Given that Musselburgh-based HM Raitt & Sons Ltd was recently nominated for not one but two Scottish Home Awards for the quality of its workmanship and its service, it is easy to see how the company has managed to chalk up 110 years of operation.
“My Great-Grandfather, Hugh Mitchell Raitt, started the company in 1908 with his two sons and it has remained a family run business ever since,” explains Alastair Raitt, Managing Director. “Down the years we have done pretty much everything. After starting out life as a joiner, cabinet maker and undertaker, we increasingly began to concentrate on construction. In the 1990s we took on a growing number of period restoration projects, working for the likes of Historic Scotland, the Church of Scotland and the National Trust. At this time, we were involved in a number of prestigious developments, such as Edinburgh Castle and the original Parliament building. Unfortunately, the recession curtailed much of this type of work so we diversified into commercial and Edinburgh University-related projects. In time we got to a point where we were doing an equal amount of commercial contracts and sympathetic restorations of high value properties in Edinburgh, as well as extensions, which in turn has led to our current situation where we’ve moved into new builds.”
Nearly 30 employees support the diverse range of HM Raitt’s activities with the company preferring to focus on Edinburgh and the Lothians. Although it ultimately just missed on winning either of the Scottish Home Awards it was put forward for this year, being nominated demonstrates the level of quality the company is operating at. “For a small local company that doesn’t really advertise it was really nice to be recognised, particularly as we were in competition with much larger, national operators,” adds Mr Raitt. “Being shortlisted was an achievement in itself, so we were more than happy just to be in the running.”
HM Raitt was up for Renovation of the Year (Single Dwelling) for its work at Moray Place, Edinburgh, as well as the Customer Service Excellence Award. So what was the key element to its double nomination?
“Most of it is down to the workforce, because they are a great bunch who take pride in what they do,” outlines Mr Raitt. “I like to think that we are quite an inclusive firm and have regular days out as a company, which has helped to create a real family feel to the business. Around 80 per cent of the team served their apprenticeships here or have been here for a very long time. One of our directors actually started off here as an apprentice joiner, which underlines the continuity we have and the fact that we’re willing to support our staff and reward them for their efforts. This has helped produce a culture where everyone takes pride in their work.
“In terms of the Moray Place project that was put forward for the Renovation of the Year (Single Dwelling) Award, it was particularly sensitive in nature due to its location, age and style of property and limiting factors of the site itself. We had to excavate and move over over 600 cbm of arisings through the basement and away in skips, dismantle and reassemble a piling rig through the sub basement and manhandle tonnes of steel down stairs and through confined spaces, all by hand. A sub basement master and en-suite were constructed on the piled foundations and a patio area was formed above, with access from the new kitchen and restored living room.”
The success of the project and the commitment that HM Raitt demonstrated to overcoming the challenges involved is typical of the company’s approach. As there is a growing desire for people to renovate their existing properties due to the market climate and the impact of Stamp Duty, it is currently making the most of its skills on a growing number of similar projects. It is also picking up more new build developments, as these don’t have Stamp Duty attached.
“Moving forward we’re striving to keep going the way that we’ve been going to achieve sustainable growth that allows us to maintain the standards of service and quality that we’ve become known for,” concludes Mr Raitt. “We’ve done a couple of small initiatives to mark the 110th anniversary, such as updating the website for example, but to be honest we’re more focused on continuing to invest in the business and our workforce to ensure that we keep progressing as we have done.”
As this formula has proven so successful in the past, HM Raitt can look forward to building on its already impressive history in the years ahead.