Leamington Spa to Romford in 5 seconds

Civil engineering and groundworks specialist providing earthworks and laser levelling services at Broxhill Sports Centre.

If your boss gave you the choice of travelling a minimum 5 hour round trip in the car, or to make that journey in 5 seconds at the click of a button, what would you choose?

Well, for engineering surveyor, Gareth Price and his team at civil engineering and groundworks specialist, O’Brien Contractors, that choice has become a reality, thanks to director, Mick O’Brien, whose investment in 3D machine control and Trimble Connected Community software, has dramatically reshaped the business.

In order to understand how the solution works, Finning News took up the offer from SITECH UK and Ireland’s Zoë Adnitt, to visit Mick at a new sports pitch project in Romford and then travel to O’Brien’s head office in Leamington Spa, all in one very long day.

The project itself involved the creation of a brand new 3G sports pitch and a multi-use games area (MUGA), constructed next to an existing sports centre. With very tight tolerances required to meet the exacting standards for the pitch, before the job was secured, the surveying team carried out an in house survey, modeled the whole project in 3D and then monitored it throughout the earthworks programme, as Mick explained:

Having proven the benefits of machine control on previous sports pitch projects, we have now gone to the lengths of setting up a new specialist division for this type of work.

“So in practical terms, our first aim with any project is to try and ensure that no material leaves site, eliminating the need and cost of truck movements. This is achieved by recycling good quality soils and designing in features like earth bunds to use material that would normally be classified as inert waste.

“Our challenge throughout this process is that we have to stick as closely to our design as possible, but you never truly know what you will unearth or how materials will compact, until you actually start doing the job.

“This is why you have to be on top of a project from day one. Typically before GPS enabled 3D machine control, we would have had to send a member of our team down to site on a very regular basis, which is a costly exercise when a round trip is 5 hours. This was the reason that prior to our investment in this technology, we tendered for jobs much closer to our base in Leamington Spa.

“This was obviously quite restrictive to our growth, especially in the more specialist sports pitch market. So by using two-way communication through the Trimble technology using the GPS network, the machines are able to tell us what they have been doing and we can see the daily progress onsite at the touch of a button.

“Equally, we can see the all important levels being achieved and therefore continually update our calculations around material movements, settlement and compaction. This means that Gareth, our engineering surveyor, can make relevant adjustments to the 3D model from his desk, delivering changes to the individual machines onsite, at the touch of a button, via the Trimble Connected Community.

“So what would be a round trip of at least 5 hours to our latest Romford project to upload a file from a memory stick or complete a survey using older techniques, is a 5 second file click and drag process, which is then sent through the cloud.

“In commercial terms, this approach has totally changed our capabilities and more importantly for the customer, changed the way a project is delivered. Our customers get a 3D design matching high quality finish, reduced truck movements, which pleases the local residents and a faster job, at a fixed competitive price.

“It really is a win win for both parties and a transformational journey from regional to national contractor for our business, I honestly don’t know how we could run a profitable job without it.”

So if you’ve got an earthworks project you’re looking to start, click here to talk to us about how we can help you generate cost and efficiency savings.

Six benefits for children participating in team sport

Schools and communities need to create new kinds of sporting facilities and programmes to keep today’s young people engaged

The Department of Health recently published its ‘Childhood obesity: a plan for action’ designed to help reduce childhood obesity through healthier choices.

The report suggests a number of measures, including: introducing a levy on soft drinks, helping businesses make their products healthier through innovation and reducing sugar in products by 20%.

Another recommendation says that every primary school pupil should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day – 30 minutes delivered in school, with parents and carers responsible for the remaining 30 minutes.

With many children spending their free time in front of a screen and far less on hands-on activity, it is understandable why almost a third of 2 to 15 year old children are classed as overweight or obese.

The new initiative will provide children with regular exercise and contribute to their overall physical health. They will also learn valuable social and teamwork skills.

