When Geoffrey Osborne set up his civil engineering company in his home in 1966, the building trade was highly combative and revolved around seeking contracts by undercutting competitors in price. But in the 1990s cut-throat tendering was replaced by a trend towards offering a full start-to-finish service. Chichester-based Osborne has taken advantage of this to build a broader service. “We identify a site, get planning permission, talk to the local authority and hire sub-contractors,” says marketing director Graham Daines. This higher margin service has driven profits up by 35% pa, from £1.5m in 1996 to £3.6m in 1999. Sales in the same period have increased by 14% pa to £131.4m. Since long-term partnerships with clients are key to its success, the company works hard at customer service. It will even install a computer system in a client’s office that enables them to track the status of building and maintenance work.
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