‘Safety, Quality, Value and Production’, were the watchwords of Jim McPhillips, founder of McPhillips Wellington, words that continue to underscore the work of the company today as it celebrates sixty years of trading in 2024.
McPhillips started life as a family business, the company was formed by Jim and his wife Phil from their home in Wellington, Shropshire. Jim and Phil were later joined by sons’ Peter and Nicholas, the original board of directors also included Gerald Clift and John Butler.
Though the McPhillips family is no longer involved in the business, following a management buyout in 2017, the company remains a family at heart. Managing Director Paul Inions believes this is a vital ingredient to the firm’s success: “The company gets under your skin, it’s easy to feel a valuable part of it, which is why people tend to stay here for a long time.”
Over the decades McPhillips has recognised the value to the business of directly employing its workforce. In contrast to a growing industry trend for subcontracting on a project by project basis, McPhillips employs over 240 personnel including a 170 strong in-house workforce for on-site labour, eighty percent of whom live within 20 miles of Head Office in Telford.
For Company Secretary, Val Hardy, bucking industry trends continues to pay dividends: “Our turnover of staff is low compared to many within our industry, we work hard to look after our people. We are rewarded by longevity of service, many have been loyal to McPhillips for well over 20 years, we have two team members at 40 years and counting. Staff development and career opportunities are fundamental to our success, we always prefer to promote from within where possible.”
When you are reliant on a compliment of full time staff you need a pipeline. Every September since 1995, McPhillips have welcomed a fresh intake of apprentices; in excess of 100 people have successfully completed the programme. Over 20% of McPhillips’s direct workforce began life as apprentices.
The company provides young people with a great opportunity. Paul Inions believes McPhillips has developed something special: “We place our new apprentices into suitable teams, they each fulfil genuine roles within the company and receive a competitive wage whilst also studying for a qualification at college. Each apprentice receives our full support, our success rate would indicate that we’re getting a great return on our investment.”
It’s not only their employment model that sets McPhillips apart. In the beginning it was all about digging footings and drainage for local house builders. This was followed by expansion during the 1980’s into larger industrial buildings for businesses moving into Telford. Further expansion saw complex civil engineering projects bearing the name of McPhillips on site banners.
Today McPhillips provides industry leading design, construction and development to the residential infrastructure, public civil engineering and building sectors. This diverse experience of civil engineering and building contracts provides a unique ‘single source’ solution.
Stuart Mackenzie is Contracts Director; he believes McPhillips’s diversity is a huge advantage: “It’s our ability to deliver more value to our clients. Because we work across several sectors, we have accumulated a wealth of experience which we are able to call upon when faced with complex design and construction projects or when something unforeseen presents itself mid-project. The fact that all this experience is contained under one roof reinforces our direct employment model.”
This year McPhillips will complete their first residential building projects, a total of 58 homes across two sites 5 miles apart in Shropshire. Consisting of two, three and four-bedroom homes including detached and semi-detached houses and bungalows.
For Building Director Chris Walker this is further valuable experience to add to the mix: “The projects at Ifton Heath and Ellesmere are our first complete builds, which includes the fitting of kitchens, bathrooms, wardrobes, laminates, carpets etc. It’s certainly been a learning curve. Would we do it again? Under the right set of circumstances, most definitely.”
Whether it’s installing complex pipework to divert a sewer, designing and building an animal zone for a zoo or creating a new six lane roundabout, retaining clients is something McPhillips are adept at. What is the special sauce? Contracts Director Andrew Dunham has the answer: “Our culture is collaborative; we involve our clients and partners in every stage of a project. We’re open, for instance if something doesn’t go to plan, because you can’t control everything, we go out of our way to find solutions in pursuit of the very best results for our clients. They get to know our teams, this familiarity fosters reassurance, our clients know they can depend on us.”
Although you’ll find McPhillips teams across the Midlands and into Cheshire, back in 1964 it was Telford where it all began. In 2024 McPhillips will build a precision engineering facility for a high speed press manufacturer and a new distribution hub for a transport firm in Telford.
This is especially pleasing for Paul Inions: “We’re from Telford, therefore we like to work in Telford. We’re proud of our roots. I’m looking forward to us starting and completing a few projects on our doorstep in 2024.
“I think my fellow board members would agree that we’re the custodians of a very special company. We owe it to everyone concerned over the past 60 years to ensure that we keep building on our successes to date.”