Running a small business can be challenging. Keeping all aspects of the business running smoothly like sales & marketing, bookkeeping, customer quotes and admin tasks while fulfilling customer orders keeps a lot of business owners working round the clock. A solution to take care of all your admin tasks will free up more time to focus on income-generating activities to grow your business.
Platinum PA Ltd is that solution! Platinum PA Ltd is an outsourced personal assistant service that manages all your admin tasks leaving you more time to focus on building your business. Its services include small business support (e.g. invoicing and expenses) vehicle administration (servicing, MOT, taxing), business and holiday travel services (visa application, booking flights and taxis) lifestyle management (special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, theatre tickets) and more.
Founded in January 2020 by Tanya Dickinson, Platinum PA is a service designed to reduce the stress of busy business people and give them their life back. Tanya has over 17 years’ experience as a Personal Assistant in the corporate world working across various sectors. She is super organised, efficient and brings her wealth of experience as an office manager. It is always great when you have a trusted and reliable business partner supporting your business behind the scenes.
Based in Buckinghamshire, Platinum PA offers virtual PA services to a wide range of clients in various sectors including construction, building services, tradesmen, events management, high flying executives, busy working parents and start-ups. Tanya brings professionalism, attention to detail and personalised service tailored to your specific needs. While working remotely from her base she also attends meetings if required.
There are a lot of virtual assistant (VA) service providers. As working arrangements are evolving, with more redundancies and more people out of work, there has been an increase in the number of VAs available. There are more options although the quality is diluted. Handing over your tasks and sensitive information should be to a trusted and reliable company with a track record.
“Some people feel providing a virtual PA service is easy. With a phone, laptop and internet connection you are good to go. The reality is that this is not true. I have heard of some bad experiences. Without some experience working as a Personal Assistant or Office Manager, it can be quite challenging. You need certifications, liability insurance and knowledge of GDPR at least. A wide range of skillset and understanding of CRM systems is essential to work on tasks efficiently.”
“I started this business because I always wanted to do something for myself. I wanted to work to my own time and enjoy having that flexibility. I was thinking of work-life balance as I have a young son. With close to 20 years’ experience working in Consultancy, Retail, Finance and IT sectors, I bring a lot of experience, expertise and skillset to any business. I have worked in busy environments and delivered within tight deadlines. You are getting a great service delivered to a very high standard.”
The covid-19 pandemic slowed down business in the first half of the year. “A lot of business owners were impacted by the first lockdown. There was uncertainty with the restrictions in movement and some businesses could not trade. A few of our clients asked us to put a hold on their services which was understandable. Business picked up in the second half of the year with a few new clients added to our books.”
“For us, it was challenging. From March to June this year there were very few enquiries. I used that opportunity to upskill by going through various online training courses and getting more knowledge on CRM systems. So I am better equipped to provide a more efficient service to my clients.”
Tanya has big plans for Platinum PA Ltd. With the challenging year most businesses have had the objective has been survival first. Get through this year and plan for the future. Through a combination of networking, recommendations from existing clients, an active LinkedIn profile and improved online marketing, Platinum PA is expanding its client base. There are more service packages to attract more retainer clients.
“I am optimistic that a lot of businesses will pick up in 2021. The events and hospitality businesses will gradually come back. It’s an area I would love to have more clients. I am just glad that despite the tough conditions we have come this far. There is no restriction due to location. We can work with anyone anywhere in the UK. I am confident in our growth plans.”
For professional virtual PA service, contact Platinum PA Ltd.
Forward Trucking Services Group – Hertfordshire’s Reliable, Trusted & Professional Logistics Service
Forward Trucking Services Ltd (FTS) has been the preferred logistics company in Hertfordshire for over 50 years. The haulier provides round the clock logistics services across the UK and internationally. Based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, FTS Group provides round the clock logistics services for the UK and International markets. Its services comprise haulage, storage, and distribution. FTS Group operates a modern fleet of over 80 trucks with depots across the country. Peter Samuel, Group Managing Director of FTS Group spoke with Herts Review about the company’s operations and aspirations.
For most people based in Hertfordshire, you may or may not know that you have benefited from the services of the FTS Group. It could be a delivery from your online shopping, that new bathroom for your house extension project, or even a concert, exhibition, or event you attended recently. In one way or another, the FTS Group are behind the scenes contributing and enriching our lives.
Founded in 1968 by George Mackay Snr in Islington, London as Forward Traffic Services Ltd, the company delivered steel and paving to construction sites across London. His son George Mackay Jnr joined the business in the mid-1970s with George Snr retiring in the 1980s. George Jnr continued running the business until 2005 when he took a step back from the day-to-day operations but remained active in the decision making and direction of the business. Unfortunately, George Jnr became unexpectedly ill after Christmas in 2017 and sadly passed away in January 2018.
