Adam Atkins and Helen Cooper of Diamond Facilities Support

Adam Atkins and Helen Cooper of Diamond Facilities Support

Picking up where Willmott left off

Adam Atkins and Helen Cooper launched Diamond Facilities Support following Willmott Dixon’s decision to axe its Sustain arm back in 2009. Today, the Coleshill-based firm is one of the UK’s fastest-growing FM businesses…

“It was whilst working at Willmott Dixon Sustain where I met Helen, who is joint managing director of Diamond along with myself,” Adam said.

“She was the national operations director and I was working in business development. Under her leadership the business grew to turnover over £30m every year and employed hundreds of people.

“However at the back end of 2009, Willmott Dixon basically took the decision to close Willmott Dixon Sustain down.

“It wasn’t making the kind of profit they would have liked so instead of trying to turn it around they decided to close it.

“Helen thought it was a huge mistake and she knew there was a business there. In effect, we started Diamond Facilities Support in December 2009 from scratch.”

One of the hardest tasks for any start-up is raising finance and Adam and Helen were no different.

Adam added: “We went out and got investment as we couldn’t do it on our own. Luckily a chap called John Gray, who is our chairman and owns Diamond Build plc, bought into the idea.

“The business is owned in part by me and Helen. We own 44% of the company and John owns 56% of the business.

“He’s like a Dragons’ Den investor, we meet him once a month to talk about how the business is doing but doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day running of it.  

“That’s how Diamond Facilities was born really. It was born out of the demise of Willmott Dixon Sustain and was born out of the fact that we felt we could get a good business off the ground, provide a good service and have a valuable asset ourselves.”

The duo had both worked in the construction and FM sectors for many years and had a wealth of experience behind them.

However, they knew launching their own facilities management business was going to be a challenge, especially given the competition.

“The biggest challenge we faced was the fact that we had no trading history,” Adam said. “It was very difficult to pick up national contracts when it was just Helen and I.

“The problem when you’re turning over £1m/£2m is persuading national clients that you can do what it is you’re saying you want to do.

“A lot of the clients liked what we said, liked our systems and liked us as individuals, but when they did their due diligence they realised we hadn’t really been going very long.

“Our turnover wasn’t huge compared to the bigger companies and it knocked our chances of securing contracts.

“The only way we could counter it was through the work we did with our clients. After a string of successful projects word of mouth started to gather pace and our testimonials helped us get through it.”

Once word started to spread, the business started to flow in and the duo managed to turnover an impressive £406,000 in their first year. From there, business began to soar.

“In our first year we turned over £406,000 and from then on we’ve charted rapid growth. The second year we turned over £1.1m, followed by £2.2m the year after. In 2015, we ended on around £5.7m and this year just finished we’ve turned over around £8.4m.

“We also employ around 130 members of staff now, around 40 of which are in the office and 90 or so are engineers who are out in the field in branded vans and uniforms.

“It hasn’t been easy, it has been hard work to be honest. In the early days, there were times where we didn’t know if we would make it through especially starting from scratch, it’s very difficult.

“Fortunately, we managed to get through those difficult periods and we’re now one of the fastest growing FM companies in the UK.

“We’ve got some fantastic clients including the likes of PureGym, Atkins Global, The Range and Dunelm Mill, and have operations nationwide.

“Looking forward, the plans are to continue the excellent growth that we’ve already seen. The business now has such a strong infrastructure to it that in terms of future growth there’s no reason why we can’t double or triple in size.

“Over the coming years, we are looking to continue strengthening the business and continue to grow.

“We hit £8.5m last year and we are now looking to hit £10m as soon as possible and then move the business on from there.

“It’s onwards and upwards from here on in!”