Our Member of the Month for May is the fantastic Sam Clover. Sam is the Managing Director of Marisco South. Marisco South is a construction and property maintenance company which offers electrical, plumbing and heating, carpentry, floor laying, and painting and decorating services to social housing and private property owners.
Sam set up Marisco South with his father in 2011. The company began with 3 people working on windows and toilets. 11 years later, the business has now grown to 90 staff and has a 4.5 million pound turnover. Sam talks about his journey, how he grew the business, as well as about his passion for helping local people and veterans to get into work and grow throughout his organisation.
1. What is an ideal customer for Marisco South?
An ideal customer for Marisco South is local councils, housing associations, property developers, and landlords with a large portfolio based in the South of England who have any construction needs. These could be electrical, plumbing and heating, carpentry, floor laying, or painting and decorating. We also offer consultancy for any building needs including health and safety requirements.
2. Tell us about your business journey – how did you get to where you are today?
When I was younger, I was not academic in the slightest. I left school and joined the army, where I became a mechanic. I got promoted and I must admit, I liked the feel of it, and I wondered how much further I could go. The army made me more ambitious, but it had never occurred to me to be a business owner. I was deployed for a tour in Afghanistan and this brought about a sense of reality that I had to make some big decisions about what direction I wanted my life to take – I met my wife and we wanted to start a family and decided that the next step would be to sign out of the army.
Having left the army I had no idea which direction I wanted to take and whilst having a chat with my father I saw an opportunity – he had his own painting and decorating company and had just won a contract in Oxford. He invited me to go with him as the skills I had learnt whilst in the military would come in useful and I could put the engineering and problem solving skills to good use.
After this, we set up a business, which was 11 years ago now. The business began small. There were only 3 of us and we were painting toilets and windows, but we met deadlines and budgets, and from then on, we grew and kept growing. I started to take more of a lead in building the business and got in front of some big landlords which then gave me an avenue into Bournemouth Council.
Bournemouth Council originally asked us to do just painting and decorating but this quickly expanded into electrics, gas, plumbing and refurbishment. Our (now successful relationship) with Bournemouth Council led us to tender for Poole Council and then New Forest District Council, Magna Housing Association and so on.
About 6 – 7 years ago, we undertook some insurance work in Plymouth and my father decided to stay down there and focus on the Plymouth area. I, however, wanted to come back to Bournemouth to focus on the BCP area and carry on there. So, I bought my dad out of the business and carried on myself.
Today I have 3 businesses – Marisco South, which handles all contracts and accreditations, and Marisco Electrical, which deals with electrical and gas work. In terms of the M&E side (electrical and gas), I brought in a business partner who had a more technical background to help grow that side of the business. We have also recently opened South Coast Training, which is our health and safety arm to train other businesses which has already proved successful.
Our Headquarters are based in Tower Park and today we have a turnover of £4.5 – 5 million for this financial year with 90 directly employed staff. We have certainly grown a lot over the last couple of years and are on target to hit £6 – 7 million next year.
We would like to continue working with councils and housing associations, as we can supply high standards of workmanship and keep within tight budgets. We are looking to work with more Local Authorities in the future and continue to get our name out there, as well as build more stability and provide employment opportunities for local people.
3. Tell us a bit more about your passion for helping people get into work and growing them within your organisation
My business allows me to give local people employment opportunities, which I am very passionate about, particularly when people have been out of work for some time, and we can offer them job security. I remember that when I saw my father as a self-employed person in construction there was little job security, but now I have worked hard to be able to help offer people a way out of unemployment.
We ‘Talent Spot’ from within the company and encourage people to become managers. This has proven very successful, and I now have a great group of managers who have pretty much all started from working on the tools to running individual contracts – this is great for the business and staff retention.
90% of our managers have come up from being on the tools at Marisco. I love seeing their ambition and how much they enjoy being managers as it can give them a boost, similarly to how it did with me when I received a promotion in the army. I actively encourage our staff to take apprenticeships and to go for manager roles.
One of our recent delivery drivers expressed that he wanted to build a trade, so we showed him some apprenticeships, he chose one, and now he has just completed a 3-year plumbing apprenticeship. We get people of all walks of life, backgrounds and ages wanting to do electrics, plumbing and heating with us.
A problem that I have noticed is veterans struggle to get into employment when entering civilian life. This probably would have happened to me if I did not have Marisco. The army train people to get into a trade, but you must stay with the army for probably 16 – 18 years to get the full qualifications. However, like me, many people leave before then because they want to start a family, or their objectives change, and they are not sure how to get work. This is a gap we are trying to fill; we want to bring veterans into the company to help them grow, but also to help us grow. When I was a mechanic before I left the army, I had 50% of my qualifications and I am not a mechanic anymore. I have been lucky enough to find a career, but many veterans don’t know how to. Not all companies are aware that there are skilled people coming out of the army. I am probably biased as I am ex-army, but they work hard and have a fantastic attitude towards work.
I have been asked to be a part of a working party with Bournemouth and Poole College, Bournemouth Council and the Help the Veterans Charity, to discuss how to connect companies with military leavers. I want to help veterans to find the avenues for employment and know who to ask to help them get into companies for opportunities that will benefit everyone.
There is funding that has been made available for anyone leaving any of the services to gain qualifications, but few employers know about this – hopefully, by being part of this working party we will be able to make a difference to peoples’ lives and futures.
4. What are some valuable lessons you have learned?
That gradual growth is better than fast growth. When we moved to Plymouth, an area we did not know, we grew very quickly in terms of business, but it was a struggle to find the right staff.
Make sure the business is in the right place to grow and do not take too much on. I am honest with my clients; if we are too busy, we thank them for the opportunity but tell them that we cannot take their work on at this time.
5. What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back in time?
To be patient. I was very impatient when I was younger, I would now tell my younger self to calm down, think rationally and take my time to make the right decisions.
6. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I would like to grow the business across the South as planned, and develop properties ourselves and to become a landlord of these developments.
7. How has Bizpedia benefited you and your business?
The contacts have been amazing. There is always someone who knows someone and there are people you can call on for support. The people in Bizpedia are genuine and give honest, professional advice.
It has also been great to meet business owners who are like-minded. It’s been refreshing for me, as I have never been around many business people. Everyone is honest, and if there is a problem, they will tell you there is a problem. Plus, everyone trusts each other and there is always someone to help.
I am having a lot more fun with the business through the events at Bizpedia. I am a big advocate of it.
8. What is the best holiday you have been on?
Back in 2016 I went to Las Vegas with my wife, and it was like Disneyland for adults! The atmosphere was amazing, everything and everyone was buzzing, and it was so big including the hotels and the personalities! We went to some fantastic concerts and pool parties and we cannot wait to go back!
9. If you could go back in time, who would you want to meet, and why?
Freddie Mercury! I love his music and would love to relive Live Aid in 1986 and meet Freddie for a beer afterwards backstage.
We would like to thank Sam for his time. If you would like to find out more about Sam or enquire about employing veterans, connect with him on LinkedIn.