FTS Group now under the ownership of George Jnr’s children Jane Mackay and Stephen Mackay has remained a successful and thriving business. As the business enters a new phase, the owners have strengthened the senior management team by appointing Peter Samuel as Group Managing Director (former Commercial Manager) and Andrew Bull as Group Operations Director (former General Manager). Peter, with a background in Accountancy and IT Systems sales has over 25 years’ experience in commercial roles. He contributed significantly to the digital transformation of FTS Group over the last 5 years and has the mandate to lead the company in its next phase of development.
The group has witnessed unprecedented growth lately through the expansion of its existing operations and acquisitions. As supply chain requirements continue to evolve and to serve its diverse customers effectively, FTS Group has been organised into 4 divisions offering specialist logistics solutions to each niche.
The 4 divisions are:
Forward Trucking Services Ltd (FTS)
Founded in 1968. The flagship company specialises in linehaul and contract haulage.
FTS Logistics Ltd
Specialist in palletised freight in the UK and across Europe.
FTS Events Ltd
Provides logistics support for Events, Concerts & Exhibitions. Specialist in Event haulage in UK & Europe.
Stand & Deliver Transport Ltd
Founded in 1983, the Watford-based General Haulier was acquired by FTS Group in 2018. Known for General Haulage and iconic livery.
FTS Group also partners with well-known palletised distribution services Palletways, Palletforce, and Pallex.
The differentiating factor for the FTS Group is the level of service. Other logistics companies may offer the same service at a cheaper price but there is a reason why the FTS Group has been working with customers for 20, 30, and even 50 years. FTS offers clean efficient trucks, clean drivers, and timely service. The team goes the extra mile to ensure customers’ demands or requirements are met. The company is extremely proud of its record of delivering great customer service.
For the FTS Group, its employees are its biggest asset. The company invests in its people offering competitive salaries and bonus packages to keep them always motivated. They also reward staff that work hard and deliver a great service. For this reason, there is low attrition among its staff. Most drivers and staff are extremely proud to work for the company.
The business has remained resilient through the covid-19 pandemic this year. Although the events logistics business has stopped completely, growth in other divisions of the company has minimised the overall impact on the group. There have been more online orders, more home improvement projects, and overall higher demand for haulage services which leaves the business in a strong position.
As key workers, the business has operated all through the lockdown this year. “We have done a lot to reassure our staff and keep them safe. Investments in PPE, the use of hand sanitizers, cleaning and disinfecting our warehouses, offices, and trucks, and abiding by social distancing guidelines are some of the measures we have taken to protect everyone. Investing in technology, for instance, using handheld devices to sign off deliveries thereby minimizing human contact has been beneficial as well. Our drivers have been asked to minimize contact while on duty. The safety of our staff and customers is our priority.”
Looking forward, FTS Group wants to have a fleet of energy-efficient trucks across all its services as its way of reducing the overall carbon footprint. “We are keenly monitoring the situation, but we are not there yet. The technology and infrastructure are not available yet. To charge a 40-ton electric truck will take a lot of time. It just isn’t commercially viable for now. But when that time comes, we hope to be one of the pioneers. Nothing will give us more satisfaction.”
And what about the elephant in the room – Brexit. “Like everyone, we are following the news but are not anxious about it. Whatever happens in the next few weeks, goods still need to be moved from point A to B. Our job is to facilitate this process. For now, we will focus on offering the best service to our customers no matter the outcome.”
The FTS team wants to be known for their excellent service. They are neither the most expensive nor the cheapest. They offer safe, clean, secure storage, handling, and distribution solutions for a wide range of customers. They are recognised as a trusted and reliable partner for businesses and end-users. For your logistics solutions contact FTS Group.
Apex Stone Sourcing Ltd – Leader in Sourcing Natural Stone Products for Prestigious Residential & Commercial Projects
Apex Stone Sourcing Ltd is the go-to company if you are looking for quality natural stone products for your residential or commercial projects. With over 60 years of collective experience in sourcing natural stone for many high-end residential and commercial projects, the team can source any stone to suit your requirements. Apex Stone Sourcing Ltd offers personalised natural stone sourcing solutions that get you the right material for the right price. Jon Quinn, the founder of Apex Stone Sourcing Ltd gave Herts Review an insight into the company and his aspirations.
Jon has a wealth of experience and expertise in natural stone design, sourcing, and installation. Previously working in commercial roles for a national supplier and manufacturer of natural stone products, he was directly involved in the successful delivery of many commercial projects in London for Westminster City Council, the City of London Corporation, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, and the Royal Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham amongst others.
While taking on and delivering major projects for his employers at the time was great, Jon always wanted to have his own business. “I really enjoyed being part of teams that have delivered on these major and in some cases iconic projects. The experience, expertise, contacts, and relationships I have built over the years are so valuable. I always knew I wanted to do something for myself. Take the plunge as they say. It is an opportunity to offer exceptional customer service and implement the great ideas I have.”
