Owner Anthony Thomas started his career working in manufacturing. After completing a student apprenticeship with the company Metal Box in Neath, he rose through the ranks of the company to establish a global senior management role helping manufacturing sites around the world adopt LEAN manufacturing standards – a system based on waste elimination and improving quality within manufacturing. He joined ASW in 2000 and after getting to know the sector, saw an opportunity to apply a similar philosophy to the way the firm approached work. With this vision in mind, he acquired the company from its existing directors in 2006 with funding from HSBC and set about implementing these LEAN techniques in a sector dominated by the building trade, where such an approach was unheard of. He knew this would improve margins and customer satisfaction, helping the business grow organically.

Our main challenges when starting the business

The biggest challenge to achieving this was changing the culture within the company – both of the staff and its clients. The staff had to be convinced that a new approach was better for the company; clients had to be educated on the benefits of collaborative working. Anthony spent a great deal of time finding the right staff and training new and existing staff in the ethos of the new approach. The company paid for its staff to complete an NVQ in Business Improvement Techniques and implemented systems to ensure training is also continuous during careers with ASW. As well as getting the right people, he needed to establish the right management structure and find leaders and put himself and all senior managers through the LEAD Wales programme to help achieve this.

Success Factor

When Anthony took the reins in 2006, the business was turning over £2.6 million; that has now increased to £11.6 million and it is still growing fast. The three factors that have contributed to that achievement are retaining existing customers (satisfied customers come back for more and the quality, delivery and customer service the company has embraced has led to high levels of client retention); good reputation (new clients often knock on the door when they have had a problem with their existing supplier); and a good management structure and investment in people (the right team has been in place to deliver solid organic growth with no acquisitions).

The Future

To continue to achieve current growth projections would be a success in itself but the company is targeting more business coming from the private sector in its facilities management offering. One of its biggest clients in this sector is SA Brain & Co, for which it manages the facilities of all its sites in Wales and England. It has the staff, skillset and the logistical reach to support other clients in a similar way. It wants to be the go-to facilities management company in the region for both public sector bodies and commercial clients.