Paul Lebrett is the Sales Director and founding Partner along with Michael Osborne of the highly successful maintenance company Rapid Response. Expansion seems to be the dominant force and common denominator within the company over the past few years, and this growth has led to some exciting changes for the business.
I spent some time with Paul to discuss the changes over the past few years, and how that has had a positive impact on the business, which in turn has seen the introduction of their brand new purpose built HQ in Tendring, perfectly designed and orchestrated by Michael himself, all achieved within a period that suggested uncertainly in the wider business world. Rapid Response seem to have broken all of the rules, so I wanted to find out what these changes mean for the business and the plans moving forward.
The recent interview with Paul revealed not only some very exciting developments for the company, but an insight into the ambitious but certainly realistic plans they have moving forward…
Why the new building?
“We were literally bursting at the seams, and to be perfectly honest the new building was probably overdue. Having won some considerable sized contracts with Housing Associations and Property Management companies, we needed the space to accommodate a growing team.
The previous property which is located nearby was a series of converted barns, and certainly did us proud for many years, however, dealing with limited space and offices bursting with people was becoming uncomfortable and not really conducive to a positive working environment.”
What made you design and build your own premises, rather than looking at existing properties around the area?
“We certainly considered moving to an existing building in the area, but we had very exacting ideas about what we needed, and nothing really fitted the bill. When you make plans for something as big as finding a location knowing it had to accommodate growth for at least 10 years, but also create the kind of internal infrastructure you had planned for, the only real choice for us was to explore a purpose build. It certainly didn’t make sense to move to a building which didn’t give us the excellent access we have to major roads, and the opportunity came up locally to design and build a new HQ that was perfect for us. It was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down.”
Probably a ridiculous question, but was it all smooth running?
“Absolutely not, but I suspect it is incredibly rare that such a project can be. I have to admire Michael’s patience. He took the project under his wing, and delivered. He certainly had the patience of a saint, and dealing with planning aspects of the project was quite difficult. I don’t really have long enough to explain the full extent of the delays we had before we could take over our part of the project. However, my admiration for Michael stems from not just the patience he showed throughout this process, but how Michael took on the project once the initial shell of the building was in place. The real creativity came into place in making sure this large shell of a building was planned and designed perfectly to accommodate us. Michaels plans and execution of the project were superb.”
You mentioned how important Michael’s project management was in regards to the internal structure of the building. What do you mean by this?
“The old premises was very detracted. We had several storage areas, and staff were a little scattered, so it made communications difficult sometimes, especially in busy periods. What Michael was able to do, was to plan the size of the space we needed, and how that space was best utilized.
We now have very defined departments, one very large storage area, training rooms, offices that house production, accounts and sales. All of this took a great deal of planning, and you have to explore how you plan something of this size in minute detail. Michael did a fabulous job of this, and we couldn’t afford the time and pain of making a mistake. It wasn’t just about what we need now, it also needed to be future proof, and when you explore the building now, you can see how it can accommodate the expansion of team and storage facilities in the future.”
Now you are in, what do you think?
“I love the building. Of course, we are still learning how to utilize it to best effect, but the building has not only given us the space we need, and structure to perform, it has created a very positive feeling amongst all of us. The staff absolutely love the new building, and communications has never been better. It feels easier to do business in, and in a short period of time it has become part of us. Sounds odd, but as you can imagine, coming from something that was becoming a detriment to our operations to something that is designed perfectly for our business has a major positive impact on us all, and the mood within the company. Everyone really feels part of it, and that is such a positive experience.”
Any regrets, or things you would have done differently?
“None I can think of really. I would have certainly liked a little hindsight in regards to the delays we had, but other than that, I am incredibly pleased with what we have achieved. It’s very exciting! It’s a perfect home for our growing business.”
Since you moved in a few months back, what changes have you noticed apart from what we have uncovered already?
“As I mentioned, we are still growing into the building, and learning how we can be even more efficient. We seem to be making small improvements or marginal gains to operations, all having a positive impact. The simple things like a large store room with space to organize parts and equipment for the jobs the next day. Those changes are really proving to be a significant factor, and helping us to function more effectively.
Last year we introduced a flatter structure to the company, so we were creating opportunities for staff to make important decisions, and departments to work independently, but also collaboratively. This was difficult in the old premises as people were scattered, but now you can really see how the teams are taking control with confidence. We are still nurturing that process, and it is great to see individuals taking responsibility with confidence and assurance.”
How do you think this significant change will impact on the client’s perspective of the business?
“I am hoping it already has, and I see evidence of that in just a short period of time. The world seems to revolve faster every week now, and as a company that needs to react quickly, we need to continually improve the speed in how we respond, but also how we efficiently fix the properties we maintain. Much of our business is based on quick reactions to a problem a client might be having with a particular property, so speed is of the essence. I can already see lots of small improvements, and I hope our clients can too.
Also, our growing client base means we are seeing more diversity in our work. This needs a robust internal training infrastructure, and the new training rooms enable us to proactively work on the skills of our trades people and administration teams. Without that space, it would be difficult for us to adapt to an ever-evolving workload and expanding service offering.
We are also seeing considerably sized new contract opportunities coming our way, and we are working on some exciting opportunities that will see the company continue to grow, and meet with our ambitious year-on-year growth targets we have set for ourselves. That is quite noticeable at the moment, but not sure it is down to the new building, I think it is part of how we are perceived in the industry, but may be the move has demonstrated just how serious we are about our business.”
What do you want the future to hold for Rapid Response?
“I am excited by the future. The new HQ hasn’t just provided us with a great place to call home, it has also made us focus on the business long-term. Not saying we didn’t already, but our plans now extend much further into the future.
Ideally, we want to go national. Our current work is very much regional covering South East and Anglian regions, and we are currently exploring how we can either expand our service offering with some exciting new services, or take the current business model forward on a national basis, or indeed do both.
However, we still have to refine our operations, and make the small incremental improvements we have identified to achieve this and refine the business model, so we can expand. I think once we feel we have achieved this, we can then sit down around the table and look at the next stage for Rapid Response Maintenance in moving forward. We seem to have been running a great deal recently, and still are, but we need to take that time out now to put some more detail in place around our plans.”
Thank you very much Paul for your time today to discuss the exciting developments at Rapid Response. To sum up in a few short words, how do you feel now having put this all down on paper?
“Thank you! That is the most difficult question you have asked me today. I think where we are today is pure justification and reward for a lot of hard work, but also demonstrates the huge amount everyone at Rapid Response has put into this project. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved, but also recognize we have a great deal more hard work to do!”