According to Jon, it is important to understand natural stone and how it should be used. Not everything built is done correctly. The idea behind the design and how the area will be used are key considerations before choosing or recommending a product. This is one area Apex Stone Sourcing stands out. Their initial consultation is an important part of their service. “We ask a lot of questions to understand what the client has set out to achieve. They see our samples and we discuss the benefits of each product. We also highlight the requirements for those materials.”
From its base in Berkshire, Apex Stone Sourcing works on projects across the UK. The company does not keep stock, have a yard or lorries. Products are sourced from suppliers across the country, Europe, and Asia and delivered directly to clients. This simple and efficient supply process means you get products within agreed timelines. While the team focuses on the technical specification (drawings, scheduling the quarry to produce the material) and sourcing of the right stone products, they also recommend a network of experienced and competent tradesmen for installation.
Jon and the team have a lot of expertise in all aspects of hard landscaping for office projects, residential development projects, shopping centres, town centres, and high-end properties. Some of the stone products on offer include Yorkstone, Porcelain, Cast Stone, Sandstone, Granite, Limestone amongst others. With a wide network of contacts and suppliers in the UK, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Italy, India, and China, the team can source any stone product you need.
Apex Stone Sourcing Ltd officially started trading in July 2018 with a focus on residential projects which have a shorter turnaround time. The Apex team work with Architects, Interior Designers, and Landscapers to deliver many ambitious residential projects. For most projects, the team are involved in the early stage up to implementation.
Although the covid-19 pandemic lockdown slowed down a lot of commercial projects, the company has seen a strong demand in the residential sector as more homeowners have embarked on home improvement projects. Fortunately, there has been limited disruption to their services as a lot of consultation and negotiations are done on the phone. Overall, it has been a remarkably busy and successful year for the company with over 12 months of projects in the pipeline. According to Jon, Apex is on track to deliver on its 5-year plan.
Sourcing stone can be quite technical. Getting good quality products for the right price can be tricky. Samples are thoroughly scrutinised to meet requirements. The key is quality and affordability. What Apex offers is a one-to-one consultation with each customer. You are not asked to go to a showroom or e-commerce store to make a choice. People buy from people they like. Apex will hold your hand all the way and help you make the right choice for your project.
“We bring the same work ethic, dedication, and attention to detail whether we are working on a small project or a multimillion £ project. It is the same standard of customer service which is completely results-oriented.”
If you are after a reliable and trusted natural stone sourcing team that will help you deliver that residential project of your dreams or need expert advice for your commercial project, contact the Apex Stone Sourcing team here.
For the team at Uskuri Theobald Architects, good property design should stand out. It should be unique and offer a refreshing change from the property designs we see very often. People should be open-minded and try different things. Use different materials, have a different style, and look. Uskuri Theobald Architects are design-led residential architecture specialists that bring creativity and innovation into every project.
This inspired group of architects believes that there should be no gap between the interior and exterior design of a building for an enduring and elegant design. While designs should fulfil that aesthetical appeal, they should also fit with the lifestyle of the end-users thereby improving the way they live. Their goal is to design buildings that are durable, functional with great aesthetical value while using sustainable materials. The team has successfully planned, designed, and devised multiple building projects including self-build, new build, renovation, and house extension projects.
Founded in January 2019, by Leoni Uskuri, Oguz Uskuri, and Ryan Theobald, the St Albans based architectural firm has successfully delivered many wonderful residential design projects across St Albans, Radlett, Harpenden, and areas in and around Hertfordshire and London. They are flexible with budgets and always have design ideas or recommendations that will work with your budget. Whether you are after more living space or looking at how to get the best out of your property, the team has a recommendation for you.
Leoni and Oguz had been working for other architectural practices but felt they could not impose their style and creativity on some of the projects they worked on. Four years ago, they set up their architectural firm called Studio Uskuri Ltd. Starting a new design business meant a lot of hard work and long hours. Ryan Theobald had been working in London as an Architect. The three partners decided to bring their skillset and experience together under one firm to offer a better proposition to the clients. Working together has improved their work-life balance as they have young families.
Working with Uskuri Theobald Architects means you benefit from over 50 years’ experience in architecture, interior design, and construction expertise for your project. The team guides you on your journey to creating your dream home with inspirational ideas and designs. They also assist with site analysis, feasibility studies, planning permission, change of use, and permitted developments thereby offering an integrated design solution for a residential building project.
The team also factor in sustainability into their designs and encourage clients to use more eco-friendly materials, solar energy, and other energy-efficient solutions in their projects for the best outcomes. All designs and planning are creative and futuristic. For instance, a room in a house could be used for other purposes like a studio, play area, or study.
Like many businesses, the covid-19 pandemic slowed down the operations of the firm in the earlier part of the year as they could not physically visit clients for consultations. However, the team has adapted the way they work by doing virtual consultations while abiding by government regulations on social distancing and using PPE equipment for client visits.
Looking forward, Uskuri Theobald Architects has ambitious plans. Operating with a team of 5, they want to add 2 more designers to the team in the next 12 months. This will mean taking on more projects and winning more clients. There are already lots of projects in the pipeline including an amazing new build project. Through networking, recommendations from clients, and increasing their online marketing footprint, the team are confident they will achieve their goals. They also want to work on developments with clients and their firm's development projects.
