A chance factory visit as part of a college course 25 years ago paved the way for a 15-year relationship between two companies which both pride themselves on their family values.
MF Freeman in Gloucestershire, one of the South West’s leading property developers, and Taylor Lane Timber Frame Ltd, a leading timber frame manufacturer in Hereford, have successfully completed hundreds of homes together. Since 2004, they have worked together on multiple projects across the South West and both have enjoyed significant growth.
“You could say our relationship started back in 1994 when I went on a factory tour of Taylor Lane as part of my construction course at college,” says Luke Freeman, Joint Chief Executive of MF Freeman.
“I was preparing to join the family business my parents had started, which, at the time, was mainly focussed on contracting, and I was keen to diversify the business into house building. Taylor Lane is also a family-run business with a similar culture and attitude to MF Freeman so I felt a natural affinity from the start. The timber frames they were producing were already very well-respected in the industry.”
“A friend on my course later went on to join Taylor Lane, while I went about setting up the house building arm of the business, Freeman Homes. We went on to create Freeman Retirement Living, developing retirement villages and care homes.”
“As the housing market developed, I identified the huge opportunities that timber frames could bring to our business, including faster build times and improved insulation values. Taylor Lane was the obvious choice for me and we started our first project together, 15 years ago, on a development of eight houses in Madley, near Hereford.”
Barrie Lane, co-founder of Taylor Lane Timber Frame Ltd, remembers the visit: “We were a company that had experienced very rapid growth. We set up business in 1982 with just £500, some saws and a working space in a former dairy in Hereford. The college was keen to showcase innovative local businesses like ours to inspire the next generation in the construction industry.”
By the 1990s, Taylor Lane had established a strong foothold in the construction market and was rapidly expanding and extending its offering into the commercial sector. The company created kits for developers, contractors and local authorities; this remains a core part of its business today, in addition to social housing and the self-build market.
“I think the key to success in any kind of partnership is having the same foundations to work from,” Barrie continues. “Like MF Freeman, we are a family-run business and we built our reputation on hard work, good communication and excellent customer service. Having that same sense of pride in your work and the same core values and beliefs creates a synergy between the two businesses. This enables you to work seamlessly and maximise the potential of the projects you work on together.”
The family ethos is not the only similarity the two businesses share. Despite uncertainty in the market, each is bucking the trend in both manufacturing and property and enjoying year-on-year growth and expansion.
Taylor Lane, which now employs 200 people, reported a turnover of £20 million last year and enjoys a 10-15% year-on-year growth in turnover. Company directors Barrie Lane and Colin Taylor recently opened a new timber frame business in South Wales. Employing only local labour, Taylor Lane (Wales) Ltd is well-positioned to meet the burgeoning demand for new houses in Wales.
MF Freeman reported five years of unbroken, double digit growth in turnover and profit from 2012 to 2016. It is now on course for a targeted growth to £50 million turnover for the group by 2022 and it sold more houses in January 2019 than in any other month in its history.
“Both businesses are natural innovators,” says Douglas Spencer, Regional Director for Thomas Carroll in Hereford. “They are continuously reviewing processes and looking for new opportunities to drive their business forward. They also take great care of their staff, treating everyone as extended family, and have built excellent supplier and customer relationships. I believe it’s their focus on development and professionalism which has helped them to future-proof their businesses in their respective sectors.”
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Thomas Carroll provides commercial, motor and private household insurance as well as independent financial planning to MF Freeman. Thomas Carroll also handles commercial insurance and health and safety for Taylor Lane Timber Frame.
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