When Michelle King became Director of Bex Contracts early last year, she needed to prove her leadership skills. In taking on the role, she was stepping into the well-worn shoes of her father who had run the company since 1986.
“It was a big challenge for me in two ways because not only had the company been run by my father Robert Bickley for twenty-one years, but it was the first time Bex Contracts had ever been run by a woman,” explains King who now oversees the company – a contractor for commercial building and refurbishment within the railway industry.
But that’s not to say that King was any stranger to the business – after joining the company when she was only sixteen, she began working in the Accounts department before moving into sales, HR and now succeeding her father as Director. She is now in her 26th year of working at the company.
“In many ways, I think I have had the best training to become a Director because in working my way up, I have worked in several areas of the business which means I not only appreciate how they operate but I have a clearer idea of how they can complement each other.”
King says that communication is key to her managerial style: "I focus on regular meetings and individual appraisals with all our staff which is something my father always did. And I think that’s been key to our high staff retention: most of our employees have been with us for between ten to fifteen years."
And it remains very much a family firm: "My two brothers also both work for Bex Contracts and we each own 15 per cent, while our dad owns the balance. That’s been the case since 1986 and there are no plans to change the ownership."
However, the changing times have presented challenges, most notably today – the increasingly complx legislation surrounding health and safety. "It’s a big issue in this industry today. Winning a contract now is a whole new ball game," explains King, "Before, we could just turn up on site wearing a hard hat. Today, we need risk assessments, method statements and site briefings." As a result, King decided to employ the company’s first Health and Safety Manager who works full-time and has to "regularly sit exams" in order to keep up with the changing legislation.
Today Bex Contracts works with some of the biggest names in the railway industry including Network Rail, Metronet, Tubelines and Eurostar. "Our latest major contract was with Metronet for which we did the Victoria line upgrade. That has kept us busy for the last four years and has really helped push the turnover up," says King.
This is reflected in the company’s impressive growth of 117 per cent over the last four years – turnover is now £7m.