It is hard not to feel the passion of the team about good design. Consistently educating homeowners and showing them what they can do with their properties is in the DNA of the team. This has been extended to homeowners that are not their clients.
Uskuri Theobald Architects recently set up the Facebook group called ‘All about house’ as a free service to educate and inspire more homeowners to have better designs rather than the common basic designs. If you are undertaking a home improvement or building project you can bounce off some of your ideas with the team and you are not under any obligation to become their client. Rather it is another opportunity of enriching the property designs in the area.
You can benefit from the excellent services of this young firm. The initial consultation is free. This is where they explain their services, the benefits, and how they can help you achieve your dream house. Contact them here or join the All about house Facebook group for design ideas and tips.
Redway HR is a Harpenden based professional Human Resource Consultancy providing a wide range of people management and development services that support SMEs and corporate organizations across Hertfordshire, London, and surrounding areas. Their services cover all aspects of Staffing, Training and Development, Compensation, Employee Relations, and HR Compliance. Liz Redway, the founder of the award-winning HR Consultancy gave Herts Review some insight into the business and her aspirations.
With an extensive background in Human Resources, Redway HR provides bespoke solutions to each of its clients. “We understand that each client's needs, goals, and situation is different. Some businesses are at the start-up phase and so need completely different solutions compared to a well-established business. We have tailored our proposition for each stage of growth. We aspire to work with businesses through their various phases of growth or development and help them achieve their goals.”
Redway HR officially opened for business in February 2019. “I had held various HR roles in the past. With a young family at the time, I was thinking of how I could use my experience to support local organizations and businesses as well as make a bit of money. I was a School Governor at the time and so my first HR brief was within Education. It subsequently grew from there. We have worked with the central government, businesses, and other public-sector organizations. From humble beginnings, we have grown rapidly in the last two and a half years and I am excited about the future.”
Liz has over 20 years’ experience in HR Management and has built a team comprising experts with a diverse range of skillset in key aspects of HR like employee relations, executive and career coaching, rewards and benefits, mediation, recruitment, and organisational structure. Starting as a single person HR Consultancy, Redway now comprises a team of 5. Liz wants Redway HR to be the one-stop-shop for Human Resource services by offering clients a wide scope of services to get their businesses or organisations to where they want to be.
“Our team is the most valuable asset of our business. Having a team means continuity of service for our clients. For instance, if I am not available, other members of the team will provide the same quality of support. Usually, with all our clients we have a designated member of staff that is their point of contact. That personal relationship is key to our service. However, we draw on the experience of the team when necessary to give them the best possible solution.”
This year the business environment has been extremely challenging for most businesses due to the covid-19 pandemic. “A lot of businesses have suffered this year. There has been a lot of issues around redundancy, furlough, and the future organizational structure of the business. Very clearly businesses have to adapt to survive. We have gained more clients over the period and will be playing a key role in helping them get the best out of their workforce so that the best interest of the company is realised.”
Redway HR has worked within a range of sectors including Charities, Children’s homes, Churches, Schools, and Businesses. As it expands its footprint over the next 12 months, it will focus more on employers that value the development of their employees and organisation culture. It is targeting more high-value clients, retainer clients, and businesses that have at least 15 to 50 employees. It will also be educating more companies about its services and how its valuable support could help them achieve their goals.
For a young business, its growth has been remarkable. With professionalism and a refreshing perspective it brings to Human Resource issues, it has many satisfied clients. Also, the business is consistently coming up with innovative solutions for its clients and the business community thereby differentiating themselves from other HR Services companies. The Managing Change webinar and Executive Coaching Webinar are examples of interactive programmes that have been well received in the business community.
Redway HR’s exceptional standard of service, innovation, and resourcefulness was recently recognised within the Hertfordshire business community. They are the 2020 Winner of the Community Business Awards organised by the St Albans District Chamber of Commerce. This followed nominations by clients and business leaders in the area. Congratulations to the Redway team of Liz, Julie, Louise, Katrina, and Lesley.
If you are a business or organization in or around Hertfordshire looking to grow and thrive and you need a reliable HR Consultancy to help you get there, then contact the Redway HR team here.
Network & Security Ltd is a Hertfordshire based IT Support Services company offering outsourced IT solutions to local businesses so that they can get on with the day-to-day activities of serving their customers. They ensure that a company’s data is secure, backed-up and recoverable so that the employees can carry out their tasks efficiently. Network & Security Ltd was founded by Neil Kemp and Colin Hill over 8 years ago. Neil spoke to Herts Review about the company and plans for the next few years.
“Our core business is our IT Outsource solution which means that we keep our client’s business up and running without any interruptions. We convey the feeling to our clients that their IT issues are fully taken care of and we are available to resolve any issues. The business owner does not need to worry about any IT related matters for their employees. For instance, it could be a case of an employee not being able to log on to issues relating to data security or transfer. We have invested in a responsive front-line team that deal with any IT matters no matter how small or big.”
