Formed by George Beard in 1892, Beard is a multi-award-winning construction company which designs, builds, restores and refurbishes buildings in Southern England. Mark Beard, Chairman, is the fourth generation in the family business and shares how the business’s three family values have helped it develop in recent years, remaining independent, family owned, and run by a team of highly qualified professional Directors and Managers.
"The vast majority of people fall into the category of wanting to work for a company that delivers social benefit as well as making a good profit."
Beard have three values: friendly, efficient, and committed. As Mark explains, ‘our values pick up the ethos of the family and are built around decency with everyone we deal with including our customers, the people who are going to use our product, people who work for us, and our suppliers. It’s not something written down, it underpins what we do and our people talk about the Beard way of doing things. We talk about our values a lot, they are embedded in the culture and if people strive to live our values, it’s picked up by their peers, it’s not just about management.’
Mark and his team work hard to embed these values, for example, Mark hosts an informal breakfast a couple of months after the formal inductions the individuals have when they join. They discuss the Beard values and what they are looking to achieve as a business. There are clear benefits as Mark explains, ‘our staff turnover is very low for our industry, relatively low for commerce generally, but we do find the highest staff turnovers are for people in the first two years. The more we can settle people down in the first few weeks, the more relaxed they are about coming to work, the more productive they are, then the greater the chance they will be with us for the long term.’
A reputation for friendliness and decency is certainly a competitive advantage for Beard, as Mark explains, ‘the scarcest resource in construction at the moment is labour, and that’s likely to get worse as more people have retired than we have trained. Historically, there has been a very easy and straightforward solution, recruit labour from Eastern Europe. That easy solution is coming to an end. Over the next few years, we will probably lose more people to Europe, and we will lose more people to retirement.’ Mark believes Beard’s values will also help them prepare, ‘it will cause short-term problems, but potentially a lot of long-term good, because we will look at how we can do more with less resources, probably more offsite fabrication, and moving to a more digital industry, becoming more organised and productive. The shortage of readily available labour is likely to be a strong driver of innovation and probably the biggest change we are seeing in our industry at the moment.’
Mark continues, ‘finding good people is important, when we rebranded 14 years ago, it was as much to build our employment brand, as the brand that our customers see. We have worked hard to make sure reality and our employment brand tie in together. People believe that Beard is a good place to work, and we find it easier to recruit.’ Mark also thinks it important to be agile, ‘I think one thing the current generation of business leads have got to come to terms with is the employment market is far more fluid, so making sure you have the core of long-term employees, yet also being able to accommodate those people, who just want to come in for two or three years, make a difference and move on, do something different.’
The Beard way of doing things brings other commercial benefits for Mark, ‘a strong brand, will help one win work and secure the right employees, but also increasingly that work within the construction industry is done by subcontractors and they are becoming increasingly choosy about who they want to work for. They will work for organisations that have a strong brand when it comes to looking after the people that supply to them. So, being able to resource our jobs is easier because of our inherent decency, which in turn helps our brand.’
"Building our reputation gives us competitive advantage and this is as important as making profit on today’s work"
Mark believes there are advantages and disadvantages as a family business, ‘family businesses can definitely take the longer term view, and since the credit crunch, the term family business is seen more as a compliment, than it was previously. Still you need to maintain the balance between having the strong long-term values, interest in community, and at the same time innovating, moving forward. For Mark, ‘one of the challenges in a family business, you come to the same desk, in the same office, working with same people for 40 years, you have to keep business moving on, you’ve got to have outside interests to supplement the day job.’
With many exciting projects in the pipeline, Beard continue to demonstrate the competitive advantage a strong set of values bring, underpinning a business culture focused on employee development, customer service and continuous business improvement.