Cost benefits drive sale of landscape firm

Company director describes decision to sell Norris & Gardiner to Gavin Jones as 'a no-brainer'.

Gardiner: business challenge - image: Norris & Gardiner
Gardiner: business challenge - image: Norris & Gardiner

The rising costs of health and safety and tendering contributed to Richard Gardiner's decision to sell Norris & Gardiner, established by his father, to Gavin Jones.

The two companies have been working together in a trading alliance since last September, allowing Norris & Gardiner to move away from a business model with high overheads and insufficient operational spending.

Staff numbers went down from 30 to 24 in this time, as people left and were not replaced at the Woking-based landscape and grounds maintenance company, with no compulsory redundancies.

Some have moved to jobs at Gavin Jones in nearby Addlestone, Surrey, which employed around 300 before the takeover. The smaller firm also closed a depot near Aldershot and moved into Gavin Jones' facility nearby.

Director Gardiner, whose father established the firm with business partner Cedric Norris 50 years ago, said: "It's not one major thing, it's lots of little cost benefits."

The company, which had a turnover of £1.3m in the last financial year, has been spending more than £5,000 a year on a contract with an external company providing health and safety and human resources services that is due to end in November.

Accessing Gavin Jones' specialist tendering team was also attractive. "It's a lot of work putting in tenders for a small firm," said Gardiner.

Norris & Gardiner will continue to focus on the local authority market, in which it is seen as increasingly difficult for small companies to survive as councils continue to cut budgets. But Gardiner said this was only an element in the decision to sell.

"It's a challenge for a small business - it's more difficult but not impossible," he said, adding that clients vary, with some, for example, accepting good internal health and safety procedures and others requiring a more formal and costly approach.

"Health and safety is a strong element of local authority contracts. We did it very well and if you do it well it's a costly exercise. Others who don't do it so well don't see it as much of a burden."

Gavin Jones managing director Will Clark was not available for comment but said in a statement that "the synergies between our organisations were simply too over-whelming to resist".

Business team Management line-up

Richard Gardiner, who became managing director of Norris & Gardiner 10 years ago, will continue to run the company, along with Gavin Jones operations manager Simon Jacob and managing director Will Clark as co-directors.

"It wasn't a difficult decision. It was the right thing to do," he said. "I've always tried to do the best thing by the business. Emotion does come into it but it doesn't help in business. Our challenge now is to grow fast enough to create opportunities for great people. From my point of view it was a no-brainer."

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