A recent restructure, a concerted push into modern methods of construction, and a solid balance sheet form the bedrock of the construction company’s growth plans, according to Paul Dodsworth, managing director for the North.
The restructure saw the creation of four regional companies to drive Wates Construction’s ambition to grow by 30% over five years.
The firm’s Northern division was the model for the company’s wider rethink and as a result little has changed in its day-to-day running.
“We’ve reset the rest of the other regions to mirror how it’s [always] worked in the North,” Dodsworth said. “So, for once, the North is taking the lead over the South in terms of structure.”
With the restructure done and dusted, Place North West sat down with Dodsworth to see what the future has in store for Wates.
Modern methods of construction
The company plans to continue to make inroads into the field of MMC, an area it has specialised in over recent years.
The company is on the Department for Education’s £3bn MMC schools framework alongside Bowmer & Kirkland, Caledonian Modular, Elliott Group and Laing O’Rourke.
So far, the framework has been fruitful for Wates.
“We’ve got six new schools to start in the North West. We are really leading the way in terms of MMC and net zero new schools,” Dodsworth said.
As MMC’s profile grows amid the push for sustainable buildings, Wates’s move into that area has been a “conscious effort”, he added.
“We’ve been on this journey for a long while and not everybody’s on that journey or as far along as we are.
“[MMC] can be used on any project and it is really about applying your mind to how much we can do away from the construction site.”
Dodsworth is clear that traditional construction will not die, no matter how popular MMC becomes, but he thinks it could go some way to allowing companies to swerve the skill shortages rearing their heads after Brexit by providing “more certainty” to the construction process.
The skill shortage is not the only issue currently facing construction, though.
The prices of core products, including concrete and steel, have skyrocketed in recent months, and companies with good relationships with their supply chains find themselves weathering the storm better than others.
“We’re not feeling it quite like some of our competitors,” Dodsworth said.
“We’ve always been fair with our supply chain, we pay them on time, and we look after them, which is super important.”
Dodsworth puts the rising prices down to several factors including Brexit and the creation of HS2, but he is hopeful the tide might turn by the end of the year.
“The price of steel is all over the place at the moment. It changes by the hour not the day but we think it will plateau out by Q4.”
While the construction industry continues to weather that particular storm, Wates is confident that its measured approach to business will stand the company in good stead moving forward.
“We are a family-owned business, there isn’t a shareholder drive. And to be fair, the family would rather us not chase work if it is not a good opportunity for us,” Dodsworth said.
“People would die for a balance sheet like Wates’s. And it’s been created through being careful. We don’t want growth just for the sake of it.”