20th Dec 2019
It might be December, but we’re not slowing down any time soon. With a number of new employees joining us over the year, within both S&C Slatter and White Horse, we’ve recently been joined by yet another new addition to the team, Simon Bradbury!
Simon joins the company with over 20 years’ experience in the car park and civils trade, and will be heading up our surfacing and civils department.
Bringing with him such a wealth of knowledge, we couldn’t help but check in with Simon for quick Q&A to hear more about his experience and get his expert opinion on the state of the industry.
They’ve been good! I’ve been meeting a whole bunch of new people which has been fun, everyone here is really friendly. There’s a modern outlook compared to the last company I worked for, I’ve seen a much more proactive approach than what I’m used to which is good, it’s what you need to be successful. It has been a little difficult getting used to new systems though! Early days, but one job in already.
Yes, completed last Friday. An enquiry came through for a rear service road at a school in Banbury. It was finished by another company but the school thought it was too untidy, so I went to have a look at it, talked through the solution – which we implemented, and it’s all completed – done and dusted!
I have over 20 years’ experience in the surfacing and civils trade. I’ve been in the business for a long, long time, my initial training was getting stuck in driving, learning about the industry from site. This was part of the management training program at the time, you had to be out for 6-9 months working, which was a very useful experience. It allows you to know exactly what you’re talking about and gain the respect of the people on site. I’ve developed that over the years, from supervising work, undertaking contract management work and running sites. I progressed to estimating and selling the work, then to running teams and bringing work into the business.
I’ve worked in all sorts of areas, across commercial, private, estate, agricultural works, business centres, shopping centres etc. Those are my specialist areas, with all aspects from initial site survey through to build including civils, drainage – the whole package!
S&C Slatter is primarily known for sports construction, but there’s normally always surfacing and civils involved alongside any sports builds. Whether it be footways accessing new facilities, car parks, access roads etc. it’s something that S&C Slatter already do, but it’s not something we’ve really been pushing, which is why I’ve been brought in, as it’s my area of expertise.
My goal is to make sure there are enquiries coming in specifically for this side of the business, I’ve got a good understanding of how I need to be proactive and look forward to expanding this area, as there are very few companies out there that can offer this ‘one stop shop’ solution of design, planning, sports construction and the civils that go alongside it. My aim is to grow the department beyond the current success in sporting civils, into the areas I have strong experience with like business centres, developers, architects and so on.
There has been big improvement in terms of manufacturing methods and practices, everyone is developing and learning all the time. There are different products coming out which make the construction of car parks for example a lot easier. There are all sorts of cellular products now for stabilisation, which is greatly improving in that area.
There are a lot of environmentally friendly products that are used now, as well as sustainable drainage systems and recycled products, which weren’t used before. With tarmac for example, a lot of the product which is removed from the roads is now crushed up and reused to produce new tarmac, which before was just dumped in landfill sites. This has a massive environmental impact.
One thing I have noticed anecdotally is the change in customer perception and loyalty within the industry. Clients are understandingly looking for more insurances and reassurances, a lot of which I think comes down to the growing importance of price. Sadly, because the industry is quite bespoke, there are a lot of ‘cowboys’ out there capitalising on this and generating a stigma within the industry, which can cause everyone to be tarred with the same brush (excuse the pun!). A strong reputation is required to overcome this, which S&C Slatter thankfully has.
Environmental issues are huge at the moment. People are really keen on that, particularly on the recycling side. So, anything we can do to keep up with technology and anything we can do to aid that and introduce to the client we will do. ‘Environmentally friendly’ are the two key words moving forward.
Recyclable materials, plastics, concretes – introducing these into new builds is good for the environment and can often even save customers money. Sometimes it’s a case of putting things in practice and proving to the customer that new alternatives are the best route forward. For example there are new kerbs, such as ‘Durakerbs’ that can be produced out of recycled plastic. They’re lightweight, which is useful for health and safety on site, you can lay 4x the amount in one day and they have the same strength as normal kerbs once put together. It’s just a case of changing mindsets, kerbs don’t have to be made of concrete!
Some of the most common needs for civils work are to make roads more user friendly, expand facilities to accommodate more visitors or staff, finding ways to utilise space and updating old roads that aren’t fit for purpose.
Normally it’s a case of ‘what’s currently working isn’t working’, however culture is changing too. Fitness for example is becoming increasingly important in business, so businesses are having to think about introducing fitness trails around business parks to improve employee wellbeing. The question customers come to us to answer is “How can we make this work?” we work to understand their requirements and design a solution.
Beyond this, finance is always a big challenge for private individuals. Compromise is often needed to fit expectations of what is achievable on any given budget.
Ensuring strong product knowledge, keeping up to date with the latest technologies and practices – and adapting to these. A key thing with civils is understanding layouts, what is and isn’t achievable. I think for many contractors too it’s a case of ensuring strong communication with clients, which can be difficult with new processes – and contractors should never bite off more than they can chew. But from what I can see S&C Slatter won’t have a problem with that!
Talking to Ben actually! [Ben O’Connor, Commercial Manager] I used to work with Ben at my previous company, so I spoke with him about heading up the Surfacing and Civils side here. I had a look into the company, then I spoke with Jason [Jason Douglass, Group Commercial Director]. After that I thought: it’s a challenge I want to take, an up and coming department, proactive, friendly bunch, let’s go for it!
My advice would be to outline exactly what you want, and what you want to use it for. Figure out your exact requirements, ask: who will be using it, does it need to be purely functional, or do you also want it to be designed in a different or attractive way, what environmental concerns do you want to address?
Think about your budget. There’s no harm in telling a company even roughly what your budget is, as if they know both what you want and what your budget is, they can provide an informed specification to try and address your needs.
It’s also worth looking at projections in terms of what you might need in the future, as enabling works could also be carried out to aid future development (e.g. further expansion).
Remember to consider health and safety. For example, have a look at your current car park, does it meet health and safety standards? If a car park is poorly designed there is greater risk for both pedestrians and vehicles getting into scrapes. Likewise with poor surfaces, where there’s risk of people tripping. In the ‘suing’ culture, you’ll want to ensure that you’re covered.
I’m a big rugby fan, my team is Windsor RFC. I play golf with my wife, enjoy socialising with friends, dinners, holidays with my family and taking our black lab Nora for a walk. The cat is less important…!
A huge thank you to Simon for letting us pick his brains. Welcome to the team!