Construction Leader: Steve Hardy reveals why high quality leads to sustainable growth at Sidey

Construction Leader: Steve Hardy reveals why high quality leads to sustainable growth at Sidey

Steve Hardy

For April’s SCN Construction Leaders feature, Colin Cardwell caught up with Sidey managing director Steve Hardy to hear about the company’s award-winning 2023 and its double-digit turnover growth.

Steve Hardy is a refreshingly ebullient person. The native of Newcastle upon Tyne who made Perth his adopted home almost 30 years ago has seen recent encouraging progress as managing director of Sidey Group, Scotland’s largest window and door (or fenestration) company.

Among reasons to be positive is the company’s being awarded the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce ‘Business of the Year 2023’ title in November last year as well as the Business Growth category and the Apprentice of the Year awards – something of a tribute to the success of Sidey’s in-house apprentice training academy, which was established last year.

Sidey has an impressive pedigree: the company which was founded in 1932 was acquired in July last year by Swedish manufacturer Inwido AB, having itself strengthened its presence in the west of Scotland through the acquisition of Motherwell-based Walker Profiles in 2017 and Hardy shares responsibility in heading the group with Richard Hendry.
While some companies in the construction sector have continued to reel in the aftershock of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Hardy says Sidey found itself in a fortuitous position.

“The lockdowns in Scotland had resulted in a lot of pent-up demand and while we had suffered to an extent as had many other businesses we were in good financial shape and able to weather that storm,” Hardy added.

Construction Leader: Steve Hardy reveals why high quality leads to sustainable growth at Sidey

“And we had formed a strategy and positioned ourselves in the marketplace to best serve that pent-up demand, particularly in the social housing sector. There are different drivers in the marketplace including social housing, Energy Efficient Scotland standards and Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH2) as well as changes in trying to make buildings as thermally efficient as they possibly can.

“So we had aligned our manufacturing and the installations of our product range to try to service the opportunities that the market was providing at that time.”

In the early 1990s, the company’s turnover was some £1.4 million and it was producing just over 100 frames a week, with growth predominantly in the retail sector. “I joined the business initially on the retail side and around 1998 saw the opportunity to expand into trade and new build – and then we really began to grow in social housing outwith our immediate locality,” he explains.

“In the mid to late 1990s, there was a major shift to the use of PVC, including in the social housing sector and our first large-scale social housing project was with Perth and Kinross Council in 2002, a contract worth just over £3m which was a large one at the time and in fact still is.”

Currently, some 70% of the company’s business is in social housing refurbishment, 15% in new build with the remainder split between retail and trade.

Construction Leader: Steve Hardy reveals why high quality leads to sustainable growth at Sidey

Fresh developments for the long-established firm have grown apace. In 2021 group turnover was some £25m and last year it almost doubled to £58.5m.

“We’ve certainly come through the Covid recession and are continuing to see growth, particularly in the social housing sector,” Hardy says adding that Sidey has also performed well in new build.

The group now employs some 300 people between its sites at Perth and Walker Profiles in Motherwell. “Some housebuilders have had to remix their sites and others concentrate on the affordable social housing element to which Sidey is aligned and we have been able to capitalise on these opportunities,” he says.

In general, the company does not work with the big national groups. “Our strategy is to supply the best quality product with the best service, installation and support at the best price. The very big companies tend to look at front end cost and providing that it meets the specification they can set the bar quite low here.

“We are identifying customers who are looking for high accreditation, a high level of specification and backup service guarantee – and obviously a sustainable business which is increasingly critical. Growth means both being profitable and sustainable.”

In 2022, after implementing a 10-year plan the group achieved zero waste landfill and 100% recycling from its manufacturing plant, also increasing the amount of recycled material used and achieving the top environmental accreditation ISO 14001:2015.

Construction Leader: Steve Hardy reveals why high quality leads to sustainable growth at Sidey

Apprentices and high school students with Sidey's joinery manager Kenny Milne and community benefits manager Donna Montgomery

“We also apply a robust process for any sub-contractors we use so that we deliver the same high standards on site and continually work hard to keep environmental issues at the top of the agenda,” he says.

Any company that has lasted more than nine decades, he adds, must have attracted a significant degree of loyalty among its employees and the wider community and this continues.

“We try to provide tangible benefits in the communities in which we operate. In recent years there has been a shortage of local young people coming into the industry while Brexit has undoubtedly stifled the incoming workforce from the EU.

“Our training academy initiated modern apprenticeships with the fabricators, then expanded that into our installations so last year we took on six installers and a service engineer as apprentices and have done the same this year.”

Hardy first moved to the banks of the Tay when he married a girl from Perth and has a personal long-term commitment to the city. “We went on to have our three children here, who are all grown up now,” he says, adding equably that as an avid football follower, Newcastle United must retain his first loyalty. “But since I’ve made my home here for such a long time St Johnstone certainly has my support in Scotland.”

He is characteristically – and understandably – optimistic about the company’s future. “Sidey is one of largest fenestration businesses in Scotland, one of the largest in the UK and is well placed to continue to serve the people of Perthshire and beyond for a long time to come,” he says.

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