Livis celebrate 20 years
Livis began its life in 1996 with 2 partners Andy Cuthbertson and John Fullagar on the back of 2 credit cards and a £1,500 loan from John’s nan, Lil. Andy proudly recalls ‘The first item I bought was a pair of decent shoes to go with my suit – and 20 years later I still have ‘em!’
They met in 1976 when 4 years old at Downsview infant school, Swanley and formed at partnership that has stood the test of time. Andy said there is no other person he would have gone into business with and 40 years on, the bond and trust has stood the test of time.
The early years
Andy and John worked for a small construction company in the rail environment and were looking for a change. Both in their mid 20s with no commitments, they took the plunge in 1996 and Livis was born. The loan and credit cards provided the up front cost of the materials for their first job. Work in the first two years mainly consisted of insurance and maintenance works in residential properties. By the end of the first year Livis had achieved a turnover of £102k.
The goal was always to gain contracts for the London Underground and they knew they had to build up their credibility, resources and accreditations to achieve this. Two years later the breakthrough came and with a project value of £3.5k Livis started work for London Underground, all be it via an approved contractor. The job involved supplying and installing cameras in Earls Court underground. Andy and John did all the work themselves.
A large contract at the time refitting a Government build and changing it into commercial offices in Haymarket, London for an M&E company called Hayden Young gave them their first foot up on the ladder to success. After finishing early one afternoon they both changed into their suits and met their future bank manager at the IOD building in Pall Mall – A few days later they had their ‘Pall Mall’ bank account. Andy jokes “We always wanted a London address, even if was on our bank statements.”
The contracts came at a steady pace and grew in value. And in 2000 it was time to find new premises in Sidcup. At the time they had grown to 5 employees, a few contract staff and had a turnover of £1M. Two contracts helped grow the company at the time, one re-fitting the common areas in the West End for a property management company worth nearly £400k and another for Postfield Systems installing communication systems on Network Rail.
Another sizable project while at Sidcup and with a value of £150k was for Lovell Construction (later YJLI) refurbishing Hyde Park Corner Station. Lovell was a large client. Lovell accounted for £3M of the work and represented a large proportion of the business.
The ups and downs
The moved to Dartford came in 2004 and the company now had a turnover in excess of £4M. The move allowed for considerable expansion. With 20 staff in office, 30 staff on- site, plus sub-contractors and 15 vehicles – Business was looking good. Livis became a main contractor for Metronet Rail and Tube Lines, the two infrastructure companies in a public-private partnership with London Underground. Contracts were increasing in size and turnover grew to £7M by 2007.
A tough year followed, Metronet folded and the responsibilities were transferred back into public ownership under the authority of Transport for London. Metronet accounted for a loss of 30% of business in 1 year. John remembers clearly “Lesson learnt, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” 2008 was also the start of a national recession so it was time to batten down the hatches, consolidate and sit tight.. It took a further two years to replace the loss in business.
Refocusing the business
The move to Springhead, Northfleet in 2013 was the start of a strategic growth plan – refocusing on core skills and working in challenging environments. The building was virtually purpose built and gave a better corporate feel to the business. It also provided better working conditions for the staff, as well as somewhere to park their cars. A thorough rebrand allowed Livis to secure business in other areas – TFL, Power, Network Rail and Cross Rail as well as Ports and Harbours. Andy says “ We always question, ‘Is there a better way to do this?’ and apply this across the business. Our people are key to our success and we’re proud of the fact that 20% of our staff have been with us at least 10 years.”
“Refocusing our business based on our strengthens has made us more durable and given us more options. We looked at what we are good at – a safe pair of hands and good project management. We are more stable than we’ve ever been, investing heavily in people and skill sets and ensuring the energy is evident throughout the company on a daily basis.”
Today Livis is looking strong, with a turnover of nearly £10M, over 100 staff, 40 vehicles and expanding into other market sectors. Livis is geared up for the next 10 years. Andy reflects, “As the organisation gets larger and more process driven, there can be a tendency for the ‘institution’ to dampen the inspiration – the challenge now is in keeping it personal for our clients.