New bosses target growing markets and regions in drive to hit £50m turnover by 2007

QS and project manager Cyril Sweett has begun a drive to raise turnover from £30m to £50m turnover by 2007.

The expansion plan is being overseen by chief executive Dean Webster and deputy chairman Derek Pitcher – both promoted last month.

They plan to expand Cyril Sweett through three main channels: by expanding their presence in growing markets such as education, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals; growing the firm’s regional operations, including setting up offices in the North-east; and becoming a better established international player, particularly in western Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Webster said Cyril Sweett, which is a private limited company, had moved to adopt a more corporate organisation after its £6.5m management buyout from agent Chesterton in 1998. He said: “The business has trebled since 1998 from 150 to 450 [staff]. We need to start organising ourselves on a more structured basis.”

Webster said the firm had created a regional board to oversee its operation across the UK. It had also split these operations in five main regions: London and the South-east, Scotland, Ireland, the Midlands and the South-west.

He added that the firm had hired a team of researchers to analyse future movements in the market and created account plans for the firm’s top 20 clients. He said: “We are trying to become a lot more strategic as well as aligning ourselves more closely to our clients.”

We see ourselves as a top five consultant, not in numbers but in reputation

Derek Pitcher, deputy chairman

Webster said that the company’s move into markets such as education could include taking equity stakes in the government’s Schools for the Future initiative. Cyril Sweett took a stake in the Plymouth £23m LIFT health scheme alongside partners Midas Group and Sutton Harbour.

Webster said: “As a principle it gives us potential for longevity and sustainability in public sector markets. It’s primarily a driver for fee work. We’re keen to work in the schools market as well. We are looking at one or two with a view to equity.”

Webster said the growth drive would be mainly organic, although the firm would consider “different vehicles” for international expansion. The firm owns one-third of Dublin-based QS and project manager Boyd Creed, with an option to buy the firm outright. Webster said: “In principle we could own it. We need to create arrangements internationally that suit each particular region.”

Webster said the merger with DG Jones, which was signed in early 2002, had taken time to establish itself. He said: “They are a complicated structure, with separate structures for the Middle and the Far East. We need to pull the whole thing together.”

Pitcher said he and Webster had been given a free rein to run the business by chairman Francis Ives, who led the buyout in 1998. Ives is now concentrating on the firm’s global expansion with international director Jimmi Bradbury.

We are trying to become a lot more strategic as well as aligning with clients

Dean Webster, chief executive

Pitcher said: “Francis has been good at giving us space. He’s not like some senior partners who want to hold on. He has let us run the business. He remains a great figurehead for us.”

Pitcher said the firm saw itself as a strong player in the QS and project management sector. He said: “We see ourselves as a top five construction consultant, not in numbers but in reputation. Before we were seen as strong in particular sectors or major projects. I think our name is much stronger than it was across a wider range of sectors now.”

Pitcher said that the firm had kept in contact with airports group BAA, despite the client dropping Cyril Sweett temporarily from its framework agreement last summer. He said staff previously working for BAA had been reallocated to other parts of the business.

Pitcher said: “We are keen to maintain involvement in that market. I also think we can transfer that experience to airports work overseas.” Pitcher also said the firm was “there for the long run” in the rail market despite recent cutbacks made by client Network Rail.

Sweett smell of success

The firm’s turnover has grown steadily in the past two years. Results posted last month show sales of £30m for the year to 31 March 2004, up from £25m in 2003. Pre-tax profit mirrored this, up to £2.7m in 2004 compared with £1.9m in 2003.

Webster said he expected the growth to continue gradually, up to £35m in 2005 to £42m in 2006 and £50m by 2007. This £50m is expected to break down as £7-8m in consulting (advising on procurement, tax and legal), £20m project management and the remaining £22m in quantity surveying.