Simons Construction is all about building quality — it cares about the craftsmanship involved in projects such as renovating cathedrals, but also about investing in a friendly, talented and long-serving workforce. The firm is run by the Hodgkinson family, and the brothers Paul and Philip are chief executive and managing director of Simons Estates respectively. Their father, Peter, founded the company with a friend, Harry Dunn, who worked with him at another building firm during the war.
By 1944, the two had taken over the company, W & J Simons. Hodgkinson eventually bought out his partner and left the business to his three sons, and the firm’s senior executives now own a 96% stake.
Paul Hodgkinson, an enthusiastic and hands-on leader, has encouraged expansion abroad and the firm now has an American operation, together with projects such as building Pizza Huts in Moscow. Simons has worked for clients such as Safeway, Asda, and Granada and built a home at Windsor for the Duke and Duchess of York.
Unusually for a building firm, Simons employs hardly any contractors (only six, compared with 992 full and part-time staff). Revenues have more than doubled since 1997 and staff numbers increased by nearly 100.
Hodgkinson wants to recruit more women. They make up only 13% of staff currently and only 2% of applicants for site manager posts: the firm aims to have 50% female staff by 2011. However, with no extra maternity pay or leave, no help with childcare and no paternity leave, the firm will need to match others for family friendliness.
Staff feel proud of the firm and in touch with its leaders. One worker said: “The chief executive and MD are constantly contactable and encourage all to phone or email with new ideas.” Another said: “One is said to be ‘Simonised’ after a short while with the company, when the ethos of the business has been absorbed.”
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