When the management of Morgan Lovell decided that its pokey London offices were no longer fit for a company at the cutting edge of workplace construction, the obvious solution was to relocate. When staff were consulted, however, the overwhelming wish was to stay put. In a people business, management ignores employees at its peril, so Morgan Lovell decided to refurbish its existing premises, becoming its own client in the process. The building was gutted and a 21st-century workspace installed.
The episode encapsulates the obvious strengths of Morgan Lovell's business - listening carefully to clients, deploying the right skills and delivering the results. Morgan Lovell emerged as the clear winner in the Manufacturing and Construction category from a shortlist that included the customer services division of Alenia Marconi and Morgan Lovell's own sister company, Roberts Construction.
Morgan Lovell has clearly defined its market niche - fast-growing companies that occupy buildings of up to 50,000 square feet - and the services it wants to provide. Alongside its established strengths in workplace consulting and contruction, it is seeking to offer maintenance and facilities management, providing a one-stop shop for a company's workplace requirements.
It is proactive in its selection of customers, grading each prospect on a number of criteria to identify those that offer the potential to build a long-term relationship, by providing a steady stream of work across the maximum range of competencies.
Once customers are on board, they are assigned an account manager, who is responsible for developing the relationship. Clients are fully involved during individual projects and, at the end of each, they fill out a customer service questionnaire (CSQ), in which they grade each of the Morgan Lovell personnel on his or her performance.
Before each employee is recruited, they typically have to undergo four or five interviews, in which their attitudes to customer service, as well as their technical skills, are put to the test. The company has introduced skill-based champions - individuals who become a 'guru' for their particular discipline - an innovation that provides scope for career development in an otherwise flat management structure.
The emphasis on skills is also reflected in a company target for all staff to receive 40 hours' training a year; last year, the average was 47 hours. Staff are incentivised with bonuses worth up to 30% of their salary, as well as a range of awards, often resulting from the scores they receive on their CSQs. An 'adventure weekend' staged each year attracts 100 staff out of a total of 120.
The company's culture is very much one of empowerment, according to Andy Thomson, who is both finance and human resources director. 'We believe in decision-making at the coal-face,' he says. 'We have no central buying and if a contract manager needs to spend money, then they do it, so long as they keep within budget.'
With the workplace changing fast, Morgan Lovell has to keep abreast of changes, such as increased tele-working. It is investing in research in this area, as well as moving into Europe.
Charles Shaw, chief executive, believes that its future lies in building long-term relationships with the right customers. 'We carried out some research among clients, which found that our contact with them was not always good afterwards,' he says. 'Our eventual aim is to convert at least 60% to 70% of clients to having a long-term service agreement with us.'