Warnes Projects Limited are based in Ford, but until recently were best known for their commercial fit-outs and refurbishment projects in London. Joining the Chamber and entering the Adur & Worthing Business Awards changed all that. Working on local projects is a whole new experience, as Stephen Hobbs, Managing Director, explains to Ian Trevett
One of the lessons we have learned in producing business magazines in the South East is that you never stop discovering hugely successful companies that operate locally, yet you are totally unaware of. Warnes Projects Limited is one such company, and it appears that they are going on the same journey of discovery.
When Warnes first started out, they won some great projects in Battersea, and through word of mouth, they inherited more work in the capital. The company had always wanted to source local work as well, but the London contracts kept them constantly busy.
It was joining Worthing & Adur Chamber of Commerce that changed this dynamic. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first went to a meeting,” says Stephen Hobbs, MD of Warnes Project Limited. “I thought, probably incorrectly, it would just be like a business club but it’s not. It’s about meeting likeminded people. We have made some great contacts, and Marc Sagoo, our Head of Design, is working with two Chamber members at the moment on one of our projects in London.
“We did the Better Business Show last year and that was amazing. We had about 360 cards and we’ve had strong enquiries. We’ve quoted for projects locally for companies that we didn’t even know existed – and, more importantly, didn’t know us. So it worked very well. For instance, we’re doing a lot of work for Northbrook and Worthing College. And, of course, we worked with the Chamber in designing and fitting-out the Sphere.
“After about a year, the Chamber said, “Have you thought about going in for the Business Awards?” We put in our application and we won Small Business of the Year, which was a real shock to us.
“Everything changed. We started getting enquiries and winning work locally. Although we’ve always been a local business, we haven’t been a local company, and now we are a local company.
“When we won was probably the best company day of my life. You always enter because you want to win, but it was so unexpected. What it did for us as a company and everybody who works here was worth more than any projects we may win. It was a proper boost! All the guys who work in London and everybody who works here celebrated: “We won it! The team have won it.”
So, what is it that Warnes actually do?
“We do office and warehouse refurbishment,” says Stephen. “Essentially we’re a project management firm, so pretty much anything within the construction industry. We don’t really do ground-up building but anything within the industry we can project manage. We do warehouse conversions; for instance we might take a 10,000 square foot warehouse and convert it into two smaller warehouses, and we’ll refurb it back for the client.
“We do office refurbishments for clients and Marc will space plan and we give them design options. We’ll space plan it, design it, we’ll bring in our mechanical and electrical engineers, and we’ll manage the fitting out. Effectively, we are there from design to completion.”
The name of the company was a bit of a mystery, as no-one in the company seems to have a surname of Warne…
“I started Warnes Projects with my business partner, Ed Davies. The name Warnes came from the fact that we met when we both worked in the Warnes Hotel in Worthing. He was a chef and I worked in the restaurant.
“We won a contract in Battersea, who was a client I had previously work with, and straight after the developer gave us another project. We then looked at working with another company who wanted a project done and suddenly we were Warnes. We were working in the back bedroom of my house. We grew and grew and grew to the point where we were working on plans on the floor in the back bedroom and we rented a little office down in the town.
“Through necessity we had to move on and found this space in Ford. There were still only three of us. Carolyn, my wife, was doing all the paperwork and the books and me and Ed were running around all over the place. Then Tracy Verga came on board and started doing contract work for me in London; Marc came and joined us; and now we’re nearly 11 employees strong (one is part-time).”
“We’re growing very quickly. We had a very good year last year. We’ve been sitting here seeing the business change, watching the enquiry level change. One area we are looking to grow is to take on bigger projects. Our commissions are getting bigger, and we are setup to take on even bigger challenges. We want to be known as more of a player in the fit-out market.
“One of our biggest projects at Great Dover Street in London, ended up being a £2.4m project, but the way it worked was we had one project there, which led to another and so on. It was a project of five smaller projects made up of one of £600,000, another of £350,000 and so on. I want the company to be seen as being able to manage a £3 million project, as a singletender. We win the projects on merit and each one leads to a bigger one.”
As the projects get more ambitious, it has created a growing pain that Stephen hadn’t anticipated.
“I became aware that we were becoming set up to manage larger projects, which was a natural growing process. We have always worked on large and small projects, and we have built up great relationships with our clients of all sizes. So we can continue giving a bespoke service to different size companies, who have different requirements, we are developing a small works division. We will be promoting the new division, as we value these commissions very highly.
“As we grow, we have to adapt accordingly, but it is a good issue to have. In a year’s time I would like people to have even more of an awareness locally of Warnes, but it has been an amazing 18 months.”
Tel: 01243 558570