WFC Contractors boasts a 40 year track record of delivering high quality Main Contractor and Project Management services for leading leisure industry brands, from one-off projects through to national roll-outs.
The award winning fit-out contractors specialise in the UK leisure industry and since their inception have maintained a high level of client retention.
The firm is currently in its 40th anniversary this year, and celebrated this milestone with a reception for clients, designers and project managers at one of its recent projects – the spectacular Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch St.
WFC is run by Phil Waggett and Steve Howle, who joined the family business in 1999; after a handover period their fathers retired from the helm of the business in 2004/5. Premier Hospitality caught up with Phil and Steve to find out more about WFC’s journey, and their plans for the future.
“WFC was set up in Torquay by our fathers, who had previously worked for another fit out company, initially with the intention of being a local firm, but as the company grew their clients took WFC out of Devon and across the country.
“In the early days they worked with national brands such as Radio Rentals and First Leisure, travelling all over the country. We joined the business at a point in our lives when relocating to the south west of the country was an attractive option for us and our families; it was a happy coincidence of timing.”
Phil and Steve underwent an intensive training period upon starting at WFC, working across all areas of the business to really learn the ropes, over a period of two years. In the early noughties the firm worked with a number of clients including Urbium (now Novus, the operators of Tiger Tiger), First Leisure, Luminar Leisure, London Clubs, and David Lloyd Leisure. A strong working relationship has been maintained with many of the people involved in the projects from this era.
The firm’s clients now include independent and multiple venue operators including clubs, pubs, casinos, health clubs, restaurants, hotels, theatres, bowling alleys and bingo halls.
Directors Phil and Steve attribute the company’s success to their ability to co-manage different aspects of the business. Steve’s skill set comprises excellent customer facing skills, he is a natural sales person and a strong leader whilst Phil excels on the technical side of the business including processes, accounts, procedure and the corporate governance side of the business.
Since taking over WFC, the talented duo has developed a diverse management team to ensure that all projects are delivered in a professional manner. They have also established a strong succession plan to ensure that the company’s future is not solely reliant on the two Directors.
Another key focus for the WFC brand, especially when Phil and Steve took over, was to expand the firm’s client base, Phil added:
“We wanted to make sure we had lots of clients in different leisure sectors including bars, restaurants, clubs, casinos and health & fitness establishments and I am pleased to say we have achieved this.
“We maintain good relationships with all our existing clients, as well as continuing to gain new business. When we take a job on we see it as an opportunity for the future with the clients, as well as a chance to work with the designers, project manager and quantity surveyors. We try and make sure clients’ and contractors’ experiences of WFC ensure they want to work with us on other projects.”
As a family business the firm pride themselves on maintaining relationships with clients and staff.
The firm have a rigorous procedure in place when taking on new jobs which involves pricing new projects and providing a transparent budget to clients before works begin. Once the pricing has been established the firm hold an internal meeting where the estimating team hand over to the delivery team.
Long term procurement is then planned and the management team is identified before works begin on site. Regular meetings are then held with the client and their design team to ensure that everything is on track.
The client often leads on-site meetings as the project progresses although the less experienced clients look to WFC to lead this aspect of the scheme. The WFC team also hold internal weekly review meetings to ensure critical orders are being placed and site arrangements are correct.
Steve explained that since taking over WFC the duo have encountered challenges especially in relation to the speed with which projects need completing.
“It is always hard for us to strike a balance between having enough time to price the scheme accurately and not taking on too much risk and getting on site to undertake the project at full speed.
“We also encounter challenges when drawings change late in the project; e-mail technology has made it easier for the client’s team to make late changes, but we still need to accommodate these changes in practice on the sites.”
In spite of these challenges the firm has continued to thrive, embracing every opportunity to learn and grow as a company over the last decade. Phil said the pair has learned many lessons since taking over the helm at WFC including how to deliver a project efficiently, as well as how to run a successful business. Phil added:
“When we came on board we initially wanted to concentrate on how much we turned over each year but now our focus has changed to having a profit based budget rather than a turnover based budget. We have a strong emphasis on ensuring everyone looks after both costs and value.
“We have also realised that there are other contractors that deliver high end leisure venues but we like to think we do it differently. From when we are appointed by the client to the end of the scheme we offer a non-contractual, pro-active approach provided by experienced leisure team players. We make every project a happy, friendly journey rather than a confrontational contractor-client relationship and it is this that we think is our USP.”
“We instil into our team the ethos that we want to be the contractor of choice; that is what we are aiming for.”