A FORMER joinery apprentice has launched a new disaster recovery firm which will achieve a £1 million turnover in its first year, bucking the trend in a troubled sector.
David Brown is the driving force behind insurance contractor, LBSI, and has established it as one of Scotland’s-fastest growing new names in the restoration of damaged properties.
LBSI is an all trades specialist in salvaging and restoring domestic and commercial properties damaged by fire, flood, subsidence, smoke, impact and accidental damage.
Launched in Perth in January, David’s team was immediately called into action during a spate of floods which left many properties requiring extensive work. LBSI’s workmanship on those homes showcased its strengths to its network of insurance companies, leading to new business.
That saw the firm rapidly expand into the north of Scotland, setting up a regional office in Stonehaven. It also has ambitious plans for further expansion into the north of England.
Formerly a division of Dundee-based Logie Building Services, the company was bought over by David for an undisclosed sum and provides services to major insurers, businesses and general public alike.
Running his own business is the realisation of a dream for David, who left school aged 16 with a handful of qualifications. After landing a joinery apprenticeship he worked with various trades firms.
His business acumen was demonstrated when he gambled by taking a £1 an hour pay cut to join a Stirling-based reinstatement company because he saw potential to progress into management.
He rose through the ranks to become project director, only quitting after eight years to launch LBSI.
Although he came ‘off the tools’ aged 25, to gain management experience, David, from Blackford, Perthshire, has a wealth of know how in shopfitting, house building, and insurance work.
Now 33, he believes that combination of hands-on and management experience in the building trade has helped him create a business which has already turned over £800,000 and which he predicts will rise to £2.5m in year two.
Despite being a new player, LBSI employs 22 staff including joiners, plumbers, painters, electricians and tillers. Six staff joined from LBSI, with the rest of the team made up from experienced tradesmen and adult apprenticeships. Numbers are expected to reach 35-40 in the next few years.
As well as boosting staff numbers, the company has also invested in new vehicles, expanding its fleet from 11 to 16. The firm has also landed a number of significant insurance contracts.
David puts LBSI’s rapid growth down to first-class customer service, real graft, and the use of the latest technology to ensure his team are at their most efficient.
He added: “The key to our success is our personal approach when the people we are dealing with are having a traumatic time, often surrounded by the saddened emotions brought on by loss.
“We continually and consistently strive to meet the individual needs of whoever we are working with. Those can be very different personalities in some very difficult and trying circumstances.
“It’s important that we always acknowledge that while this is our everyday business it is in fact somebody’s home or business and something they have worked hard for. I have been standing in 3ft of water in someone’s home on Christmas Eve where the family’s recently-wrapped Christmas gifts are floating around us.
“In these situations you are more than just an appointment, you become in some respects a counsellor. And it’s the little things salvaging a family photo or possessions that count. It’s not all bricks and mortar.”
Despite the fact he did not have an email account as recently as 2006, David has now embraced the use of technology. He believes that has helped LBSI meet all Service Level Agreements (SLA’s), impressing insurers and loss adjustors.
He added: “Meeting those SLAs has been essential for us in securing clients and helped us become one of the top contractors used by the main insurance firms.
“We have embraced technology where traditionally in the trades there are a lot of technophobes. So, despite the fact I didn’t have an email account until 2006, I have got to grips with the latest technology.
“I’ve brought in changes that really free up staff time, such as smart phone and tablet apps that allow them to upload data immediately so that the admin team can continue working on their case.”
David admits the future of the disaster recovery sector is uncertain. It has suffered significant problems during the recession, with rival companies going to the wall.
Despite those challenges David is upbeat and confident LBSI’s success can be extended, and he intends to diversify by expanding into private building and typical renovation works.
He added: “There will always be insurance claims. While I think it has been tough few years for everyone involved in the property sector, I believe we have shown that hard work, quality and attention to detail will always see a business like ours thrive.”
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