2018 marked Glenn Wood’s 40th anniversary and the company could have further reason to celebrate this year after being nominated for a prestigious Irish Fit-Out Award 2019 within the Sub-Contractor of the Year category.
While four decades of operation demonstrates Glenn Wood’s ability to move with the times, its latest award recognition underlines the high regard in which the company continues to be held within the marketplace.
“It’s always nice to be recognised for the quality of the work we produce, but at the end of the day it’s our employees that have made the company what it is,” explains James Ryan, Managing Director. “We would not have achieved what we have without our workforce so any recognition we receive is a tribute to them.
“We have had some previous award success of this type but we have never really felt the need to put ourselves forward for accolades because the lion share of our work has tended to come from word of mouth. However, as the market becomes more competitive we have increasingly recognised the importance of raising awareness of what we’re about as a business. We have therefore taken steps to participate in more award schemes, while we have also recruited additional people in marketing and sales to support our efforts in this regard.
“We are very conscious of the high standard of workmanship we produce and in that sense the award nomination is testament to the high quality product that Glenn Wood offers.”
In terms of how this reputation has been achieved, Mr Ryan believes that the company’s approach to building relationships, both with its staff and its customers, has been critical. “We have always treated people fairly and have strived to continually perform to the level that’s expected of us by the client, which in turn has led to us providing a consistently excellent service in everything we do; we have never missed a deadline in any respect.”
Created in 1978, Glenn Wood originally began life specialising in domestic fit-outs such as kitchen installations before gradually diversifying into other sectors including hotels, bars, commercial, banking, hospitals and laboratories. Its ability to turn its hand to a wide variety of projects across a diverse range of sectors really highlights the progressive, forward-thinking ethos at the heart of the company. Today its activities are supported by 90 full-time direct employees that are supplemented by around 50 sub-contracted fitters and installers.
Whenever it has moved into a new sector, Glenn Wood has been careful to ensure it has the necessary support network to make the most of the opportunity. This was once again evident with its recent diversification into the laboratory sector, which has seen the company further developing its supply chain infrastructure, as Mr Ryan outlines: “While we have always undertaken small laboratory projects, we came to the realisation that if we were going to make the most of the opportunity in this area then we would need to strengthen our capabilities. We have therefore recently secured a strategic partnership with the German laboratory furniture specialist Köttermann, so we have the agency for Ireland and the UK.
“Pharmaceuticals is a rapidly growing industry and has a worth of around 780bn euros worldwide at the present moment, with further growth of 25% in the next four or five years, which really underlines its potential. We’re certainly doing our utmost to gear ourselves up to make the most of this opportunity.”
As well as having a robust supply chain, Glenn Wood has also developed a strong internal infrastructure having continually invested in its facilities over the years. It now operates out of a single 90,000-plus sq ft site in Tullamore in the heart of Ireland and boasts a wide range of automated CNC and spray booth machines. Despite the high degree of automation it has introduced into the production process, the company has retained the capability to carry out a significant amount of handwork if required. This stems from the fact that much of Glenn Wood’s workforce is highly skilled in the more traditional methods having been with the company for a number of years. It therefore has the ability to provide both types of work.
“From a staffing point of view, we’re very stringent on training, particularly on health and safety, which remains our number one priority,” adds Ger Glennon, Projects Director. “We’re therefore continually training our people to work more safely, while also developing their skills set to ensure that they reach their full potential with us.
“Upskilling is another area that has helped us, not only in joinery but also in the finishing of our products. We fabricate all our own solid surfaces, for example. We’re constantly training our employees to give us the skills we need as we move into new areas of the marketplace.
“We’ve always been willing to diversify and have therefore never got stuck in one particular field. We started off in the bespoke kitchen fit out sector and became the sector’s biggest manufacturer. When that market began to become flooded, we moved into new sectors, such as pubs and hotels, and we continued to diversify as each sector became increasingly competitive. We’ve always gone with the market, whether it’s banking or laboratories, and by keeping a presence in each sector, the amount of opportunities available to us has snowballed and has allowed the business to grow exponentially.
“We still do a significant amount of kitchen work, as it’s never been a case of abandoning a sector, more that other markets have been added to our existing ones.
“If the markets were to close down in Ireland, we have already prepared ourselves and our workforce to work abroad if required. We have carried out fit outs in the US previously and if we have to do again then so be it. It never pays to have all your eggs in one basket and we’ve always been open to new sectors and markets, which is where our commitment to staff training and development has paid off.”
This approach has not only helped develop a highly skilled and safety conscious workforce, but has also helped Glenn Wood achieve very low rates of staff turnover. At a time when one of the biggest challenges facing industry is a general lack of skilled labour, this strong level of staff retention is more important than ever.
“The skills shortage is a major problem for everyone in the construction industry, not just in Ireland but also in the UK and worldwide,” says Mr Glennon. “We therefore remain committed to in-house training and we hope in the long term through apprenticeships and training we will retain all the necessary skills we need in-house.”
Another challenge that Glenn Wood is having to get to grips with is the ongoing Brexit situation. “It’s the uncertainty more than anything else that’s proving problematic, “explains Mr Ryan. “The fact that no-one seems to know what’s going to happen isn’t very helpful.
“Despite all the Brexit uncertainty, we have successfully secured the fit out of a new hotel in Birmingham that will be taking place in the coming year. If we could just get some clarity from politicians on both sides of the fence then the situation would be much improved. Until then we’re just focused on competing everyday for business in the UK and Ireland, at the same time striving to deliver the standard of workmanship we’ve become known for.”
Brexit and the skills shortage aside, Glenn Wood remains committed to delivering high quality work for its client base as it looks to keep growing. At the present moment the office fit out sector is proving to be particularly fruitful, with the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft having all developed a huge presence in Ireland. “The volume of offices they’re opening across the country is astronomical, so this is an opportunity we’ve been actively tapping into. Most recently, we were awarded the project for the new Children’s Hospital that is taking place over a three-year period, which will provide a continuous pipeline of work going forward.
“In terms of the longer term picture, there is another generation coming behind us so we’re looking forward to continuous growth in the months and years ahead. That’s basically where we hope to be for many years to come as we strive to build on what is already a strong heritage.”
With such a strong infrastructure in place and four decades of experience behind it, Glenn Wood is well placed to tackle the challenges it is facing and make the most of the opportunities it is seeing within the various sectors in which it operates. In the shorter term the company is looking forward to the Irish Fit-Out Awards night. “We would just like to wish all the other award nominees the best of luck on the night, especially those in the categories that we are sponsoring,” concludes Mr Ryan. “We’re not the type of closed organisation that believes it’s Glenn Wood and Glenn Wood only. At the end of the day we love to see other successful companies emerging. We wish everyone all the best.”