“We work a lot with professional services companies – Legal, Accounting, Recruitment and other office-based companies. These companies on average have 15 to 20 staff. Our services include basic IT support (e.g. supply and set up of encrypted laptops for employees, IT hardware and software supply and configuration), hosting services and the next generation Anti Malware prevention services as the first line of defence from viruses and ransomware.”
“With the current restriction on movement and a lot of employees working remotely, online security is key for any business. Since the beginning of this year we have seen a sustained increase in cyber-attacks including malware, phishing attacks, eavesdropping attacks, and man-in-the-middle attacks (malicious actor inserts themselves into a conversion between two parties). Our security solutions to our clients have been proactive and not only reactive. While we help local businesses deal with these situations when they happen, we also pre-empt such situations and put in place robust preventive measures.”
Neil has been in the IT space for over 25 years. “I was made redundant from a company I was working for and started IT Contracting in 2000. The idea of having my own IT Support company had always been at the back of my mind as I knew I could not be moving to different roles indefinitely. I met Colin in one of my roles while he was working for an IT Reseller. I could see he was exceptionally good at what he did. I brought him on board as a director for Network & Security. Colin is really brilliant with IT stuff so we shared roles that I will focus more on business development and growing the business while he focuses on service delivery to our clients.”
“We started off with a big client that took up most of our time. However, we were always thinking that at some point the client may not need our services any longer. The risk would have been too high and so 4 years ago we changed our business model. For the last 4 years, our target has been to onboard other customers and diversify our customer base to reduce the overall risk. I will say it has worked so far but we are looking to expand our operations further. From our experience, while almost every business needs our services, we primarily target businesses that see the value of what we do. Fortunately, we are still working with the big client”
Network & Security Ltd is becoming an established IT Solutions company supporting businesses in London, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Bedfordshire. “We have a total of 9 people at the moment. We will be looking to add a few more in the coming years. We will be taking on another 3 employees next year. Our 9-year plan is to grow by 30% annually and see where we go from there. Now, the priority is to maintain a steady ship in these uncertain times.”
The covid-19 pandemic this year has brought mixed emotions for the company. “Like most businesses are experiencing there have been challenges. Some of our clients have done well out of this situation and have seen their business expand over the last few months. Others have not been so lucky especially our clients in the hospitality sector. Generally, businesses are careful about spending money and this has affected key IT spend. When the March lockdown started business slowed down but from July we have been recovering and are operating at 80% of our capacity. We added 3 customers in the last 3 months.”
“There are other IT Support companies out there offering similar services. We collaborate with them or refer work to each other, so we know them well. However, we bring a combined 121-year collective IT experience to any client we work with. We put a lot of time and effort into our frontline team so that they are responsive. In addition, we monitor your domain for mentions in the dark web and prevent any threats that may come up. These online threats and attacks keep evolving and the attackers continue to change strategies. Our team are on top of this.”
If you are running a business in London, Herts, Bucks or Beds, you could use the bespoke IT Support Services on offer from Network & Security Ltd. You can contact them here.
MK Gardening Services Ltd provides reliable professional gardening services to residential customers across Hertfordshire, North West London, and the Home Counties. The company offers lawncare services, landscaping, planting, maintenance and treats Japanese Knotweed amongst others. The founder Mark King spoke to Herts Review about his business journey.
The Bushey based company started operations 32 years ago. “My background is in the building trade as I was particularly good with my hands. I was working for Black Cherry Garden Services as a foreman but was getting a lot of private jobs which I did at my spare time mainly at weekends. It got to the point that I had so many jobs, could not work all weekends, and had to turn away a few jobs. After a while I took the plunge and started working in a self-employed capacity”.
“I have done a lot of training to develop my skills. I have an NVQ in gardening and completed a course on Japanese Knotweed. A lot of people misunderstand Japanese Knotweed. It was introduced in the 1800’s as a garden plant but has spread across the UK due to its resilient nature. We are professional specialists in Japanese Knotweed and can remove it safely. It is not toxic but can grow back again so you need professional help for it to be managed properly”.
MK Gardening Services Ltd have a team of 5 providing gardening services to high-end residential customers in Hertfordshire and surrounding areas. “We are a family business. My stepson and daughter’s boyfriend are part of the team. I think I may have employed over 60 people since I started this business. Having people working for me can be challenging as I have extremely high standards. So sometimes it has not worked out in the past, but I have learnt a lot over the years. I am now more use to it, so it is good to have the team we have right now. We work well together, and I am extremely proud of them”.
The client base continued to grow over the years. MK Gardening Services is now an established gardening company with a solid customer base, but it took a while for it all to come together. “I suppose as a business you start off taking any work you can get. After a while you figure out some clients you really enjoy working for. I think we are okay now. We have our own niche of customers we focus on. Networking has really helped our business. Some of the best customers have come through recommendations from my network group. So, we are pretty pleased.”