Below are some of the great benefits participation in team sports can bring to young children:

  • #1 – Builds confidence
    Children have the opportunity to really enjoy an activity that they are good at. They can also practice and exercise their skills, learn their strengths, develop their weaknesses and gain greater self-awareness. It’s a real confidence booster.
  • #2 – Try their best
    When playing a team sport, children gain the experience of winning and losing and how to deal with both emotions. They also learn that things are not going to go their way all of the time, but all that’s important is that they tried their best.
  • #3 – Helps develop relationships
    For many children, making friends can be quite a challenge. By taking part in a team sport, children have many opportunities to practice and develop their social skills and build friendships with their peers and coaches.
  • #4 – Teaches respect
    Through team sport, kids learn the importance of respecting authoritative figures, like their coaches and referees, but also the opposition and their teammates.
  • #5 – Provides a platform to excel
    Getting involved in a sport provides children with the platform to realise their sporting goals and ambitions. Whether they go on to become the next Olympian or just take part for fun, it can stay with them for life.
  • #6 – Develop vital communication skills
    Team sport places children in situations where they need to communicate with their peers and coaches – who may or may not be their friends. This can help them become more sociable in different environments and overcome shyness.

Finding a trusted partner

In order to maximise your budget and deliver high quality sports facilities, you need to engage with a specialist whose team of experts has a proven track record in designing and building sports projects to a diverse range of exacting client specifications.

O’Brien Sports delivers natural sports pitches used for rugby, football and cricket. It also supplies synthetic and Multi Use Games Area pitches, with surfaces suitable for just about every sport and user – from professional sports teams to schools and communities.

Our services

O’Brien Sports offers a full range of sports pitch services, including:

  • Full design and build construction projects
  • Synthetic and multi-use games area (MUGA) pitches
  • Pitch renovations
  • Natural turf sports pitches
  • Total solutions for sports pitches
  • Infrastructure, including access roads and car parks

To discuss how you can create the right sporting environment for young people in your community, contact us: Tel: 01926 319 724 Email: info@obriencontractors.co.uk

Let’s get active!

synthetic-football-sports-pitch-installation

With the government earmarking grants for physical activity as part of its sport strategy, there’s never been a better time to invest in facilities.

The latest figures show that only four in ten adults play sport once a week and as a result, the government is changing the way it invests in community sport to get more of the population engaged in exercise.

Instead of just targeting people aged 14 and over, it will widen the brief to focus on all ages from five years-
old through to pensioners.

Investment will also be made in sports projects and activities which provide people with a greater quality of life – from improved physical and mental health to stronger communities.

There is also a strategy to enrich young people’s educational opportunities.

This new approach will be crucial in getting more of the nation active.

A report from The British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity revealed that regular physical activity could prevent people developing a range of health issues, such as cancer, Type II diabetes and heart disease.

It also found sports participation effective in reducing depression and anxiety.

Grants and funding are now available to schools, sports clubs, community groups and local authorities to enable the building of the new sports pitches and facilities needed to get people more active.

Finding a trusted partner

In order to maximise your budget and deliver high quality facilities, you need to engage with a specialist whose team of experts has a proven track record in designing and building sports projects to a diverse range of exacting client specifications.

O’Brien Sports delivers natural sports pitches, such as those used for rugby, football and cricket. It also supplies synthetic and Multi Use Games Area pitches, with surfaces suitable for just about every sport and user – from professional sports teams to schools and communities.

Recent projects include a synthetic grass hockey pitch for Burton Hockey Club and a 3G synthetic grass football pitch – constructed to meet FIFA requirements – for Worthing Football Club.

George Dorwell, chair, Worthing Football Club, said: “O’Brien Sports approached the project in a very professional manner. The construction team were meticulous in their work, and the end result is one of the highest standard playing surfaces in the league and the region. Feedback from fans, players and the local community has been very positive.”

Full range of services

O’Brien Sports offers a full range of sports pitch services, including:

  • Full design and build construction projects
  • Synthetic and multi-use games area (MUGA) pitches
  • Pitch renovations
  • Natural sports pitches
  • Total solutions for sports pitches
  • Infrastructure, including access roads and car parks

So if you’ve got a sports pitch project you’re looking to start then call us for a chat about it on 01926 423 918 or email us at info@obriencontractors.co.uk and we’ll get back to you soon.

