Workspace Design and Build (Workspace) is a leading fit-out and refurbishment company offering professional services in the office sector. With full in-house capabilities, a dedicated team, and a local supply chain, Workspace has a proven record of delivering high quality, notable projects across the UK.
Founded by Russell Davis at the beginning of the century, the business has since evolved into a successful operation that is renowned for its innovative, stylish workplaces. As part of his and co-owner David Barfield’s succession planning, they have transitioned the company to an employee ownership trust (EOT) over the last 12 months, which has seen the team of directors grow to ensure the future growth and success of the business.
“When I started the company 21 years ago, I wanted to enter the market with a can-do mentality,” Russell opens. “For years, David and I felt that the industry had pushed customers into decisions, and I wanted Workspace to be a breath of fresh air that worked collaboratively with customers and facilitated their requirements to the best of our capabilities.
“We’ve been trading successfully ever since, and in terms of geographic reach, our head office is based in Manchester, but we also have satellite offices in Birmingham and Leeds, all the interiors of which have been designed by Incognito and completed by us. Our office space not only means we can deliver projects in a larger region, but also provides us an opportunity to meet clients within one of our designed spaces to give them a feel for the work we do.
“Earlier this year, David and I took the business through an EOT, relinquishing our complete ownership and handing it over to a team of five directors,” Russell continues. “The team is made up of David and I alongside new directors, Laura Faulkner, Lauren Hart, and Richard Barsby. While David and I have taken a step back, we’ve stayed onboard to ease the transition and support the team in continuing the company’s legacy.
“From a succession point of view, we explored a couple of options and an EOT seemed like the right fit for us, as a trust enables management to take more control of the business compared to a buyout or trade involvement. It not only means that the business can continue its current growth trajectory, but also provides an opportunity for the younger members of the management team to take control. However, don’t get me wrong, I’ll only fully leave the business when I feel it’s ready to be handled by others.”
Extensive project portfolio
Turning to Workspace’s operations and projects, he explains: “We do everything to do with offices from designing the workplace to completing fit outs and refurbs, or even supplying office chairs. The majority of what we do is inside the office building, like installing ceilings, the roof, air conditioning units, electrics, data, furniture, partitions, and so on, but we can also work on the exterior of the building to maintain windows, panels, and entrances.
“We’ve recently completed a project on Temple Street in Birmingham, which was our largest scheme to date, valued at just over £7 million. We added a large extension to the top of an existing building, essentially creating a new glass storey to very high-end office space, as well as installing a cinema room, gym, and rooftop gardens.
“Temple Street was a challenging project due to its location in a busy city centre on an extremely steep hill, which created access issues for our team and any site deliveries. We’d usually work out-of-hours to receive deliveries on other projects whereas we weren’t able to due to causing disruption to nearby hospitality businesses.”
Around 90 percent of Workspace’s activity is office space, but the business has recently branched out into the hospitality sector. “We played a crucial role in the refurbishment of New Century in Manchester,” says Russell. “The award-winning project saw a dormant historical building transformed into a multi-use space for music, events, and eating out for a new generation.
“Whatever the project, our key to success is being close with the customer. We take more of a collaborative, relationship-based approach; we want customers to feel like part of our team rather than one of many clients. We always have the customer’s best interest at heart, and this message filters down to everyone in the business. I want us all to be proud of what we do, to step back at the end of a project and think ‘wow, that’s a job well done.’
“It’s somewhat difficult to determine what 2024 will look like because we’re currently working in a depressed market due to the economy, high costs, and cautious investment from some companies into their office spaces,” Russell proffers as our conversation draws to a close. “However, we’re in a strong position considering the conditions, with a lot of repeat business coming through.
“We’re finding ways to steer ourselves around the challenging areas, like working with government agencies that tend to be recession proof. We’re also exploring different avenues of work in geographic areas across the North West that are subject to government funding for regeneration purposes.
“While we want the future to be prosperous and profitable, we don’t chase turnover,” he concludes. “Instead, we prioritise quality, delivering projects that exceed customer expectations and lead to us continuing to win business.”