Two contractors have used slack periods in the recession to refocus their activities in preparation for better times

For some, the recession has offered the chance to examine business strategies and to re-assess how their companies communicate with clients and the outside world.

Diamond Build of north London and Corniche Builders of Sutton are two firms that have recently rebranded by updating logos, graphics and websites. But both also regard the changes as the outward evidence of internal shifts that have been made to address the markets and clients of the future.

‘When times get hard, you have to try harder and devote time and money to business development and giving people a reason to move to you rather than any other contractor,’ says John Gray, chairman of £20m turnover Diamond Build.

The contractor identified a need for a change of strategy in late 2008 and decided to capitalise on its sustainability credentials as a holder of ISO 14001. It also decided to focus on private sector clients, reasoning that the public sector’s trend towards packaging work into multi-million bundles suitable only for major contractors would increasingly restrict opportunities in this market for itself and other SMEs.

‘We hope to skew our workload to environmental improvements, on new build and existing stock,’ says Gray. ‘As energy costs rise, there will be a scramble to make improvements. That’s where we’re positioning ourselves.’

Diamond brought in a business development manager and a graphic designer to simultaneously develop its new client base and its new look. The new logo features a green diamond in the top right-hand corner to signal its green credentials.

Among the additional benefits of the £50,000-plus rebranding, Gray lists staff engagement. ‘The fact that we’re spending money on relaunching in a recession has perked everyone up – it feels like we’re moving forward,’ he says.

Corniche Builders began ‘navel gazing’ at the beginning of 2009, starting with an update of its website. But once the web designer submitted a design based on ‘Corniche – Build, Maintain, Refurbish’, the directors spotted an opportunity to reposition the company in the eyes of clients as well as rebranding.

Relaunching in a recession has perked everyone up

John Gray, Diamond Build

‘At the same time as redoing the website, we gained Investors in People accreditation, and did a 360 analysis of the company to look at the business structure and how it operates,’ says Mike Smith, managing director. ‘When we go live with the new website [on 1 October], we’ll be a new company.’

The new, improved Corniche will be a ‘professional SME’ that trains its staff properly and aims for client satisfaction even if it hurts bottom line profits.

Ross Sturley, director of strategic marketing consultancy Chart Lane, agrees that rebranding has to be more than skin deep. ‘Using the fact that you’re not so busy to plan for a time when you might be is a good use of resources. But rebranding is about more than the logo – it’s about deciding what makes you different from the rest of the field, then expressing that in everything you do.’

For instance, a ‘green’ contractor should ensure that all its cars and vans are eco-models, while a company that wants to be known for excellent customer service needs to make sure that every site operative and member of the accounts team has taken these values to heart. ‘It’s about living what you do, and doing it at all levels of the company,’ says Sturley.

Both Diamond and Corniche report that business inquiries are already up. ‘We’ve taken advantage of a slack period and it’s paid off. Normally September and October are quiet for us, but we’re busy until December,’ says Smith.

l The Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group is holding a ‘Strategy 2010’ conference at London’s Building Centre on 2 December. Visit for more information

The Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group is holding a ‘Strategy 2010’ conference at London’s Building Centre on 2 December. Visit for more information