The key to independence…

sports-pitch-installation

According to a report published by Ofsted, outside of football, a large proportion of students, who have gone on to become the next elite athletes and tennis, rugby union and cricket players, have been nurtured on the sports fields of England’s independent schools.

41% of Team GB athletes who won a medal during the London 2012 Olympics were educated at an independent school. This is quite remarkable when you consider only 7% of school-aged pupils attend an independent school in England, compared to 86–93% of the population who are educated by a state run school.

This should come as no surprise when you consider that Independent schools have embedded competitive sports into their culture and ethos. They ensure all students participate in frequent sports activities; building confidence, self-esteem, academic excellence, character building, but also providing young people with the platform to realise their sporting goals and ambitions.

Independent schools do enjoy greater financial benefits over state schools, but now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is investing over £1 billion in the next few years to help people get fitter and healthier through a range of programmes designed to make access to sports facilities easier for everyone.

So, with grants and funding available to schools and local authorities, this is a great opportunity to get new sports pitches and facilities in place and bring competitive sport into the fabric of the education curriculum of state schools.

It is vital that schools and local authorities make the most of this opportunity because the skills adopted during physical education and through regular participation, are essential to the early development of children and young people. It can teach them key values, including: sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, mutual understanding and honesty.

Through competition, a child’s education is a far richer experience. They enjoy competition. Competitive sport encourages children to try harder. It also provides them with the experience of winning and losing and how to deal with both emotions.

Sports Pitch Specialists!

Investing in new sports facilities has to be done right for two important reasons: firstly, so that you get the best value from your budget, and secondly, so that you receive a high standard installation ensuring students can and will use them for years to come. To do it right you need to work with the best sports pitch providers you can and O’Brien Sports, who’s management team has over 55 years’ experience in sports pitch construction, is one of the first large civil engineering firms able to offer turnkey solutions for a range of sports facilities.

The company delivers projects ranging from stadiums and arenas through to rugby, football and hockey pitches. This capability is all maintained in house – with no outsourcing required – by a team of experts with a proven track record of delivering design and build sports projects to a diverse range of exacting client specifications.

The sports installations that we deliver include synthetic and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) pitches with surfaces suitable for just about every sport and user, from professional sports teams to schools and communities, and natural sports pitches, such as those used for rugby, football and cricket.

Recent projects have included the construction of a FIFA-compliant football pitch, an Olympic-standard, eight lane athletics track (complete with long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault) and a football club (complete with 11 natural turf pitches, changing facilities, entrance road and car park). All elements of these projects were handled in house and to our uncompromising standards.

Services

O’Brien Sports offers a full range of sports pitch services, including:

  • Full design and build construction projects
  • Synthetic and multi-use games area (MUGA) pitches
  • Pitch renovations
  • Natural sports pitches
  • Total solutions for sports pitches
  • Infrastructure, including: access roads and car parks

The total solution…from concept to construction, we design and build all Synthetic and Natural Sports Surfaces.

T: 01926 423918

E: info@obriencontractors.co.uk

At the heart of the Midlands regeneration

Civil engineering and groundworks company provides earthworks, groundworks and infrastructure services at Morgan Sindall’s regeneration of Longbridge town centre in Birmingham, West Midlands

A second-generation, family-run business with close to 60 years of experience in civil engineering and groundworks, O’Brien Contractors is a trusted name in the Midlands construction industry.

Ambitious and forward-thinking, O’Brien believes that a strong investment in its people and technology are vital to help it to stand out from the crowd and be recognised as a leader in its field.

This has proven to be a winning approach, as O’Brien has been recognised with a host of national industry awards, including most recently being named ‘Specialist Contractor of the Year (turnover up to £25m)’ and ‘Tomorrow’s Company’ by Construction News; and ‘Contractor of the Year up to £300 million’ by Building Magazine.

O’Brien provides a catalogue of construction facilities, ranging from full design and build capabilities for projects up to £11 million, 3G sports pitches and specialist plant hire.

Over the last 12 months, O’Brien has completed 29 projects across the Midlands and continues to grow its portfolio on high-profile schemes, including the £200 million Nestlé Factory in Derbyshire and a £7 million project for Jaguar Land Rover.

