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Abbey Pynford – Built on solid foundations

Since its creation in 1988 Abbey Pynford has built its reputation on providing high quality and innovative underpinning services, an approach that over the years has seen the Group grow strongly throughout the South East of England. The same high standards have also been apparent in the Abbey Pynford Geo Structures Company, which recently celebrated its second year of operation and has already been gaining industry award recognition due to its outstanding work.

“The Geo Structures operation was created to offer a focused underpinning and basement service as a consulting contractor with the same core principals of integrity, honesty and flair for innovation that Abbey Pynford has become renowned for,” explains Lewis O’Connor, Managing Director. “In addition we’ve ensured that the theme of robust health and safety management practices are built into everything we do.”

This ethos was recently reflected in a nomination in the Construction News Specialist Awards 2015 within the Ground Engineering Specialist of the Year category. “The positive feedback we’ve been receiving is why we felt that it would be worthwhile to put ourselves out there by entering the awards and it’s not often in our industry that you gain this kind of conspicuous recognition from your peers,” adds Mr O’Connor. “It’s even more important to us because we’ve only just completed our second year of trading as a company so it’s a clear demonstration of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.”

As for how the Geo Structures Company has been able to hit the ground running so successfully, Mr O’Connor believes youthful exuberance coupled with the experience of the wider company has been a fruitful formula. “We’re a young team and even though we’ve got two guys in their early 60s the average age of the team is still only 31 as the majority are in their 20s. We’re therefore very much of the mindset that there isn’t anything that can’t be done provided we work as a team and put the maximum effort in. We’ve also been keen to empower everybody in the team to be part of the decision-making process; it’s certainly not a dictatorial working environment and every job is owned by all members of the team. This ethos has enabled us to achieve much more than what might have otherwise been possible and has allowed us to quickly overcome any hurdles that may occur, particularly in terms of thinking outside of the normal constraints. We share all the problems just as we share the successes.”

“From my point of view as Managing Director I strongly believe in creating a role to suit the individual rather than finding an individual to suit the role. This means that we’ve got everybody working to their strengths and focusing on that rather than trying to perform aspects of a role that they’re perhaps not as good at merely because it’s part of their job description. This kind of free-thinking and open-mindedness has enabled us to achieve so much more than if we’d taken a more traditional approach.”

“The positive feedback we’ve been receiving is why we felt that it would be worthwhile to put ourselves out there by entering the awards and it’s not often in our industry that you gain this kind of conspicuous recognition from your peers. It’s even more important to us because we’ve only just completed our second year of trading as a company so it’s a clear demonstration of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.”

Lewis O’Connor, Managing Director

Despite having a huge amount to be positive about there have been a number of challenges that Geo Structures has had to contend with, particularly with regards to increased levels in competition. “In the last few years there’s been an influx of companies into the London refurbishment sector that had not traditionally operated in the area, in addition to larger firms targeting smaller value jobs. As a consequence competition for projects has increased significantly. To counter this we’ve looked to move into niche areas and provide a tailored service to likeminded companies that have the same expectations of high standards regarding quality, health and safety.”

This approach has seen a number of prestigious projects secured including a two storey retrofit basement development underneath a six-storey townhouse in Knightsbridge requiring state of the art geotechnical engineering to stabilise excavations below ground water level as well as projects to lift buildings 1.5m above their foundations on jacks to rebuild them above flood levels. “We have the capabilities to carry out both retrofits and underpinning projects and all of the ground engineering work in-between. The emphasis I have placed on the team is to capitalise on this diversity to maximise the projects that we take on.”

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“The main aims for 2015 are to consolidate our 63 per cent growth last year and deliver more development of our resources. In 2014 we invested significantly in training with an 84 per cent increase in expenditure from the previous year. To put this into perspective, in 2013 the business had 35 training days, whereas last year we had 175. This coming year we have planned 250; so investment in the development of our team, both onsite and in the office, will continue to be a major area of concentration. We will also be making sure that we raise the base competency threshold for health and safety from everybody on site.

“One of the potential limiters on growth for us is skills shortage, so we are organically developing the skills and the individuals that we’ve got, which is reflected in our training plan. We’re committed to maintaining the quality of our product so our focus is to enhance our capabilities this year to enable sustainable growth next year without undermining our core principals. At the same time we’re also investing in the development of our health and safety management procedures to maintain the progress we’ve made in this area.”

With such a wide-ranging and forward-thinking approach it is easy to see how the award nomination was achieved and it will continue to set the business in good stead moving forward.