Steering a Course Through a ‘Perfect Storm’

COVID-19 has sent shockwaves through the contracting and construction sector in recent months. Locally and nationally, firms have faced a perfect storm of lockdown, social distancing and uncertainty around equipment and materials availability, and have either cut back or halted a significant proportion of site-based activities. Emergency response has become the new norm, but, as HMS’ Paul Worthington explains, there’s a clear and compelling rationale for work streams to be rebuilt and for services to resume in a safe and controlled way.

Paul is Managing Director at North West building and maintenance contractor HMS. He says, “COVID-19 has forced us to adapt – and adapt quickly. We worked to mobilise quickly from the outset, halting work on construction sites across our portfolio and reducing our repairs and maintenance activity to emergency services only, operating with a skeleton team.”

“Our focus in recent weeks has been on making sure we respond promptly and responsibly to every emergency and ‘home from hospital’ repair request that comes in from our clients and their customers,” he continues. “People depended on us and needed to know that support was available to them, whenever they needed it.”

“Teams of key workers have already completed 2,300 emergency home repairs and 2,100 essential gas safety checks since lockdown, following detailed risk assessed procedures and health and safety guidelines to keep customers and staff safe. These vital activities have ensured people have a safe and healthy place to call home, which is so important – now, more than ever.”

Now, HMS is mapping out a cautious, controlled return to selected non-emergency work streams, in line with Government guidelines to continue building, repairs and maintenance activities, and support the regional and national economic recovery.

“Ramping up in a safe way whilst reflecting the realities of the ongoing crisis is a necessary step forward as we work to weather the economic storm and rebuild service levels for our clients and communities,” Paul confirms. “Like others in the sector, we’ve worked to strengthen the company’s financial resilience in partnership with our lenders and have utilised the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to furlough a proportion of our staff. This means we can continue to pay 100% of salaries across the board.”

“We have had to make a lot of tough decisions throughout this period,” he continues, “but we are currently working to welcome our entire staff team back in the coming weeks.”

Adapting to the new landscape post-Coronavirus is something every organisation will have to contend with and one which will forever be changed. Discussing this, Paul says; “Collaboration and partnership with local organisations and suppliers is of paramount importance to ensure the recovery and growth of the sector as a whole and HMS is committed to continuing working with valued local partners and organisations to ensure we get through this, together.

“Supporting local supply chains and business opportunities is one of the values which underpins everything we do here at HMS, which is why as soon as we were able, we resumed all working arrangements with local companies such as Steve Biko Housing Association. This is as an integral part of operating as a responsible and sustainable business and we will continue to do everything we can to keep local supply chains active.”

Listed as one of the North West’s fastest growing contractors and with a turnover of £62 million generated in 2019/2020, Torus group member HMS will continue to invest in meaningful social, employment and charitable projects across the region to support societal, as well and financial, recovery in the coming months.

“HMS has, and will always be, a social entrepreneur at its heart. Since forming in 2011, we have consistently contributed financially to the Group’s charitable arm, Torus Foundation, and gift aided to local projects that improve health and wellbeing, employment opportunities and provide individuals chances to meet new people and learn new skills,” Paul explains.

“This will not stop. We must support the people who live and work in our communities to get back to whatever their ‘new normal’ is and the only way to do that is to continue to build much-needed affordable housing options and provide essential repairs and maintenance activities.”

“So, whatever we face in the coming months, we do so with renewed focus and the support of our dedicated team and local partners.”



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