New partnerships have strengthened the business and during 2014, O’Brien Contractors were appointed by principal contractor, Morgan Sindall, to deliver groundworks for the second phase of St. Modwen’s £100m regeneration of Longbridge; and also partnered with Sir Robert McAlpine for groundworks at LondonMetric Property’s £77m Thunderbird 2 scheme – a 98,700 m2 distribution centre near Kettering.

The relationship formed at Nestle’s new £200m coffee production facility has helped secure two further projects with John Sisk: a groundworks package at Alumno Developments’ £30m Student Accommodation at Eastside Locks in Birmingham; and an additional groundworks contract for three distribution units at Goodman’s Lyons Park scheme in Coventry.

These successes follow on the back of a five year initiative to place the company on a sounder footing. In 2009, with the recession taking hold and the company retracting by 40%, the directors embarked on developing a strategy to enable the business to see unimaginable growth: Principal Contractor contracts accounting for between 30% and 40% of turnover and £3m worth of secured sports pitch contracts, are just a couple of examples.

O’Brien also strengthened customer relationships by ensuring on every project, a Director has an overseeing role and assists the project delivery team.

The diversification initiatives took considerable planning and analysis with close to £1m of company money being invested, but it paid off and O’Brien is now achieving record-breaking levels of turnover. With an order book of £15m already secured for 2015, the outlook looks even brighter, with turnover set to increase to £26.6m for 2014/2015.

Peter O’Brien, Managing Director, O’Brien Contractors, said: “We viewed the recession as an opportunity and planned for the subsequent upturn. In a downturn, clients are less active, they are more receptive to changes in their supply chain as they are more focused on value.”

“We found out what organisations didn’t like about their supply chains and repositioned our business approach, aligned with their requirements. This has enabled us to understand their needs and challenges better, so that we can provide them with tailored solutions, greater operational efficiency and a higher return on investment. In many ways, the recession was good for us.”

Design and build contractors:

Specialists in:
• Civil Engineering
• Pre-construction services
• Groundworks
• Infrastructure developments
• Sports pitch construction
• Plant hire

When planning a construction project, make O’Brien Contractors your first choice:
T: 01926 423 918 E: info@obriencontractors.co.uk

Pitch Perfect

sport-management-sports-pitches-naturalturf-synthetic

The England Rugby World Cup 2015 provides the perfect opportunity to deliver a lasting legacy and to raise the profile of sport in our schools and the wider community.

In order to capitalise on the interest in sport generated, the availability of referees, coaches and quality sports facilities, to enable the next budding sportsmen and women to achieve their ambitions and succeed in their chosen field, will be high on the agenda.

Sports Pitch Specialists

The O’Brien Sports management team has over 55 years’ experience in sports pitch construction and we are one of the first large civil engineering firms able to offer turnkey solutions for a range of sports facilities, delivering projects ranging from stadiums and arenas through to rugby, football and hockey pitches. This capability is all maintained in house – with no outsourcing required – by a team of experts with a proven track record of delivering design and build sports projects to a diverse range of exacting client specifications.

The sports installations that we deliver include synthetic and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) pitches with surfaces suitable for just about every sport and user, from professional sports teams to schools and communities, and natural sports pitches, such as those used for rugby, football and cricket.

Recent projects have included the construction of a FIFA-compliant football pitch, an Olympic-standard, eight lane athletics track (complete with long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault) and a football club (complete with 11 natural turf pitches, changing facilities, entrance road and car park). All elements of these projects were handled in house and to our uncompromising standards.

Oswestry School
O’Brien Sports constructed a synthetic grass hockey pitch for Oswestry School in Shropshire.

The design and build contract involved the construction of a full size sand dressed synthetic grass hockey pitch, installed upon an insitu rubber shock pad, on an engineered base.

The project included approximately 4500 m3 of earthwork remodelling, the construction of a spectator area, fencing and floodlighting. Additional works included: access roads and car parking facilities with bollard lighting.
The new pitch was completed within the 12 week time-frame and was handed over to the school ready for its new term.