It has been a mixed year for Mark. Despite the covid-19 pandemic, it has been an incredibly busy year for his company but personally it has been a bit challenging. “As work is outside the house we have carried on working. I have had only one day off since March. I suppose with lots of people at home, they want their homes to look better so we have had a constant stream of work. On a personal level my wife has not been very well, but I am glad she is getting better. Touch wood everything will be fine”.
Mark believes that MK Gardening Services is different from other gardening service companies because he and his team have mastered the art of planting. “There are not many other gardeners that understand planting. Planting is a unique skill. It requires a bit of thought and design. I have seen so many projects where plants are just placed indiscriminately. They have not understood patterns or colours. It is really a sad sight. From my training and practice, the team and I have created some beautiful gardens as part of our portfolio. The feedback has been wonderful as well”
“In addition, we are dedicated conscientious workers. We do an excellent job when we take on any project. A lot of our jobs come through recommendations from my network and from customers I have done work for. I have not had to do much advertising and we have enough work for the team. I prefer our small team with our personalised approach. I have tried in the past to have a bigger team, but it didn’t work out. You lose that personal relationship with customers and standards may drop. For me that is unacceptable”
“We want to remain a medium sized company. Possibly add one more employee and a van. That should be okay for now”.
Contact Mark and the team if you have any issues with Japanese Knotweed or if you need their excellent gardening services here.
CLPM Ltd – Contract Management Services That Helps You Build Better and Smarter While Saving You Time, Stress & Money
Have you got a building project you are trying to get off the ground? Do you have to manage architects, interior designers, tree specialist, builders, and various sub-contractors? Are there firm contractual agreements with each vendor including milestones and payment options? If you are struggling with all of the above and more then you need an experienced independent Contract Administrator like CLPM Ltd.
CLPM is a Hertfordshire based independent construction management consultancy that helps its clients build better properties by organising the entire process. From project conception through planning to the actual build, CLPM can take away all the stress by project managing the entire process so that you get the desired outcomes. The consultancy specialises in residential property construction projects like house extensions, renovations, refurbishments, or self-build projects.
Construction is a complicated technical industry. It is a process that is not well understood by many. So many people have had issues or lost money while involved in building projects. Communication, basic knowledge, and transparency are some of the keys to getting it right. This is where CLPM comes in. Nicky Bryden, Business Development Director spoke with Herts Review about their business and aspirations.
CLPM was formed from a merger of two independent construction management consultancies – ClearPlan Project Management and Charlie Laing Ltd in 2014. ClearPlan Project Management was a family business set up by Nicky and her husband James Bryden 10 years ago while Charlie Laing was set up 13 years ago. Both consultancies were operating independently but referring work to each other as they covered separate areas.
“James has a background in civil engineering and has managed many large commercial construction projects. Together we set up ClearPlan Project Management as we could see a gap in the market for supporting people through the process. As we referred jobs and shared knowledge with Charlie, we realised that we shared the same ethics and values and thought it might be better to merge our operations thereby creating a broad skill base and size that will help our growth plan. We are still privately owned and the three of us are directors of CLPM”.
“We actually started the business after listening to some horror stories of some of our friends that had embarked on home improvement or self-build projects. These were well-educated people with senior managerial positions in some of the biggest companies in the world. However, they would have a builder or subcontractor working for them with no contracts or agreements in place, handing over large amounts of money with no understanding of what they were getting in return. It was really astonishing. The construction process can be long and drawn out and not everyone has the time and the capacity to see it through. This is where we come in serving as that bridge between the client and other members of the project team”.
CLPM streamlines your construction journey by helping you build smart (i.e. getting competitive builder quotes, costings, and the right outcome) and build sustainably (i.e. being more energy efficient and using eco-friendly products were possible). The consultancy provides Contract Administration (managing your project), Quantity Surveying services, Energy Efficiency and Heating Advice. CLPM has a team of 23 including 8 project managers that are field based supporting clients in residential and commercial projects across London, Gloucester, Birmingham, and the Home Counties.
“The project managers are highly skilled and experienced. On average they have between 20 to 40 years’ experience. That is a lot of knowledge and expertise. Our Quantity Surveying teams do cost estimates, tendering, appointing contractors, the cost side of Contract Administration (the Project Managers take care of the site visiting side), cost reporting and project monitoring. We are a dynamic company and can work with a client from inception or at any stage of the project. On occasions we have been involved in rescue projects where designs are completed, building work on-going but something has gone wrong and we resolve issues with the builder and get the project to the finishing line. We also offer one-off services e.g. a client may just need a project cost estimate and nothing else”.
“Our building projects range from £150,000 to £5m. Usually we start working with a client once they have a basic outline or design. We help them with costing, the tendering process and identifying the right people for the job. For a successful project, you need the right people, at the right price, delivering the right quality at the right time. We advise that if you are embarking on a project, design work needs to be started at least a year before as there is a lot to do before building starts”.
