Builder Lovell’s focus on developing staff and talent was the key to EDP Business Awards win
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Simon Medler has climbed from beginnings as a carpentry apprentice to the managing director of Lovell Partnerships' East Anglian operations. BETHANY WHYMARK went to find out more about the housebuilder and developer, winner of the Investing in Future Growth award at the EDP Business Awards 2017.
Our meeting doesn't take place in Simon Medler's office.
It takes place in one of the meeting rooms at developer Lovell Partnerships' East Anglian home, on Broadland Business Park outside Norwich.
No one has their own office, Mr Medler tells me – not even him, the regional managing director.
Team spirit is built into the surroundings at Lovell, in the office-less office building and large communal kitchen, but it's also seen in the emphasis on in-house training and promotion.
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The regional branch headed by Mr Medler earned shining praise at the EDP Business Awards 2017 – where Lovell won the Investing in Future Growth category – but he sees it as a team effort.
'It is a great recognition for the staff and the great work they do, and I was very proud to receive the award for everyone here. It energised everyone,' he said.
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'The company has a good culture – it's open and honest, and you treat others as you would wish to be treated.'
The East Anglian office's move from Thorpe Road in Norwich to Broadland Business Park enabled it to take on a raft of new staff, bringing its total number of workers in the region to around 120 – almost double what it was three years ago.
Lovell – and Mr Medler – believe in training your own talent, an imperative in an industry will a well-known skills shortage.
Last year Lovell's East Anglian branch took on three bricklaying and three carpentry apprentices, with plans to employ a similar number this year. It also runs management traineeships, which sees people experience departments from sales and surveying to construction.
As a man who began in the construction industry as a carpentry apprentice, Mr Medler is also proud of the company's strong talent pipeline – a number of the site managers working on its East Anglian developments started at the firm as apprentices.
'It is good to see them progressing within the business as I did,' he said.
'It is really important to the future of the industry to bring in more apprentices. There is a real shortage of skills out there.'
Lovell promotes from within where it can, though staff also have access to posts in the wider Morgan Sindall group.
'We do a lot of training programmes and personal development for our staff,' said Mr Medler. 'It is important for people that want to progress that the career progression is there. As we grow more opportunities will arise for people in the business as well.
'We've created a nice environment for staff here [at Broadland Business Park] and I think that is important. We don't only want to retain staff, we also want to attract them.'
Mr Medler has worked for construction giant Morgan Sindall for 25 years. He joined as a tradesman after a completing an apprenticeship and nine years' work at a firm in Norwich, his home city.
When the Lovell group was formed in the early 2000s he was made regional manager – a job he has held ever since, bar a four-year stint in a national-level job with Morgan Sindall.
He returned to Lovell's regional base in Norfolk in 2015 – and says that is when the company began to focus more heavily on housing development, rather than the contracting work which had previously dominated its portfolio.
'I came back at quite an interesting time for housing,' he said. 'To that point we had done quite a lot of contracting work with housing associations and local councils and we were making our way into the development arena.
'Then in 2008 the financial crash hit and we stopped buying land and focused on contracting.
'Now we try to keep 50% contracting and 50% development. In this region we are fairly unique in that regard.'
The company is currently bolstering its private development portfolio with a 213-home site in Holt, 67 homes in Hellesdon and a newly launched site in Mendlesham, near Diss.
But its partnerships with housing associations and local councils are still a key part of the business. It is currently in working with King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council as the authority's housing developer, providing an 'end-to-end' service.
Mr Medler said: 'They bring land forward, then we design and promote the site through planning, build for them, sell for them and provide the aftercare.'
'If it were a housing association, we would bid for the work, build the homes and hand them over at the end. With the council they use our expertise as a developer and our services and sell the housing under the Lovell brand. It is quite an innovative partnership.'
Lovell is also employed as a building contractor for Blue Sky Developments, South Norfolk Council's housing development company.
The Norfolk Business Awards 2018, brought to you by the EDP
• The Norfolk Business Awards 2018 open for entries on May 9, with a deadline of July 27.
• The awards will seek to unearth dynamic companies and pioneering entrepreneurs, and the visionary and ambitious leaders who are breaking boundaries and fuelling growth. Don't miss your opportunity to share your success story. Entry will be via the EDP website.
• Judging will take place between August 6 and September 21.
• The Norfolk Business Awards ceremony will take place at the Norfolk Showground Arena on Thursday November 22. It is a key date in the business calendar and last year hosted more than 450 guests from more than 100 local businesses.
• Demand is traditionally high, so you can reserve your tickets now. Call 01603 772371 or email Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org