Scaling up, from under the stairs to award-winning workplace solutions provider

Active Workplace Solutions, some key stats:

  • Moved 900 staff over one weekend
  • Largest phased project 6,500 staff moved for Nationwide
  • In 2018 alone completed 1,700 jobs for over 200 clients
  • 94% of unwanted office furniture is resoldreused or recycled

As often happens in business, it was an encounter at a business seminar that led Adrian Powell, director and co-owner of Active Workspace Solutions, to meet the non-executive director who would help this successful business scale-up.

Going back to the beginning, Active FM (as it was then) was a small facilities management consultancy founded in 1999 by owner-operator, Colin Tarsey. In 2007 Colin approached Adrian to join him.

Four-fold growth in his first year

Initially running the company from his under-stairs cupboard, Adrian grew the business from £200k to over £800k turnover p.a in his first year. When his wife, Sarah, joined to oversee the accounts and operations, the office grew too, moving to the couple’s conservatory.  

The arrival of Colin’s wife, Angela, who had managed the PR from her own company, meant the core directors were now in place

Growth was good, until it slowed

The company grew year on year, £800k became £1.3m, then £1.8m, £2.7m, £4m and £5m. They moved to a 2,500 sq ft office, then again in 2013, to the 12,000 sq ft premises they occupy today. Things were going well for the self-funding SME. But the rate of growth slowed and the directors, like so many entrepreneurs before them, needed some support. Adrian explained:

“It’s true what they say, it can be lonely at the top. We needed input from someone who had been where we were, to give us confidence with our growth plans, to be a sounding board, a sense and sanity check.”

A business seminar provided the turning point  

It was at a Berkshire Business Growth Hub seminar, at the Henley Business School, that Adrian first encountered David Sanger, a highly experienced entrepreneur who was looking for an ambitious company to join. 

With David’s support, they’ve improved the business structure, recruited experienced specialists and delegated work; Adrian’s direct reports dropped from a dozen to just 2. Adrian noted:

“With the new structure in place, we could finally start to look at the business, and really growing it”

From moving offices to full office solutions

An agile company from the start, Adrian realised it was time to shift the focus of the business from office moving to designing and building workplaces, utilising their cutting-edge office solutions for business of all sizes.

While their innovative ‘Waste not, Want not’ CSR scheme enabled office move clients to donate unwanted furniture and equipment to charity, which Active delivers and installs free of charge. In fact, Active resell, reuse and recycle an incredible 94% of cleared furniture.

Today the company has grown to over 30 people, with a portfolio of more than 200 clients, including: Virgin Media, Mercedes Benz, Dell, Channel 4 and Nationwide Building Society.

There’s no better place to be

Adrian can’t imagine the business being anywhere else in the country, commenting:

“The nature of business in Reading means there’s no better place to be, other than maybe the City [of London]. We have all the connectivity and transport infrastructure. Reading in particular has been transformed in recent years, and with the advent of CrossRail, will only continue to improve.”

Well-deserved success

The company’s attention to detail and excellent client service has seen it excel in an extremely competitive market. Now 27th in the 2019 list of Thames Valley fastest growing companies, they’ve also won a few awards too. 

Adrian won the prestigious Institute of Directors (IoD) Director of the Year Award 2017 for London and South East (small company up to £10m turnover).  

Active Workplace Solutions was a finalist in the Thames Valley Business & Community Awards Employer of the Year in 2019, winner of their SME of the Year in 2018. And they’re not resting on their laurels.

Back
Scaling up, from under the stairs to award-winning workplace solutions provider

Year on year growth, from £800k to £5m in 5 years.

From a 2,500sq ft office, to the 12,000sq ft premises.

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