Robert and Helen Wood are the husband and- wife team behind Simply Construction Group, the London-based design-andbuild firm. With Rob’s background in infrastructure project management following an engineering degree at York and Helen’s in consumer marketing after reading languages and business at Lancaster, they don’t fit into the traditional contractor mould, something that could be said of almost everything they do.
As Rob explains, “In 2007, I left my job as a project manager and decided to apply the skills I’d developed working for Network Rail to the domestic, building world. We’d just completed the refurbishment of our own home in Twickenham and the whole experience was so unpleasant that I felt there had to be a better way.” So Simply Extend was born, though it almost didn’t happen. “We were deciding whether to take the plunge at the same time as we were, quite literally, getting married, so we spent our honeymoon sketching out business plans and wondering if it would be the last holiday we’d have for a long time.”
They needn’t have worried. Demand soared, they quickly branched out into lofts with Simply Loft and basements followed soon after. All three divisions share the same ethos, putting the client firmly in charge. “Building work is stressful,” explains Helen. “Your home is probably your most valuable asset and anything that involves trusting other people to make wholesale changes to it is naturally going to cause some anxiety.” Helen therefore places communication at the heart of the Simply experience. “We have a dedicated customer-service team backed up by an online ‘dashboard’ that allows customers to monitor the progress of their build and, if necessary, to request amendments as the job develops,” she explains. But that’s not all. “Our fixed-price promise ensures that customers never experience ‘bill shock’, so client meetings revolve around progress and improvements, not why someone is being charged more than they budgeted for.”
Combine all that with the tight quality control inherited from Rob’s transport infrastructure days and it’s easy to see why the company is expanding from Nappy Valley into Kensington and beyond. This can, of course, bring its own challenges. So how are they coping with the headaches that running a much bigger enterprise can entail? “From the very beginning we designed a business that could be scaled up,” explains Rob. “Right now, we work with over 200 contractors, ten head-office staff and, to be honest, managing multiple domestic builds is a lot less complicated than the work we used to do.” And did they ever get another holiday? “Not yet,” laughs Helen. “We now have a little one of our own so if the hotel doesn’t have a crèche at least I know Rob could build one.”
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