Switch from tier one to the regions ‘refreshes’ Caddick MD

Caddick Construction managing director Paul Dodsworth talks acquisitions, expansion and the ‘rodeo horse’ of price inflation

Caddick Construction managing director Paul Dodsworth may have been in the job for almost nine months, but the “agility” of working at a regional contractor was still springing some surprises, he said.

Dodsworth (pictured) moved to the Yorkshire-based firm from Wates, where he was the director of northern operations. In his first interview since he was appointed to the Caddick role last July, he told Construction News that a regional contractor can change tack or respond to a client’s needs more quickly.

“It’s really refreshing,” he said, adding that he always has a “little smile” when asked about the move from a tier one contractor to a “more regional firm”.

As Dodsworth noted: “Caddick does the jobs worth £7m and the jobs worth £100m – and everything in between.”

As a bigger organisation, Wates was more hierarchical. At Caddick, Dodsworth said, he can take decisions and resolve issues more quickly.

It was that agility that allowed Caddick, which posted a turnover of £99m in its latest accounts, to move rapidly and buy facade specialist Speedclad out of administration last October. The £19m-turnover firm, which had worked extensively with Caddick, has since been renamed CCL Facades.

“Did I plan to buy a facade contractor? Well, the answer’s no. That wasn’t strictly my plan,” said Dodsworth. But Caddick still bought the firm within seven days of it entering administration, saving 10 jobs.

The acquisition allowed Caddick to become more attractive to clients in need of good facade work. “We struggle a little bit in terms of finding really good, solid facade contractors,” Dodsworth said.

Now that the business owns a facade specialist, it can offer that expertise “from a really early stage”, he added. “I think it’ll give us an edge in terms of our clients interfacing with them – we’ll add extra value to our clients. We see that as a real plus.”

Caddick Construction is “very heavily private-sector-focused”. But Dodsworth is planning a foray into the public sphere, to soften the impact of any possible recession.

“I would like to bring some balance to our portfolio – insofar as I would really like to see us getting onto some frameworks and getting a bit more local authority work,” he said. “Heaven forbid if we had a big recession, the private sector cools off and the public sector kick-starts.”

Much of Caddick Construction’s work is also in-house, for firms including its build-to-rent arm Moda Living, which Caddick owns in a joint venture with real estate firm Generate Land.

The new focus on frameworks comes with a decreased interest in single-stage design-and-build contracts – or as Dodsworth called them, “design and dump… where a client just dumps all the risk with you”.

Caddick Construction’s pre-tax profit ticked up to £2.6m in the year to September 2021, the latest year it has declared results for, from £84,000 in 2019/20. Turnover was also up by around 50 per cent, from £67m to £99m.

The business is part of the £383m-turnover Caddick Group.

With the new focus on public work, Dodsworth said he expected growth to continue – but emphasised it will be “sustainable [and] controlled”, adding: “We are not looking to conquer the world.”

In other words, Caddick aims to also stick to its existing focus on the residential and logistics sectors.

Dodsworth did say that the firm wanted to “look at new geographies in the fullness of time” but he was coy with any details, saying “a lot of analysis” was underway.

Caddick has not been immune to the myriad challenges facing the construction sector in recent years, with the cost of steel hitting Caddick hardest of all. “You were fixing steel prices for a day, not a week, and not a month,” he recalled.

Dodsworth expects the high material price inflation of the last year to soften, though he will be keeping a “cautious eye” on the situation. “Do I think prices are going to go back down anytime soon – no.

“But I think the days of prices being like a rodeo horse are gone. It feels much more steady. I got sick of delivering bad news to clients that the price had gone up.”

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