“From my perspective, it was a delight to work with O’Brien and would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone. One of the reasons for choosing O’Brien was the fact that we were dealing with the top management from the start.”
Phil Bowd – Bursar at Oswestry School

Wasps Rugby Club
O’Brien Sports partnered with GreenFields UK for the installation of a new playing surface at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The project involved site preparation works to remove the existing 8000m2 playing surface before the installation of a new natural turf surface, farmed in the Netherlands, could be installed. Works started on 5th December and was completed ready for Coventry City’s home league game with Fleetwood Town on 20th December.

Services
O’Brien offers a full range of sports pitch services, including:

  • Full design and build construction projects
  • Synthetic and multi-use games area (MUGA) pitches
  • Pitch renovations
  • Natural sports pitches
  • Total solutions for sports pitches

The total solution…from concept to construction, we design and build all Synthetic and Natural Sports Surfaces.

T: 01926 423918
E: info@obriencontractors.co.uk

Navigating the pitfalls of post-recessionary growth

construction-news-sme-spotlight

Peter O'Brien Managing Director O'Brien Contractors

Construction News Magazine – SME Spotlight 13/03/2015

While the recession may officially be behind us, its echoes continue to reverberate through the industry with many companies facing unique and unprecedented challenges, particularly in the areas of talent, technology and resource.

While these three issues are interconnected and each has a significant role to play in the future of the UK construction sector, perhaps the most significant is the current problem of a diminished workforce. The sector suffered a significant blow during the recessionary years with 400,000 jobs lost and predictions that another 400,000 skilled employees will exit the industry through retirement by 2020.

This skills drought, which has been felt across all construction trades, has led to a deficit that has the potential to affect the continued growth of the industry as a contributor to the UK economy. Consequently in order to ensure that we can meet growing demand for delivery of construction projects, we need to demonstrate to school leavers that careers in construction can be rewarding.

A fully trained professional can earn £100,000 a year in this industry, a figure which is being driven up as businesses boost salaries in order to attract and retain the best talent from a dwindling talent pool.

A younger, more tech-savvy workforce will also be of great benefit to the construction industry, as technology plays an increasingly prevalent role.

In order to fully harness the benefits of innovations such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools – which help to reduce costs and increase efficiency of material use – companies may need to consider refocussing their investment strategies to grow their technology presence and experience.

Methodologies such as BIM are particularly useful at a time when the scarcity of resources required to meet the upturn in demand in the sector is providing a significant barrier to continued growth and expansion.

This has placed significant additional pressure on the sector, forcing companies to find alternative resourcing solutions. There is no ‘quick fix’ solution to this problem however businesses can insulate themselves by ensuring that they have a robust chain of trusted and experienced suppliers in place.

There are of course also a number of factors that are outside the control of the industry at large. Chief among these are the tightening rules being applied by lenders, and tax changes levied by the government. The double impact of reduced accessibility to funding, combined with increasing levels of corporate taxation could place an even tighter stranglehold on the viability of businesses to address the issues that have been outlined above.

Greater clarity from the Government on their promised increase in investment and policy on capital expenditure would go some way towards offering businesses a modicum of reassurance.

Ultimately, we need to ensure that we fully understand our customers’ needs and as an industry should be prepared to provide a more proactive advisory role if we feel that a solution that has been requested is really the right fit.

We believe that Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) is absolutely fundamental, enabling us to leverage our expertise and industry knowledge from the earliest possible stage in the process. In turn, this can lead to a more viable and cost-effective solution for a project, reducing waste material and driving down cost.

Put simply, those businesses that are confident enough to treat this post-recessionary period as an opportunity to reconsider and realign their core workplace functions will be the ones that will not only flourish during this current economic cycle, but will go on to weather the next dip far better than their competitors.

Recovery can take hold in 2015 but crucial ingredients needed

Construction News Magazine – SME Spotlight 16/01/2015

With order books filling up and the financial situation for many businesses is looking rosy, it’s clear to see why 2015 is predicted to be the year when the recovery of the construction industry gets well under way. Looking towards the year ahead, there are a few key elements that we need to ensure take place in order to maintain a stable and prosperous market.

