Back in the days when Oasis were at the top of the UK albums chart with ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’, Damon Hill was Grand Prix World Champion and Alan Shearer became the world’s most expensive player with a transfer value of ‘just’ £15 million, two young construction professionals joined Chisholm & Winch.
Lots has changed since then, but Managing Director, Simon Castle, and Procurement and Health & Safety Director, Jason Winch, are still with Chisholm & Winch 25 years later. Their experience and passion for delivering great service and quality for clients is still helping to grow the business and maintain high standards across everything we do. We thought it would be fun to ask them to look back at what’s changed (and what hasn’t) within the company and the industry over the past quarter of a century.
Q: What’s your earliest memory of working at Chisholm & Winch?
Jason: One of the first things I remember was going to Heathrow Airport, collecting my airside pass, then meeting up with one of our site managers. I was initially employed as a material buyer and quality representative and I spent a big chunk of that day helping him sort out his drawings and paperwork. We’ve been involved in more Heathrow projects than I can count since then, but the pride in picking up an airside pass as a trusted contractor never gets old.
Simon: I remember pitching up at a yard and finding an encampment of Portakabins. They were smarter than the average of Portakabin you’d expect to find on site, so I was fairly confident I’d made a good decision to join a quality company!
Q: What have been your career highlights from working at Chisholm & Winch for 25 years?
Simon: There are so many, it’s hard to narrow it down. I’m very proud of our track record at Heathrow over the years. Having been a second-tier supplier at Heathrow for more than a decade, we were given the opportunity to subcontract to Balfour Beatty on the construction of the new Terminal 2B. This involved various building works packages, 4,500 m2 of oak panelling to the high-level areas of the concourse and installation of 450 high performance doors. It proved our ability to work around the operational needs of the airport with an agile approach to scheduling and we’ve been continuously on site at Heathrow on various projects every year since.
We’ve also successfully leveraged our experience at Heathrow to deliver complex operational refurbishments in other environments, such as commercial offices. I’m really proud of how we’ve used our knowledge to broaden our portfolio.
Jason: I’m extremely proud of some of the heritage work we’ve done, both because of the calibre of the work we’ve delivered and because of the privilege of being involved with some of London’s most treasured buildings. Amongst those jobs have been the fit out of the Neptune Court area of the Greenwich Museum, brickwork repairs to the iconic circular Reading Room at the British Museum, and the extension and fit-out work we did at The Royal Opera House, for which we were rewarded with a special ‘Hard Hat’ performance by the Royal Ballet.
Working on projects by renowned architects has also been a highlight, including residential developments designed by Sir Richard Rogers and Sir Norman Foster.
Q: What’s your funniest anecdote from your 25 years with the company?
Jason: I really enjoyed my buying role and my father, Tony Winch, had given me a good understanding of building materials, so I was quite confident I knew what I was doing from the outset. Back then, it was quite normal for more senior colleagues to wind up the newer members of the team. One of our site managers got me to order some special blue chlorinated paint in small cans. After the third lorry had delivered, Jim Chisholm stormed into my office to ask what the hell was going on. Needless to say, we used that paint on every job we could for quite a while!
Simon: At 20 years of age in my first stint as an Assistant Project Manager with Chisholm and Winch in the mid 1980’s, I was given a job to look after the Prue Leith School of Cookery. I was introduced to Terry who led a team of Irish Fixers. They were very welcoming but when I said what I’d be doing they said “Oh, we understand, you’re Tony’s Boy Surveyor!” Later that day, I got the dynamo and made a sticker saying ‘Tony’s Boy Surveyor’ and stuck it on my site helmet. They liked that I was willing to make fun of myself and subsequently a great team developed!
Q: What’s been the most challenging part of your role over the years?
Simon: From a commercial perspective, we’ve had to roll with the punches of fluctuations in the construction market, just like most companies in our industry. During my time with the company, we’ve seen the pre-millennium boom, the financial crisis of 2009, recovery and now the impact of COVID-19. Fortunately, we’re a multi-disciplinary business with an nimble approach to shifting focus where we need to, which has helped us adapt to whatever challenges market conditions have brought our way and expand our portfolio as a result. We’ve also been able to secure strong relationships and repeat business based on our proactive service and emphasis on quality. After 25 years, you expect ups and downs and learn how to keep evolving.
Jason: I’m still involved in procurement and quality, but I’ve been responsible for health & safety since I became a director in 2002. Encouraging everyone across the team to adopt a safety-first culture and stick to best practice policies was hard initially. Back then, hard hats and safety boots was about as much as anyone thought they needed so I’m really proud of how far we’ve come on health and safety. Our team now wear a full set of PPE as a matter of routine, including hard hats, safety footwear, glasses, gloves and hi-vis waistcoats, and we’ve achieved wide-ranging certifications, including Achilles, Chas and Construction line.
Q: Finally, what lies ahead for you and the company?
Simon: As MD, I am extremely proud of the team we have here, and I am looking forward to continuing to build on our people and our portfolio. The past year has been challenging for the whole construction sector and has brought substantial change for construction companies and their clients. Consequently, my focus is to leverage the breadth of our experience and the resources within our team to continue serving sectors such as airports, commercial offices, residential, and heritage, where we are traditionally strong, while exploring new opportunities.