On Friday, at the Construction Apprenticeship Awards, Bethell was honoured to take home the Construction Apprenticeship Medium/Large Employer of the Year award, a testimony to our commitment to growing our own talent and investing in apprenticeships.Read more
Bethell Utility Services Ltd (BUSL), the ICP division of Bethell Group, celebrates its 8 year anniversary shortly and we sat down with Managing Director Paul Connolly to learn how BUSL started, it’s expansion into one of the UK’s industry-leading companies and what the future may hold.
“In 2014 I was brought back into Bethell to establish a seperate Independent Connections Provider (ICP) operation within the group, with the aim of becoming a market leader within five years. I had previously worked with Tim Kilroe, owner and CEO of Bethell, and I knew how he and his senior board colleagues operated. I was excited by the plans for expanding Bethell’s utilities operation and the ICP opportunities.
We initially focused on reintroducing Bethell to key regional housebuilders to raise our profile and start building our order book. As we were developing relationships with national house builders, we secured our first opportunity with a regional operator from Glossop, that was converting an old school. Believe it or not, it happened to be a school I attended many years ago and I was excited by our client’s plans to regenerate the building into apartments. At this point I was designing, planning and project managing much of the work myself, which was a stressful, but nevertheless rewarding, experience.
Our “networking” efforts bore fruit in 2015 when we were awarded our first contract with a national operator – Taylor Wimpey – giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves. This site in Salford was a small 45-plot development, but it was a complete success and Taylor Wimpey’s confidence in Bethell grew. More awards were secured from them over the next couple of years and, today, they remain one of our biggest clients, having collaboratively completed over 2,500 plots with them to date.
News of Bethell’s successful works spread and we were able to expand our client-base and develop new relationships with other prominent housebuilders including Bellway, Wain Homes, Redrow, Countryside Properties, Seddon and David Wilson Homes. Another significant milestone was the successful award of a 450 plot scheme at Hoyles Lane for Morris Homes – this was a six-to-eight-year project to provide connections, with a total tender value in excess of £1m, and this scheme is only now moving into its final phases. The BUSL business plan evolved then to expand capabilities beyond residential developments, with our first industrial award at the former Royal Ordnance site in Chorley, in 2017. The following year, we expanded our geographical reach into the North East with the successful award of a Wakefield & District Housing scheme.
In 2020, the arrival of the COVID-19 virus heralded difficulties for the residential housing market, and many client sites were mothballed or slowed. We had to pause progress on many active schemes and navigate the uncertainty and widespread disruption. The lifting of lockdown restrictions allowed us to resume works and we quickly expanded our workforce and introduced longer term resource initiatives such as our technical apprenticeship programme.
After further strategic reviews, we decided in 2021 to establish a new work stream, called Green Energy, and we recruited another former Bethell team member – Greg Watson – to be director in charge. Greg’s remit was to explore how we could maximise our opportunities within this rapidly expanding market and, in particular, electric vehicle charging. Success has been rapid, as we secured a healthy pipeline of future work with many of the industry’s largest charge point operators including Motor Fuel Group, Pristine Energy and Osprey Charging Network.
As we look towards the end of 2022, our geographical expansion has continued with our first residential contract in the Midlands and green energy projects as far afield as Aberdeen and Somerset. The massive growth of the BUSL business has facilitated the requirement for a new, state-of-the-art administration building, which has been constructed at the Group’s Kearsley headquarters. This gives us the necessary space to grow and develop our team further. Also this year, we are transforming how we control and monitor our site based works with a new, digitally-enabled FOCUS system. This will integrate and modernise how we operate from the tender process right through to site completion.
Over the last eight years, BUSL has grown to a team of over 150, with annual revenues nudging £20m and projected future headcount & revenue growth in 2023 and beyond. I may take a couple of weeks of annual leave now!”