June 29, 2022

Emery Brothers Ltd – Diamond celebrations as 75-year landmark reached

Innovation has been at the heart of Emery Brothers Ltd‘s operation since its creation, which has allowed it to continually progress and develop into the entity it is today. Now all the years of hard work are being celebrated as the company marks its 75th anniversary.

“The business was founded in 1947 by my grandfather and his two brothers shortly after the Second World War,” explains Julian Emery, Joint Managing Director. “They had various careers, including masonry and carpentry, and decided to join forces in order to set up a small company to assist in repairing buildings that had suffered war damage. The three brothers ran the business until 1972 when my father took it over.”

New build houses in Henrietta Gardens, Bath

Operating as a local building contractor, the business gradually expanded throughout the 1980s, increasing its workforce to around 20 people, and the multi-generational connection continued during this period, as Julian points out: “My brother Simon joined the company in the mid-1980s and I joined him in 1995 after having spent 11 years as a Site Agent managing projects in the South-West for Ernest Ireland Construction. When our father retired, myself and Simon took over the running of the business as Joint Managing Directors.

“My brother has since retired so I’ve been in sole control. My son Felix is now involved too, making him the fourth generation of the Emery family to be a member of the company, along with my son-in-law, Ieuan, so we’re hopeful that they will grasp the baton and take the business forward in the longer term.”

This stability and the strong family values that have been instilled into Emery have allowed it to maintain its forward momentum over the years. It now has 100 employees supporting its activities from its base in Bath, from where it is able to cover a significant area across the south-west encompassing Chippenham, Trowbridge and Bristol. 

Providing a flavour of the type of work that Emery has been tackling in recent years, notable contracts include the Bath Abbey Footprint Project, which involved the overhaul and extension of the abbey’s facilities, including the installation of underfloor heating throughout the building. This required the lifting up and relaying of the historic floor. The scheme also included monitoring of the connection of an innovative heat exchange system that has been used for the underfloor heating.

Also within Bath, the company has been working on a project at the Indigo Hotel, which involves the extension of nine bedrooms and staff facilities out into historic Georgian vaults that branch out underneath the city’s pavements, as well as the development of the House of St Johns, a Grade I Listed building home to a variety of private offices, dedicated desks, meeting rooms and event space.

Office refurbishment project at Greenways Chippenham

Elsewhere, Emery has just finished the development of a business cyber centre for Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. Based at the Greenways Business Park in Chippenham, the building consists of 21,000 sq ft across three floors with space to rent specifically for cyber companies, a conference facility with a capacity for 140 people, other meeting rooms for hire, a desk-for-hire space on the ground floor opposite a large café and space for evening events.    

As these broad-ranging projects show, Emery has the capabilities and resources to tackle a wide diversity of contracts.

“We’re able to target the vast majority areas of work, as long as it is in our geographical area,” outlines Julian. “We tend to focus on conversions and refurbishments of historic buildings or higher end new builds, such as large one-off houses that are sometimes worth in excess of £1m. These require more skills and an increased level of input than is required in the construction of smaller buildings.”

With its own highly developed direct labour force, Emery is always keen to take on high quality challenging projects that get the best out of its people. What’s more, the company also runs its own apprenticeship scheme with three or four apprentices coming through each year. This commitment to bringing through young blood has been integral to the company’s approach over the years, allowing it to pave the way for the next generation of skilled workers to carry the business through into the future.

“Over the years we have trained more than 100 apprentices in trades such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing and decorating. Encouraging young people into the industry is vital, particularly when there is such a severe shortage of skills within the wider marketplace. We’ve previously run local awards for colleges and we’ve also had a scheme to recognise the stand out apprentice of the year. This is something we’re going to reinstate with one of the local colleges for our 75th year.”

This emphasis on apprenticeships is one of the reasons behind Emery’s longevity as a business. Another is the fact that the company has remained focused on steady progression, rather than biting off more than it can chew, as Julian points out: “We have always been a down to earth business and have taken a sensible approach rather than getting overly excited and hyped up about making money. This ethos has served us well down the years.

“Another key factor behind our success has been the quality of the service we’ve consistently provided and the fact that we’ve continually focused on what we’re good at rather than diversifying into weird and wonderful areas. We’ve never tried to conquer the world or expand geographically in a way that compromises the quality of our service. Working locally and focusing on the types of project that suit our set of skills has really set us in good stead.”

Having developed such a successful formula, it is only right that Emery makes the most of the opportunity to not only celebrate its 75th anniversary but also takes stock of all it has achieved over the past three-quarters of a century.

“We are planning on having a party to get all our existing staff, as well as some of our former colleagues, together to celebrate. We will also be revamping our marketing materials to mark our diamond anniversary.”

New build houses in Henrietta Gardens, Bath

Despite the achievement of having chalked up 75 years of operation, there continue to be hurdles that Emery is having to contend with, as Julian highlights: “Without doubt the biggest challenge is the skills shortage, as trying to find quality tradespeople to supplement our current workforce is proving extremely difficult in the current climate. It is almost impossible to expand without having the right people in place, which is why we’ve placed such a strong emphasis on apprenticeships, staff development and high quality technical training.

“Clearly rising energy and material prices are also proving challenging at the moment, particularly as clients expect us to provide fixed prices for projects that won’t be completed for many months or even years into the future. Taking the Bath Abbey project as an example, this contract was priced four years before it was completed. If we were pricing a contract now for a project with a similar life-span then it would be much more challenging to return a profit given the rate of price rises that are currently being seen within the marketplace.

“Having good relationships with our suppliers makes things easier and we have a tried and tested supply chain that we work well with. They do their best in assisting us on pricing, which certainly helps, but it is still a challenge in the current market. This is the same for everybody.”

Challenges aside, while it is looking forward to its 75th anniversary celebrations, Emery is also continuing to have longer term aspirations as it strives to keep building on its already impressive heritage.

“The focus at the moment is consolidating our position and taking the moment to enjoy the fact that we have survived for 75 years, even in the face of some major challenges including the global pandemic. We’ll then start planning for the next 25 years so that we can make the century!”

Given its success in ensuring the foundations are in place to keep building forward momentum, coupled with the strong family values that remain intrinsically embedded within the organisation, Emery certainly looks well placed to keep meeting its goals for many years to come.