It's not pink, it's magenta: Fison on the Osborne rebrand

Osborne boss David Fison explains the company’s rebrand and says it is an illustration of the contractor’s collaborative nature. 

Osborne CEO David Fison

Why rebrand now?

Back in the boom when work was coming in and life was easy, didn’t have time to think about it. Then recession struck, and inevitably we focused too inwardly, concentrating on reducing cost and letting people go. We knew that was wrong but when times are tough you do what you’ve go to do. But we have always been an approachable company where it is easy to get to the right people; we are honest even if it means giving people bad news; and we are responsive to changing needs. Those values got masked in the mists of recession and the rebrand is about making them visible to existing clients and to new business.

Why pink?

We call it magenta. And it is designed to illustrate that we are a warm, collaborative business. We created the new look ourselves. When we looked at the competition, most of them have blue as the corporate colour. We wanted something that was vibrant, strong and caring and for us magenta has all those connotations. And we wanted to attract attention. I think we have done that.

How are you rolling the branding out?

We’ve changed all our vans, the website and the headed paper and so on but we are not wasting money changing site boards. It will be a gradual roll out over the summer.

How is the business managing coming out of recession, always a tricky time?

You are right, everyone takes fright as we start to lift out of recession especially if you have fixed price contracts and supply chain prices start going up. It’s not a surprise though and like everyone else, we have been planning for it. We actively didn’t bid for larger jobs unless they were two stage tenders the risks could be minimised at least with the negotiated second stage. We are back in the market now for the larger projects and have some major bids going on.

You work across a spread of sectors. Will you be focusing on fewer?

We are a family run business and the aim is to minimise risk. We see working in a spread of sectors as a way of doing that. That may not be the way to maximise profit but risk management is more important to us. In terms of business, education is very buoyant as is our infrastructure business in roads and rail. We have just picked up the Wessex framework for Network Rail which is potentially worth £250M over five years and are waiting to hear on two more as we speak. On roads, a tender on a significant collaborative delivery framework has just gone in to the Highways Agency. For housing we are doing good business in terms of maintenance – we have over 80,000 homes under management in London and the South East.  We work mainly for social providers on new build and movement there is less extreme than in the private sector. In terms of numbers, current turnover is £320M and we have close to 900 staff.

What are your targets for the next few years?

It’s interesting working for a family business. Your targets are about maintaining and developing reputation, so we are looking for steady growth to give people progression.

Is collaboration a tradition at Osborne?

It is in the company’s DNA right back to the founder who had a motto ‘if you treat someone fairly and do a good job, they will treat you fairly in return’. We always like to put customer needs first – our staff were operating 24 hour working in the wet weather to help Network Rail repair some big landslips for instance.

What do you think is the key issue for the industry right now?

The biggest issue in the south east which is where we mainly work is resources – both our own staff and that of our supply chain. We have to be careful. It is tempting to take on work but you have to know you can resource it. As an industry we should be using more offsite construction – at Osborne we have a business called Innovare based in Coventry which puts together buildings and which grew 40% last year. We expect it to do even better this year. As the market heats up, offsite has to be the way to go in terms of managing resource and reducing waste. It’s quicker, whether it is cheaper is debatable but it delivers high activity with limited resources.

Give one prediction for 2014.

I can give you one for 2014 and 2015. For this year I predict the Saw Swee Hock student centre in London will win the Stirling Prize – it has already won the London RIBA award. And for 2015, the Stirling will go to the School of Architecture in Greenwich. They are both Osborne jobs obviously.

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