North Ayrshire Business Scaling the Heights of Success

22 Feb 2019

No one can deny that Walker Cladding Limited, based in Irvine, North Ayrshire, has had an exciting yet challenging time since business partners Bill Reid and Iain Sweden bought over the cladding business from WG Walker in 2014.  In this short space of time, the two Directors have grown what was a small flat roofing business into an approved leading contractor specialising in innovative, bespoke and robust cladding, roofing and environmental systems.

Walker Cladding prides itself in delivering high quality, cost effective design and installation for the complete building envelope. Their clients are commercial businesses ranging from sole building contractors to national chain hotels and every other sector in between.

Walker Cladding only believes in supplying its customers with the safest products and highest levels of service, so by working flexibly with businesses of all sizes in both the private and public sectors, it is ensuring that these high standards are always maintained.

This fact was never more strengthened than with the tragedy of Grenfell Towers in June 2017. As a result, Walker Cladding saw a slowdown in business as projects had to be paused while architects reviewed and re-designed blueprints. This saw a 6-month filter-through of re-designs reaching construction stage.

Fortunately, Walker Cladding’s flexible approach to serving smaller customers and its meticulous financial management helped it survive the last year without having to announce any redundancies.

For years, Bill and Iain have realised that by outsourcing cladding panels, they were not in control of quality, cost or timeframes. They felt that if the production and manufacture of panels were done in-house, ultimately the customer would benefit greatly at every level, especially cost.

This has resulted in the start-up of BritFab, the sister company of Walker Cladding. BritFab is a separate but inter-linked business to Walker Cladding.  It fabricates and supplies all types of panels to Walker Cladding for installation, as well as sells them separately to customers who only require the product. BritFab boasts the only Pendulum CNC Routing Machine in Scotland which can cut all types of panels. This gives further flexibility to clients who can expect a range of services from one supplier.

Walker Cladding will serve customers in Scotland and England while BritFab aims to grow its customer base throughout the UK and Ireland.

In order for both companies to exist within the same location, the business partners had to find large premises with space for a manufacturing plant.  They found the ideal place in Kyle Industrial Estate, Irvine. They contacted Team North Ayrshire of North Ayrshire Council who were extremely helpful with the relocation which occurred in October 2018.

Since this initial support, Team North Ayrshire has also helped the businesses with a range of consultancy and training support for staff to ensure its growth. “They have helped us immensely in our development into the manufacturing side of our business. Our ongoing relationship with the Council, with regular meetings and updates taking place, is invaluable to us. It is not just the financial assistance, but the willingness to help with business mentoring that show just how invaluable they both are to our ultimate success.” Iain explains.

In order to facilitate further expansion and investment in machinery, Bill and Iain approached Team North Ayrshire once again and their Business Advisor strongly suggested they apply for funding via Business Loans Scotland. Within a month of supplying all the necessary documentation, which was collated with the expertise of a financial consultant offered by the Council, the loan from Business Loans Scotland of £50,000 was successfully approved. They found the application process simple due to the support they received at every step of the way.

As Bill says, “Many SMEs know where they want to be and also know that they are capable of operating successfully and profitably once they get there.  Sometimes, getting there is the problem. Financial and business help is required in many cases to achieve that aim and this is where Team North Ayrshire are indispensable.”

The recently awarded loan from Business Loans Scotland will be used to expand and refurbish the premises to allow for the recent upturn in business. This expansion and the robustness of operations with the two companies will see an increase in the existing 10 employees. In the next 12 months, they envision employing up to 7 new members of staff, including fabricators, while still using on-site sub-contractors for installation projects.  Clients can be assured that Walker Cladding works with the same trusted group of sub-contractors on every project.

With their solid reputation for cutting-edge design, flexibility, dependability, trustworthiness and efficiency, they hope to reach a turnover of £4 - £5 million in the next 3 years. It is heartening to see that morale isn’t down for long when a business has visionary leaders with a handle on reality and crucial support from key partners. Opportunities are always there to be embraced.

Speaking of the loan awarded, Fund Manager of Business Loans Scotland, Andrew Dickson said:

“I am absolutely delighted that Business Loans Scotland has been able to support Walker Cladding and their sister company BritFab. I wish them well in growing their business and look forward to watching them develop and flourish. I am also delighted that Business Loans Scotland has been appointed as one of the Fund Managers under the Scottish Growth Scheme and look forward to being able to support many more businesses, like Walker Cladding, access loan funding.”