When it comes to building a successful business, Barry Sargeant and son James are to the manner ‘barn’…
In the modern world, even when it comes a three year NVQ, the next generation of prospective tradespeople can often be found wanting in the staying power department.
“When Barry Sargeant first picked up a trowel in 1964, however, it was at the beginning of a five year apprenticeship, a grounding which began the journey to the flourishing father and son concern of B K Sargeant & Son.
“My father was a labourer and I know that he regretted not having a skill so he insisted that, unlike him, I would learn a trade,” recalls the eponymous owner of the north Essex-based firm. “I actually decided pretty early on that I wanted to be a bricklayer.
I can remember getting off the school bus every night, and watching a gang of bricklayers on scaffolding building an extension and being fascinated by their progress.” The onwards and upwards march of that wall all the way back in the ‘60s has been mirrored in the subsequent decades by the development of the company which bears his name.
Today, B K Sargeant & Son can boast 25 direct employees, its own office and yard, and an arsenal of plant and machinery to call upon, whilst it can also point to an extensive portfolio of high end building projects as testimonials of a job well done.
We caught up with Barry and son James at the site of a considerable barn conversion project in Ware, Hertfordshire, a type of build that’s fast becoming synonymous with the firm. “Over the years we’ve undertaken all kinds of both renovation and new build work,” explains James.
“We recently completed a job with the largest zinc roof on a new build in Suffolk, for instance, but this present site now marks our 22nd barn conversion.”
“It certainly wasn’t something that we set out to specialise in but that’s how it has evolved over time. We do a lot of work with particular architects and structural engineers and once we’d finished a couple successfully they’ve just kept coming back.”
“Just as his father had before him, my Dad encouraged me to have the security of a trade, so I completed a bricklaying apprenticeship,” continues James.
“We actually formed our partnership back in 2006, but since then I have taken the trouble to learn many more of the trades, and that certainly helps in managing the business. We presently have nine sites on the go, with a geographical reach that stretches from Chippenham in Cambridgeshire northwards to Epping in Essex in the south.
“The building industry is built on trust, which is why we get a lot of repeat business from people who know our work, and we will take the trouble to introduce new clients to people for whom we’ve previously completed projects in order to build that relationship. There one particular architects’ practice that has been engaging us as the contractor for some 34 years, for instance.”
In a family firm your own flesh and blood can often be the toughest of taskmasters, and Barry is the first to admit that he insisted on the highest standards from his son and heir, but believes they are seeing the rewards.
“It would be fair to say that I was very hard on Barry when he was learning the building game, but the men now respect him and he knows the job from every angle – and that’s important, because we’re very hands on.
“As well as that, there’s no doubt he has brought new things to the business in terms of technology but also in some of the new building materials and techniques.”
For further information on B K Sargeant & Son visit www.bksargeantandson.co.uk