Above all else, investment in our current pool of workers and development of succession planning should take centre stage. Ensuring the upskilling of employees so that they contribute towards plugging the skills gap and helping to realise their career objectives is, a crucial factor in delivering continued business growth and improvement.

With 400,000 skills jobs lost in the construction industry during the recession and an estimated 400,000 due to be lost through retirement over the next five years, it is imperative that we put in place schemes to get the message to younger people at the grassroots level, demonstrating that careers in construction have a clear path to progression. By starting a drive towards recruiting more apprenticeships now, businesses will guarantee that in five years’ time they see the benefit of having a knowledgeable and confident professional who has been developed through their organisation.

The Health and Safety Executives’ revisions to CDM 2007, driven by the need to align the UK’s interpretation of CDM with the EU’s Temporary and Mobiles Construction Sites Directive (TMCSD), are expected to come into force during 2015. Whilst I support change which is designed to increase efficiency while reducing bureaucracy, we have an obligation to make sure the new regulations are implemented and remain mindful that the final outcome is a far safer environment for our staff to operate in.

The Government’s planning reforms, designed to make the system easier to implement and get the country building once again, have now been in operation for some three years. In many regions, like the Midlands, greater governance is required so that local authorities undertake their obligations and support neighbouring councils who have a land capacity issue. This will enable the unlocking of more land for much needed housing and employment to further boost the sector’s recovery. Should we see a change of leadership during the next election, any change in policy needs to be for the greater good, rather than a kneejerk reaction.

From SMEs to large blue chip organisations, we all have a commitment to guarantee that alongside our commercial aims, we take our responsibilities to the environment, our employees and the wider community more seriously than ever before. This should be the year where we introduce a record number of initiatives and introduce more efficient technology to ensure operations are as sustainable as possible.

Investing in a fitter and healthier UK

Sports Management Magazine – Vol 18 issue 4 2014

As the UK obesity statistics soar, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is investing over £1 billion in the next few years to help people get fitter and healthier through a range of programmes designed to make access to sports facilities easier for everyone.

These investments are crucial in getting people more active as a report released by the Institute of Economic Affairs in August 2014 revealed that Britain’s obesity problem is more to do with lack of exercise than with eating too much, or eating the wrong things. So, with grants and funding available to schools, sports clubs, community groups and local authorities, this is a great opportunity for neighbourhoods all over the country to get new sports pitches and facilities in place and get people more active.

With the latest statistics showing that 64% of UK adults are overweight or obese, as are one in every ten children when starting primary school, it’s vital that schools and communities make the most of this opportunity.

Pitching It Right

Investing in new sports facilities has to be done right for two important reasons: firstly, so that this crucial funding is put to best use, and so that people can and will use them for years to come. To do it right you need to work with the best sports pitch providers you can and O’Brien Contractors is the first and only civil engineering firm in the UK able to offer turnkey solutions for a range of sports pitch installations.

The company can deliver projects ranging from stadiums and arenas through to sports tracks and football pitches, tailored to meet your individual needs. O’Brien’s team of experts has a proven track record of delivering design and build sports projects to a diverse range of exacting client specifications and all of the work is completed in-house with no outsourcing required, meaning you get better value for money and projects are always delivered on time and on budget.

The sports installations the company delivers include natural sports pitches, such as those used for rugby, football and cricket, and synthetic and MUGA (Multi-Use-Games-Area) pitches with surfaces suitable for just about every sport and user, from professional sports teams to schools and communities.

Recent projects that O’Brien has completed include the construction of a FIFA-compliant football pitch; an Olympic-standard athletics track complete with long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault and a 400m running track; a football club with 11 natural turf pitches, changing facilities, entrance road and car park; and a full size sand dressed synthetic grass Hockey pitch, installed upon an insitu rubber shock pad on an engineered base for Oswestry School.