CLPM take pride in their role as independent Contract Administrators. “There are some firms offering contract administration services. Most have preferred builders they refer work to. There can be a conflict of interest if they are using their preferred builder. Will they challenge them enough if things are not going well? We are independent with no relationship with other parties and our loyalty is to our client (the homeowner). We work with architects, interior designers, builders and subcontractors but our mandate is for all parties to adhere to a contract and act in a fair and equitable manner”.
“On face value our service may be seen as an extra cost for a building project. However, once we take you through the process and you see the savings you realise from cost estimates, tendering, limiting any errors in the process you actually recoup our fees and more. We also provide a guide price from speaking to various vendors and our experience of knowing what a service should cost. Our guide price alone can mean thousands in savings”.
“What you get with us is a reassurance that you are getting value for money. A reassurance that you are not spending more than you need to. You will know when to spend and when not to. Milestones are verified to see if they have been achieved. We inspect building works to ensure they comply with the design. Our objective is to help you through the entire process so that you have a successful project”.
The CLPM team are also building project management experts for Grand Designs Live, a television series on Channel 4 focusing on homebuilding projects and Build It Live, a self-build and home renovating exhibition. They present project management courses on behalf of the Self Build Centre in Swindon (NSBRC) and discuss a range of topical construction related issues with other industry specialists.
“As a country there is this heritage about owning your own home, but we need a lot of education on the construction process. Unfortunately, there are lot of TV shows on home building which makes the process seem simple and inexpensive. Construction is not easy. Having basic knowledge is really important. As a company we are putting out free instructional videos on our YouTube channel to help with the education process”
“We are also innovating. In the past our services have been bounded by geography. While some of our services still require our physical presence, we are also offering virtual support services to cover areas remote from our Hertfordshire base. For instance, we can do virtual heating or site monitoring surveys, weekly check-ups and provide cost estimates. This means our clients get more access, knowledge and support needed for a project. It also means we can work with anyone across the UK”.
If you are thinking of a building project and you need advice, help getting the correct specification, cost estimates from builders that make sense or you just need your project to go as smoothly as possible reach out to the team at CLPM here.
Athena Stonecare Ltd – Specialists in Natural Stone Restoration That Gives Your Property That Flawless Look
Athena Stonecare Ltd are specialists in treatments for all types of natural stone so that they retain their beauty and enjoy that stunning, long lasting appeal. Their services include cleaning, sealing, polishing, and maintaining all kinds of natural and man-made stone in residential and commercial properties. The family business is run by husband and wife team of Dave and Becca Cranfield. Herts Review spoke to Director and Co-Owner Becca about their business journey and their goals for the next few years.
“We are stone care restoration professionals. As certified specialists we restore and maintain marble, granite, travertine, limestone, slate, sandstone, terracotta and others. We work on floors, kitchen worktops, walls, patios, and paved terraces. We can remove watermarks, take away scratches, resurface a top layer of stone, polish and shine stones that are looking dull. Most of our work has been in high-end properties, luxury homes and estates. We have done some commercial projects working in offices and high-end retail units amongst others”
“We have seen lots of people with damaged natural stone in their properties because they did not take good care of it or they got the wrong advice. Natural stone is an investment that transforms your house and makes it look beautiful. Therefore, it needs to be cared for correctly. I give examples with cars. I have a Kia which I service at any garage and take to any car wash. I wouldn’t do the same if I had a Ferrari. If I had a fault with my Ferrari, I would go to a Ferrari main dealer to get the right care otherwise I could ruin an expensive car. To care for your natural stone, speak to qualified experts”.
“Our goal is to continue educating people about caring for their natural stone. We know some natural stone owners try some home remedies or are advised to use the wrong products. These are costly errors. We understand there is a lack of information and we are putting this right by providing free natural stone aftercare advice and guidance through our YouTube channel and other social media platforms. I think our message is resonating as we are seeing more clients with a vested interest to have their natural stone looking maintained and looking beautiful”.
Athena Stonecare has been going strong for the last 8 years. The Buckinghamshire based company was established in January 2012 by Dave Cranfield as sole employee and director. “Dave had been running the business on his own until I joined 2 years ago. We have been working alongside each other. I joined to help grow and expand the business while Dave spends most of his time on the frontline delivering our services to our clients. We have added a Stone Care Assistant to support the team as we expand. I handle the other operational aspects of the business including Marketing, People Management, Finance and General Administration”.
Stones go with trends. Recently there has been a resurgence in the use of natural stone which is working well for the business. “It is really great for us to be honest. Natural stone is seen as sustainable and environmentally friendly too. It has lower environmental impact compared to other floor coverings. We are really passionate about natural stone restoration and are deeply committed to working with our clients to enjoy their investment”
Customer satisfaction is very important to Becca and the team. There are many wonderful reviews online that confirm the team are pretty good at what they do. “I think the differentiating factor is that other companies offer multiple services including natural stone restoration. For us this is our focus and we use the best natural stone restoration techniques, tools, and processes. We have expensive machinery that does high extensive restoration. We offer personalised services and everything we do is professional – our team are trained in our way of doing things, everyone has branded outfits etc. We are happy with the excellent customer feedback”.
