Demolition contractor Coleman & Co has grown rapidly to offer a variety of services

Specialist contractors are divided over whether the multidisciplinary approach provides the best service to clients or even if clients really want to get all their services from one contractor. Demolition specialist Coleman & Co is definitely in favour of the idea. Recently, it launched a civil engineering business to add to the demolition services it offers.

Mark Coleman, contracts and safety director at Coleman & Co, says the civil engineering division is a “natural progression” from its existing services of demolition, excavation and recycling. The expansion is also a response to clients’ needs, and he is a keen advocate of the multidisciplinary approach, believing that clients want a one-stop-shop contractor:

“Clients are looking for an all-encompassing type of contractor, as it improves efficiency. The more people you employ, the more likelihood there is of wrangling.”

However, Coleman admits there have been teething problems, although he declines to elaborate. But he says they started small, so any problems can be easily managed.

This multidisciplinary approach is a far cry from where the company started. Coleman & Co was set up in 1962 by Jack Coleman, Mark’s grandfather, as a demolition contractor. Now, in addition to the civils work, it offers a complete service for the preparation of a building site – from removing asbestos to explosive engineering.

More recently, the expansion has been rapid, with turnover doubling over the past three years. For the year ending 31 March 2006 turnover was £12.6m and the firm is predicting this to grow to more than £16m in this financial year. In the past 12 months the head count has seen a 25% increase to 125.

The more people you employ, the more likelihood there is of wrangling

Mark Coleman

The civil engineering arm is just one of the changes introduced at Coleman & Co since it won at last year’s Building Specialist Contractor awards. It took first place in both the essential site services specialist category and specialist’s innovator category.

In order to cope with its expansion and the changing nature of the business, the company has also brought in James Howard from Axa Group in the new role of strategic development manager. His job has been to provide the company with a definite business plan for the future, detailing everything from the type of work it should be completing to the clients it should be approaching.

As the company has grown, the type of projects it works on have grown more complicated. The contractor was recently involved in the facade retention of the Grade I-listed former post office headquarters in Glasgow. It required the removal of sections of the facade to be able to knock down the building and then the brick-by-brick reconstruction of the facade.

“We see ourselves taking on projects that require more time,” says Coleman. “But we’d still do a garage at £200-300; we’re not fussy.”

Coleman & Co has also taken a hands-on approach to recycling construction waste. To ensure the debris from its sites could be re-used, the firm recently set up its own specialist recycling plant on a six-acre site in Birmingham. Material is pre-screened, washed, removing substances such as wood, and separated into a variety of gravels and sands, which are used again. The plant is the first of its kind in the UK and Coleman & Co has been able to reduce generated waste by 90%.

Coleman jokes that third- generation family members are known for ruining family businesses, but adds, “I’m not doing too bad so far.”