“From my perspective, it was a delight to work with O’Brien Contractors and would not hesitate to recommend you to anyone. One of the reasons for choosing O’Brien was the fact that we were dealing with the top management from the start (Mick) and because you are the actual contractors rather than a middle man. The construction itself wasn’t straight forward due to a large cut and fill exercise, but the end result is spectacular and we are very pleased with the outcome. In addition, all of the subcontractors used for the specialist areas (floodlights, fencing, and pitch surface) were very reputable with no shortcuts in quality once the contract had been won. Overall, we are very pleased.”
Phil Bowd – Bursar at Oswestry School

O’Brien growth continues apace

building-magazine-sme-profile

Building Magazine – SME Profile 28/11/2014

SME profile: Midlands-based O’Brien Contractors has surpassed its pre-recession revenue peak

Fast-growing small contractor O’Brien Contractors is forecasting it will boost revenue by 40% in this financial year.

The firm expects to turn over £24.5m in 2014/15.

“It may seem like an overnight success, but to us it’s not felt like that,” says Peter O’Brien, managing director of O’Brien Contractors.

The Midlands-based firm has grown revenue 68% over five years to post revenue of £17.5m in its last financial year.

After contracting by 40% in just one year in the throes of the recession, in 2008-09, the firm has since recovered quickly and raced past its pre-recession revenue peak last year. These positive financials helped the family-owned firm win the Contractor of the Year under £300m turnover at the 2014 Building Awards.

But O’Brien (pictured inset) prefers to characterise the firm’s success as “methodical” rather than “overnight”.

“It has been strategic, planned and the culmination of years of improvement through hard work,” he says.

Reinvention

As the recession took hold, O’Brien embarked on a strategy to reinvent the business, turning it from a groundworks specialist to a principal contractor offering everything needed for a civil engineering project. It also upped investment in training and skills “rather than cutting it”, retained its directly-employed labour force and made a big marketing push to reach new clients, O’Brien explains.

Leamington Spa-based O’Brien was founded in 1958 by Tom O’Brien and is now owned by the second generation of the O’Brien family, brothers Peter and Mick O’Brien, with Stuart Chamberlain and Phil Griffiths becoming shareholding directors in 2012.

It operates across the Midlands, taking on jobs valued between £250,000 and £10m, and offers pre-construction services, design and build, sport pitch construction, traditional contracting and plant hire.

The firm primarily works in education, leisure, commercial, manufacturing and infrastructure.

O’Brien’s work as a principal contractor now makes up 30-40% of the firm’s turnover, according to O’Brien. This work is typically design and build infrastructure and public realm improvement jobs.

“We viewed the recession as an opportunity and planned for the subsequent upturn,” O’Brien says. “In a downturn, clients are less active, they are more receptive to changes in their supply chain as they are more focused on value.

“We found out what organisations didn’t like about their supply chains and we attained new clients that we have developed strong and long-term relationships with. In many ways, the recession was good for us.”

The firm now deliberately targets “larger value contracts” and is also an advocate of “early contractor involvement”.

“Long-term relationships bring trust and collaboration which is essential if project objectives are to be achieved,” O’Brien says.

Despite its diversification into principal contracting in recent years, traditional subcontracting remains 50-60% of the business, and its largest contracts remain in this area. These include an £11msubcontract on John Sisk & Son’s £200m coffee manufacturing centre for Nestle in Derbyshire and a £6m subcontract for Morgan Sindall’s 150,000ft2 Marks & Spencer store at Longbridge. Meanwhile, the firm’s specialist sport pitch construction division generates 10% of turnover.

Local investment

O’Brien has invested more than £4m in training, plant, equipment and technology in the past four years, according to O’Brien.

He says the firm carries out most of its work using directly employed workers, rather than subcontracted labour. “For us, it’s all about continual improvement,” he says. “To be a leader in your field, we believe you should focus on your core competencies and you need the best workforce.”

He’s bullish about prospects for the Midlands market, and particularly its manufacturing sector. He says: “The Midlands market is looking buoyant. There seems to be more confidence, we are securing more high-value contracts and receiving far more live jobs than tenders to price.”

O’Brien is not tempted to join the stampede of regional contractors to London. “We don’t need to go into London where we don’t have the relationships,” he says. “You need those local relationships to get the best service, the best procurement deals and innovation through suppliers. We want to be the best SME in the Midlands.”