As most businesses experienced, enquiries for stone care services slowed during the first covid-19 lockdown. “We did feel the impact of the first lockdown. We had to furlough our employee. However, business has picked up since July and we have been busy. We have tried to keep in touch with clients knowing how sensitive the situation has been. We work safely abiding by government social distancing guidelines. We use PPE, sanitizers and disinfect on each project. The safety of our team and clients is very important”.
Athena Stonecare has ambitious plans. “Obviously, the short-term target is to get through the uncertainty we have now. While we see the challenges, we are really excited about the opportunities. It is as if a fire has been lighted in our bellies. We would like to add more people to the team in the next 12 months and train them in our ways of working to maintain our service standards. Dave has so much to give the business from a strategic point of view, so I have to find a way to get him more involved in the office as we firm up our expansion plans.
Have a look at some of the before and after images here to get a test of what they do. If you have natural stone and are unsure of what to do or there are scratches or watermarks on your natural stone or it is looking dull and you need restoration or maintenance services, then contact the team here.
Are you a business owner struggling to feel vacancies in your company? Are you overwhelmed by the number of CVs for a role in your business as the unemployment rates hit an all time high? Are you a candidate looking at a career change or for your next role? May be it is time to speak to EC Appointments. EC Appointments Ltd is a Watford based independent recruitment consultancy that has just opened for business. Herts Review caught up with the founder Elizabeth “Liz” Chapman to talk about her new consultancy and aspirations.
“My mission is to help business owners find the right candidates for the roles they need filling and to help candidates as much as I can to get them the right job or position. We must never take for granted the needs of employers or candidates. For an employer, a bad candidate could cost them a lot of money or even ruin their business. For candidates that job gives them an opportunity to earn a living, feed their family and improve their mental health. It is really a very delicate position to be in but I am up for the challenge”.
Liz has over 30 years’ experience in HR and recruitment. She started her career in HR roles in a multinational company where she was involved all aspects of recruitment, training and personal development rising to senior roles in the Head office. Seven years later she moved to an independent recruitment consultancy where she worked with several SMEs and global corporations placing fixed, temporary and interim candidates in roles.
“It has been quite a journey for me. I had HR Managerial roles which broadened my skills and experience in all aspects of managing people and I have been involved in a recruitment consultancy placing both junior and senior candidates. I have seen both sides. I think I just got to the point where I want to challenge myself a bit more, do things differently and be responsible for every decision I make”.
“I know recruitment gets a bad rap. I will hold my hands up and say some of our colleagues have not helped the image of the profession. They have focused on the wrong things. Some think it is a way of making quick money. They do not build relationships or think of the future. I have listened to employers and candidates talk about what other agencies have put them through. It is not good. I want to bring a refreshing change for candidates and employers. I want to build long term relationships with my clients and candidates. I am not here just for the now”.
EC Appointments supplies high calibre candidates for Permanent and Fixed Term Contract vacancies from Junior to Senior Management across all industries. The agency focuses on head office roles – Finance, Customer Service, IT, Sales & Marketing, Administration and Operations for local and global businesses. “I want to create a culture so that our clients see us as approachable. What we do is sensitive and my strategy is to offer a personalised service to each client. Before we take on any client we would have researched their company and industry extensively so that we are qualified to talk to candidates”
“Interviews are seen as difficult and tense periods for most candidates which is understandable as there is a lot riding on that one meeting. While we are not running an interview coaching service, I think I can use my experience to create a more relaxed approach to the process. A major feedback we get from candidates on recruitment agencies is that they never get back to you. I do not promise that I can make everyone happy but I will be straight with you and communicate whether it is good or bad news”
In the middle of a pretty bad pandemic why take the plunge to start your own agency with all the uncertainty? Why leave the security of a job to start your own agency? “I think this period working from home has given me the opportunity to evaluate. To think of what I want to do and how I see the future. My question is why not now? We are in a very challenging time. Lots of people are out of work. It is an opportunity to help people back into work. We know that being unemployed affects self-esteem, pride etc. I believe I can use my skills and experience to help a lot people”.
“I am a genuinely nice person. Someone that really cares. Anyone can speak to people I have worked with or had relationships with over the years. I am in no way a pushy sales person. Recruitment is a people business. I would never make a promise I can’t keep. It is time to bring back empathy and care into what we do. My goal is to be out there helping businesses with their staffing solutions so they can run their business and helping candidates back to work”
“I tell everyone that although EC is my initials it also means Employer and Candidate which are the key to anything we do. I think everything I have done in the past has been for a time like this. It is an opportunity for me to work independently and demonstrate that I can do this. I am excited and looking forward to the challenge”
If you are an employer in London or the Home Counties or a candidate looking for your next position contact firstname.lastname@example.org.