2020 laid before us a set of new and unique challenges, not just for our business but the wider construction industry. As COVID-19 took hold back in March we feared that sites would close and collaborative relationships would start to fracture, as the pressures of suspending or slowing construction projects took hold.
Thankfully neither of these things transpired – perhaps a demonstration of how far the construction industry has come. The resilience and ability to adapt within our sector has not only ensured the security of tens of thousands of jobs but has been a reminder of how important construction is to wider health of our economy.
I have been incredibly impressed by organisations such as the Housing Forum that have shown fantastic leadership, providing innovative creative platforms for thoughtful debate.
For Helix, 2020 has been a turning point for us as a growing SME construction business. The decisions we made very early on in the pandemic – committing to job security, adapting site practice to ensure we continued to build safely and maintaining investment in training and business development – have paid off. The second half of the year has seen us secure more than £17m of new contracts across both the public and private sectors. This has allowed us not only to avoid making staff redundancies, but to create new jobs, doubling our staff across all disciplines.
We do still face some of the age-old procurement challenges that shackle a growing SME construction business. Despite a significant depth of experience at board level (more than 100 years) we are too often measured strictly by business experience alone, which of course as any SME will know is not a fair reflection of capability and quality of delivery (more often demonstrably higher with SMEs).
All that said, we are delighted to have secured places on over a dozen key public sector frameworks, including for Slough Brough Council, and have significantly increased our public sector portfolio. We of course welcome fresh plans from a recent government Green Paper to overhaul procurement rules, hopefully making it easier for small firms to win public works contracts.
We are incredibly excited about potential new opportunities in 2021 to work in partnership with government agency Homes England and housing associations in providing new homes. Indeed we are in advanced discussions on a development of 15 new affordable homes in The Cotswolds during the first half of 2021. The government’s decision to simplify the selection of new developer partners as well as the increased level of and improved access to funding are also very welcome.
Focus on delivery
As we set out our plans for 2021, COVID-19 still holds a tight grip on us all. We also face the spectre of an unpredictable Brexit.
However, as demonstrated in 2020, I remain confident that, with strong, positive leadership and a continued commitment to people and business development, we will adapt and grow from strength to strength.
Finally I’d like to say thank you again to our customers, suppliers and our fantastic team for their incredible commitment throughout 2020. Look forward to working with you all in 2021!