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Building Dribuild: lessons learned

2018 sees us celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Dribuild, a company I am extremely proud to have grown from nothing into a successful business. In light of our Big 1-0, I reflect on our journey to this point, and how a fledgling company from dingy basement-office beginnings managed to ride the storm of the recession and thrive beyond it.

Humble beginnings

Setting up on my own, I was not exactly equipped with all of the trappings of a successful business. But then again, I never expected to grow into a multi-million business on that first day back in April 2008.

Things moved quickly in the beginning, and when Dave Kipling joined me as director in the August, things began to get exciting. We started out as a sub-contractor for large construction companies. The team were working their socks off to win contracts, and our delivery and staff reputation became well known, and soon meant we had £2.5m worth of work!

Our success continued into 2009, picking up major contracts, clearly people were starting to hear about us. In light of this, we began looking for a new office to accommodate our forward plans.

But…

Then the recession tightened its grip and started hitting us, as it did for most companies anywhere near the construction industry. It became tougher to get paid and tougher to borrow money.  In reality we just had to take each day as it came.

One particular client went into administration at this time and the impact on us was huge; it left us with a £300k hole in our pockets. This obviously had a knock-on impact on our supply chain too. There was nothing to do but knuckle down, tighten our belts and try to ride it out.

The two years that followed were tough with tight margins and unpredictable cashflow, but we managed to trade through it.

We quickly realised that Dribuild needed to change. It was time to evolve and forge ourselves a brighter future.  We set out for investment, growth, and a whole new team to transform our business.

 A new era

Our managing director, Matt Tyler joined us in 2012 and that’s when things really started to change. He brought with him fresh ideas, innovative thinking and a wealth of experience in main contracting.  grew the team and created a future proof structure enabling us to start working for blue-chip clients across a whole variety of sectors. Our reputation for quality and efficiency grew along with a loyal customer base of returning customers.

This was truly the turning point for Dribuild, a decision that made us who we are today – a leading construction partner and developer working across the UK on projects up to £10m in value.

What started as a team of one, an idea in my head, has now grown into over 70 permanent employees. We employ the best people and have one of the most recognisable brands in the industry.

A real high point last year was reaching 485th in the Sunday Times top 100 fastest growing companies in Europe!

A bright future

We’ve grown 25% each year over the last five years and we’re not stopping there. We have ambitious plans to continue growing over the next 10 years. Our 10-year birthday coincides with launching our new business plan where we already have 60% of work secured so we really are flying high. Our Manchester team are fully up and running in a city and region that is truly booming.

Lessons learned

It would be remiss for any business owner not to reflect on the bad times along with the good, and at landmark anniversaries such as this, it seems poignant to consider what I have learned from a decade of Dribuild.

I think that, honestly, my number one lesson has been that running a successful business requires adaptability and perseverance. When times were tough we knew that things needed to change to create a more robust business model. The ability to adapt to new ideas and embrace new technologies (I have written previously about the future of robotics in the construction industry), is vital for any business owner, especially in construction!

To the next ten…

It has certainly not all been rosy, reaching ten years old. However, we have learnt lessons, adapted, and grown into a strong, reputable business. Although the imminence of Brexit and developing technologies are making the next decade of the construction industry hard to predict, we are choosing to embrace the positives, and keep working hard as we always have!

All in all, it has been a great ten years, and I’m very much looking forward to the next ten!

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