Teamwork and cost control provide solid foundations

12 Aug , 2016  

With a client-focused approach to each project, Nolan Construction has earned a remarkable reputation for excellence since it was established in 2009. We caught up with eponymous founder / managing director Tom Nolan to find out more about this exceptional County Wicklow headquartered operation, which harnesses harmony and professionalism in the workplace to deliver high-quality solutions.

Meeting – if not surpassing – client expectations on every project undertaken, Nolan Construction has quickly established itself as one of the premier building contractors in the greater Dublin / Wicklow area, combining excellent staff, unbeatable attention to detail and the stringent pursuit of perfection of a hands-on proprietor to outstanding effect.

Operating as main contractor on new-build projects, commercial fit-outs, extensions, schools, restaurants and conservation work, Nolan Construction delivers a competitive, high-quality product, which results in regular repeat business as well as a steady supply of referrals and new business.

Founder Tom Nolan holds a Degree in Civil Engineering from University of Abertay, Dundee and also gained several years of practical experience working for various firms before boldly setting up his own practice in the middle of one of the worst recessions in living memory. The fact that his firm has grown exponentially during the past seven years, in the face of an unforgiving economic nosedive that hit the construction sector hardest, tells us more about the strength and capabilities of Nolan Construction than any words could.

Reflecting on the genesis of his company, Tom – who keeps his clients in the loop at all times and prides himself on providing punctual and precise finishes – notes: “Prior to setting the business up in ’09, I had worked as contracts manager for a large building and civils company and also spent a year in Australia.

“It was obviously a difficult time to start a business and most companies weren’t providing decent employment but I felt, ironically, that with so many big companies having gone out of business that there were opportunities there for a company to start up providing quality solutions from a lower cost base – in terms of wages, overheads and subcontractor rates – and to be more responsive to the market that prevailed at the time.

“There was still a market there. That’s the key thing – even in bad times, there’s still a market if you are prepared to go after it.”

With both his engineering education and practical background backing him up, Tom was able to secure both large and small projects from the off. He quickly formed strong relations with satisfied and impressed clients and that has ensured that the practice has continued to move forward impressively.

Starting off literally on his own, Tom was faced with the challenge of building a company from scratch – a daunting prospect for some but one that the Wicklow man embraced: “I had good contacts with a number of subcontractors who I knew I could depend upon. I started off with one groundworks person and a number of carpenters; we could go in and provide all the groundworks and the core and then bring in the M&E and finishing on a subcontract basis.”

One of our big breakthroughs came when Tom was contracted by the Department of Education to work on the first Summer Works Programme, providing a roof refurbishment on St Peter’s Primary School in Bray – “It was a nice one to get and was followed by more educational work and we also got a fit out on the Busy Bean Café in Talbot Street around that time. Those were two key jobs and we had also started to get some decent private work, so things were moving in the right direction.”

Nolan Construction is currently busy on two more Department of Education projects – extensions at St Peter’s in Bray and Colaiste Choilm’s in Swords. The Bray project, which will run from September, 2015 until August, 2016 comprises a seven-classroom extension plus ancillary work, while the Swords project – which commenced in June and is due for completion in March – involves the construction of a specialist unit for children with autism. Tom estimates that at any given time he has four or five direct employees working on each of these jobs, as well as an additional nine or ten subcontractors on each site.

Nolan Construction also specialises in quality high-end finishes and is currently working on one of these at The Strand in Bray and another in Castleknock. “These are challenging and bespoke jobs with great attention to detail in terms of air-tightness etc. and with a lot of glazing involved in both. We have also just handed over a duplex of apartments in Talbot Street, which we refurbished whilst keeping a café functioning below us.”

The four areas in which Nolan Construction is most renowned are restaurants and cafés (fit outs or design-and builds); education; refurbishment / conservation work; and high-end private work. In the latter field of expertise, they have completed work in Anglesea Road, Paddington Road, Blackrock etc.

Regarding the key to his success since setting up Nolan Construction, Tom points out that prudence and awareness go a long way: “Controlling costs is vital,” he says. “Understanding costs and keeping control of them; ensuring that subcontractor and supplier costs don’t get out of hand.

“You also need a good quality team of staff and subcontractors, with a good atmosphere between them. It’s important that they have a high level of integrity and that they enjoy their work and understand that there is a standard that we work to that will not be compromised upon.

“All my staff are looked after. If you treat them well, they will give a good service in return and treat the client well. People always say the client comes first but I would contend that staff are equally as important and for that reason I use more of a carrot than a stick approach.”

Looking to the future, Tom envisages further growth but will continue to adapt a practical outlook: “We do intend to grow but will do so cautiously,” he concludes. “I won’t be taking on any huge swathes of debt. It will be controlled and considered growth; organic and safe. If you grow too quickly, you lose control.

“Of course, growth is also dependant on finding high-quality staff. We have a good tendering system and good relationships with clients so, ironically, it’s often harder to find good staff than to find the work.

“I know all the staff personally and I always try to source people that I know or that I have a historical connection to. Once there is a sound level of honesty there, that creates a common trust and a collective consciousness to get things right. Nobody is inclined to ease up or take shortcuts and we’re all working towards the same end, which is mutually beneficial. As the company grows, the staff benefit both financially and also from access to better tools and equipment. Things become better for them in their working environment and we can all progress together.”

Indeed, listening to Tom, I suspect that this adherence to strong teamwork is perhaps the most pertinent of Nolan Construction’s many great attributes.

Nolan Construction,
County Wicklow.
Tel: 040228773
Mobile 086 8280684
E: [email protected]

Taken from Building Ireland magazine, Spring 2016, Vol 2, No 1