Bernie Sims Associates

When established construction health & safety consultancy Bernard Sims Associates learned about imminent new regulations affecting their industry, they knew they had to get ahead of the game or risk being left behind.

“The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM2015) aimed to improve health & safety in the industry,” explained managing director Bernie Sims, “which can only be a good thing.

“But the way the new legislation was pitched to architects suggested they should now handle the process in house – cutting consultancies like us out of the equation.

“CDM15 replaced the CDM coordinator role, which we picked up for many of our clients, with a new duty holder called the principle designer. This meant that the responsibility for coordination of the pre-construction phase of a project was no longer a separate role. We could feel storm clouds gathering as a significant part of our service offer seemed under threat.

“HSE was telling architects that the new rules would save their industry £30 million a year by not appointing external CDM coordinators. It was the kind of PR we could do without!”

Bernard Sims Associates already had a good working relationship with Business Doctors’ Chris Simpson and so decided to ask him to for an outside perspective in the light of this threat to the business.

“We were seriously worried about the implications of this legislation, whilst at the same time, aware that most practices didn’t have the time or expertise to take the work in house. It was time to take stock,” Bernie said.

Bernie and his senior team had a series of meetings with Chris, who quickly grasped the technicalities and repercussions of the situation. Chris helped to empower Bernie and his team to have more confidence to adopt a proactive and positive approach to their business issue.

He said: “Chris was very helpful in reassuring us that the tricky decisions we were making were the right ones and to endorse our view that the planned changes were an opportunity rather than a threat.

“Together we agreed that we needed to be one step ahead of the game. To counteract the impact of HSE telling architects to do it in house, we took it upon ourselves to fully understand the complexities and technicalities of the new regulation as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

“We then launched our own intensive campaign, informing architects and other organisations about the benefits of outsourcing to our company. Chris encouraged us to look at different marketing solutions and put forward some trusted contacts and suppliers to assist with this campaign.”

The forethought and out of the box thinking paid off and Bernard Sims Associates was able to turn a potential business threat into the catalyst for a successful marketing venture.

“Because we agreed our stance early and got in there first, we were able to talk to potential clients – new and old – whilst they were still mulling over the impact of the changes,” said Bernie.

“We had agreed with Chris a strategy of total transparency to build trust at what was an uncertain time. By sharing with potential clients our hourly rates and the number of hours work involved, we made it simple for them to work out that outsourcing the bulk of the work still made sense.

“Chris’s input gave us the confidence to approach the situation head on. We were ahead of most of our competitors and have reaped the rewards of our foresightedness, retaining most of our existing clients and taking on new ones.

“It was a new experience for us to work like this with a SME consultant and it turned out to be a very positive one. Chris’ manner is pragmatic and challenging – and his lack of business jargon is very refreshing.

“We have continued to tap Chris’ expertise and he now comes into head office one day a month to work on a variety of projects, from staffing to operations and succession planning.

“He works well with all of the team and his input has been has certainly been a factor in the growth of the business.”

Bernard Sims Associates fact file

Industry: construction health & safety

Turnover: £3.2 million

Employees: 45

Established: 1995

Head office: Guildford. Regional offices in London, Lichfield, Leeds and Scotland

Key clients: Barratt Homes, Hilton, Persimmon Homes, Vision Express, Louis Vuitton, KFC, Whitbread