Steve Elliott, BW

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Man on a Mission

As we approach the freshly rebranded offices of BW (formerly BW Interiors), we reflect for a moment on what’s happened to this business in the last 12 months. The firm has rebranded, reorganised, and boldly declared an objective to reach £200M turnover within the next five years, with 100% delivery of Defect Free projects at Practical Completion (DF@PC).

Earlier in the week we received news that BW has already hit the £100M mark, a key landmark figure that is made up of up of 50 projects, ranging in size from £200K to over £25M. Projects span across a wide variety of sectors, including legal, financial services, cosmetics, shipping, consumer goods, oil, charitable, healthcare, technology, media and telecommunications.

Achievements of this magnitude do not happen through good fortune, they happen because there is intelligence behind a robust strategy – and lots and lots of hard work.

The team behind the mission is led by Steve Elliott, the man largely attributed with the hugely successful, ‘perfect delivery’ strategy at Overbury.

Steve has the easy charm of a man with plenty of experience in the fit-out market, having taken Overbury from an £80M business to the market leader it is today. He then went on to run Morgan Sindall’s entire fit-out business to the tune of £500M.

However, behind the affable nature and instant likeability, there is focus, drive and a tenacity to repeat this success at BW. A year after stepping down from Morgan Sindall, Steve took some time to contemplate his next move and when the owners, Mark Richards and Craig Foster, made him an offer, he was ready for a fresh challenge. It was time to ‘get the band back together’.

Steve approached two key former work colleagues, Anthony Brown, Sales and Marketing Director, and Paul Newton, who was previously the Finance Director at Morgan Sindall fit-out.

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Charged with an objective to ‘grow the business’, he began to take the business from a £79M organisation to a top tier player that would sit alongside Overbury and ISG. BW could be considered an unsung hero in the industry. After all, this is a business that managed to grow from £30M in 2011, when we were still in recession, to over three times that size today. To date this has been attributable to a number of core customers, primarily the London market with property consultants. Moving forward, BW intends to widen this customer base to the big City and West End occupiers, including leading retailers, financial institutions and the legal sector.

‘We are now entering a much stronger market with greater opportunity and prosperity than we have seen for a while, which means the focus can shift away from just beating the incumbent favourites,’

‘We are now entering a much stronger market with greater opportunity and prosperity than we have seen for a while, which means the focus can shift away from just beating the incumbent favourites,’ Steve explains. ‘There is an opportunity to push an entire industry forward.’

So, how does this happen? ‘We continue to hire quality people, and keep the business focused on DF@PC with a shared mission to be the world’s leading interiors company. Also, understand why it is so important to obsess about every detail.’

Steve’s enthusiasm is palpable. ‘It’s been an exciting year at BW. We have many great existing and new clients. It has been stimulating to discover and define the unique and distinctive personality that keeps clients coming back time after time, and it is immensely important that we retain the essence of what we are about. Our focus very much remains on investing in long term growth through a determined aim to complete all our projects defect free.’

When you hear these words spoken with such intent, one could be forgiven for forgetting that we are talking about the world of fit-out, and it is this fact that sets Steve and BW apart from its competitors. Rather than benchmarking themselves against their natural competitors, BW has been looking to other industries for inspiration.

‘As an industry we should challenge ourselves with other markets where anything less than perfection is unacceptable,’

‘As an industry we should challenge ourselves with other markets where anything less than perfection is unacceptable,’ Steve considers. ‘The tech market for example: Apple’s products demonstrate that it is not only what the technology can do, it is the way it delivers the experience and how it is presented. Similarly, diners will not return to a Michelin Star restaurant in which their exacting standards are not attained. There is no doubt that top chefs are preoccupied about detail. Consider top athletes – Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, wins by a mere tenth of second because when you are at the top of your game the margin for error decreases enormously.

‘We need to be fanatical about every single detail, and this will only happen if the entire team shares an obsession for perfection. It must start with a shared respect amongst all parties involved in a project, and an understanding that we all have a critical part to play in ensuring that our mutual client ends up with the project they expect.’

Steve goes on to explain that some of these issues were highlighted in recent research commissioned by BW, and revealed the critical gaps between clients’ expectations and reality, in terms of the service they receive from the construction industry.

The independent study highlighted that for over 80% of respondents, the most important aspects of the construction phase are quality of work, delivering on schedule and communicating honestly.

When evaluating a company for an appointment, respondents cared most about the project being completed by a high quality team (62%) and ease of handover and defect resolution (64%). However, troublingly for the industry, it is in these areas where the biggest gap between expectation and performance achieved are present.

The study also revealed that ‘price’ was only the most important factor for less than a third of respondents, which reassuringly suggests that clients are prepared to pay for quality and expertise.

Steve’s interpretations of the outcomes are clear: ‘Clients are undeniably valuing their working environments and the impact they can have on productivity, as well as a tool for recruitment and retention of the best employees. This is very positive for our industry as we all strive to produce an encouraging place for people to work. But great designs need to be matched by great delivery and we as an industry all have to be better. Here at BW, we will be.’

Of that, we have absolutely no doubt.