Fri, 12/05/2017 - 12:00
Current Issue 34
Stewart Construction is paving the way for innovative, family-run construction companies in Ireland, investing in a workforce to rival the best in the industry
Four Generations of Development
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Richard Thomas
As one of many large scale projects under its belt, Stewart Construction is currently working with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland - a medical school of international renown and links to Hong Kong and Bahrain - on its hub and teaching hospital on the campus of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.
Founded in 1902, Stewart Construction has been family run for four generations, beginning as a humble joinery, manufacturing furniture, predominantly for churches and schools - and growing over time to become the larger construction company we recognise today. In that time, the Company has received numerous awards for projects in the commercial, pharmaceutical, design and build, fit out and public sectors. Most recently Stewart Construction were announced as a Deloitte GOLD STANDARD Best Managed Company 2017, Ireland’s only main contractors currently holding the gold standard title.
“As the current Managing Director, I’m the fourth generation in my family to head up the Company,” explains Paul Stewart, Managing Director of Stewart Construction. “A client focused collaborative approach while working with integrity remains at the core of our Company ethos and will remain a driving force in the way we conduct our business now and in the future.”
As general contractors, Stewart Construction has kept the majority of its work in Ireland, however, plans for the future look set to tackle the UK market. Facilitating such expansion, is a concerted and continuous commitment to innovation and lean processes.
“Over the years our management team has been predominantly lean, and we have found that retaining a smaller team enables us to carry out predominantly quick decision making,” continues Stewart. “This has allowed us to retain our innovative nature, more so than a lot of companies in our field.
“Investing in the right youth in our field and giving them the opportunity to keep abreast of changes in technology also enables us to remain at the forefront of technological advancements, while setting trends.”
The development bubble
Stewart Construction has stood the test of time, remaining dominant throughout recessions and downturns in the industry and avoiding ‘quick-buck’ style developments, sticking to work as a general contractor as opposed to chasing the development bubble that had emerged in Ireland.
Stewart elaborates: “We were lucky enough not to have been affected by the downturn, predominantly due to the conservative and innovative actions of our management team, which has been a driver in our success.”
Slightly less conservative however has been the Company’s desire to keep up-to-date with technological advancements. It was one of the first companies in Ireland to embrace building information modelling systems (BIM), investing heavily in the people, hardware and software to successfully follow that trend. This mindset put Stewart Construction in the same bracket as some of its international counterparts, which its direct competitors in Ireland would not necessarily have been in.
“An additional strength for us was a continually strong balance sheet which enabled us to invest in the right people for the job,” adds Stewart. “In their time, a lot of companies have had to let people go while we were able to invest in both people and equipment, simultaneously creating a strategy for integrated product delivery.”
Having the funding behind the Company to continue employing during the recession made the competition for projects easier to tackle, with people predominantly being more willing to pay for fully-functioning and multi-facetted teams that will produce the best.
“Thankfully we had the money to be able to withstand these processes and have worked on some very exciting projects because of it,” Stewart elaborates. “One particularly exciting project that we won in this manner was the two-phase Irish headquarters development for Grifols, the Spanish blood plasma specialist company,with the Dublin building spanning 40,000 square metres in total.”
The increase in activity in the commercial sector, particularly the Greater Dublin area aligns with Stewart Constructions rise in market share in the sector; an output that is expected to continuously increase and provide exciting opportunities to work with high profile companies such as IPUT, Davy and Green REIT.
Undeniably high standard
As previously mentioned, a strong workforce has always provided the cornerstone to Stewart Construction and its subsequent success.
“We hire for growth and we consistently expect growth, particularly considering the market upturn we have recently experienced; so on the whole we will hire well in advance and generally through either recruitment agencies or social media,” Stewart continues. “We may not always have immediate work for these employees, but getting them on board and into the Company ethos, while trying to learn our processes and systems ensures we have the right team of people ready and waiting for a project.”
Of course it is one thing getting the right people into the job and another retaining them, and a big part of the Company’s high employee retention rate is down to the countless interesting and diverse projects it attracts. Not only this but the reputation of Stewart Construction in terms of longevity and the innovative nature of the Company, has set it apart from the rest in the industry.
“In terms of education for our employees, we have a proven track record of providing training of an undeniably high-standard, particularly when it comes to the newer technologies and the building information sector,” Stewart describes. “The building information sector is one of the big growth areas in Irish construction and within that we have core people with the skills to provide confident in-house training to employees.”
Outstripping the competition
One of the strongest elements and part of the core strength in Stewart Construction’s service offering is its longstanding reputation for quality, its non-adversarial and collaborative service, and the ability to work as solution finders and problem solvers.
“Moving forward, our core people will continue to be a huge selling point for our service, and I’d hope to see them driving on our Company from an innovation and technology perspective,” Stewart affirms. “We hope to continue to grow and outstrip our competitors in terms of both our understanding and usage of efficiency-driving technologies, through extensive research and investigation.”
With a younger management team at the helm, the Company is already very receptive to technology and its endless opportunities, while trusting its younger workers to support and manage projects at a technical level. This ideology has differentiated the business in terms of automation and processes, having utilised each member of the team’s best assets.
“In taking this slightly brave approach - from which we have already experienced great remuneration - the size of our Company is rapidly growing, both physically and financially; something which we hope will have at least doubled within the next five years,” concludes Stewart. “This sort of growth would enable expansion outside of Ireland; a process which is already in operation with tentative partnerships with some European contractors in what we hope will be the start of a very exciting few years for the Company.”