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Partners in Progress: Hopkins Homes

Anderson has worked as a groundworks and infrastructure contractor for leading house builder Hopkins Homes across numerous projects over the past decade.

Having just shared news of his promotion to the position of Director of Operations, Nick Holmes tells us what makes for a good client/contractor relationship, how Hopkins has coped with Covid and why building an Olympic Stadium would be his dream project.


Nick Holmes, Director of Operations, Hopkins Homes

 

Anderson has worked as a contractor for Hopkins Homes across many developments. What, in your opinion, makes for a successful client/contractor relationship?

Hopkins Homes and Anderson first collaborated on the Halstead Road, Stanway scheme in 2014. Since that appointment, we have continued to secure further contracts at Needham Market, Mistley; two sites in Brightlingsea and, most recently, another project in Stanway – the Chitts Hill development.

There are many aspects that make a successful relationship between contractor and client. Most noticeably, in my opinion, it’s communication. I’ve always believed that communicating effectively ensures everyone on both sides of the project team are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities. Lines of communication should be set out from the start of the project and these should be respected and adhered to. The project team on any given project can be as many as 500 individuals across hundreds of businesses. This requires structured coordination and communication from the outset.

As both a surveying manager and project manager on a number of schemes, how do you stay on top of the varying demands of your workload?

Good planning. The phrase ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ comes to mind. I think planning and time management go hand-in-hand and are vitally important when juggling a workload. I’d like to think I’ve always been a good organiser and planner. I ensure I plan well ahead and keep a detailed electronic diary; by allocating time for specific jobs/tasks around some of my daily tasks including tendering, negotiating, programming, cost analysis, attending meetings, site visits and overseeing my team. I essentially create a good working routine to ensure all deadlines and targets are met.

However, the biggest weapon in my armoury to deal with workload pressures will always be the team around me. I grew up playing team sports and teamwork is a value I appreciate more than anything. We all have challenges during a normal working week, but the close and wider team members at Hopkins Homes provide endless support, guidance and help to ensure we keep the problems to a minimum and ensure success more often than not. I’m very fortunate and grateful for the team at Hopkins Homes.

How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted on your work and that of Hopkins Homes in general?

Like most businesses, we have had to adapt. Regardless of Covid-19, our department agreed in Autumn 2019 that some fundamental software and procedural changes were required to become more efficient and streamlined. In January 2020, we introduced these modifications. Covid-19 essentially reiterated that decision and we haven’t looked back. All invoicing is now electronic and we no longer accept paper copy invoices. Our costing and accounting software has been enhanced to improve efficiencies in cost reporting and cost analysis. Filing systems have been updated and restructured and we’ve introduced a number of live tracker documents within the department.

The main change, as with many businesses, was the switch from office working to working from home. There are challenges that come with remote working; none more so than poor internet connection from the spare bedroom. Frequent Microsoft teams and Zoom meetings have become the norm. Face to face interaction has been, and continues to be minimal, but again, we are all in that same boat and hopefully that personal interaction will return soon.

Specifically, across our developments, our main priority was and continues to be employee, subcontractor, customer and visitor safety. All of our sites have a clear and concise Covid-19 policy which has been modified based on industry and government guidance during the past 12 months. The basics we’ve become accustomed to – in the shape of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing ¬– are all well practised. We’ve also had to reduce the number of operatives working within our houses at any one time, which has affected programmes. Consequently, this turned our attentions to creating efficiencies elsewhere to counteract these delays.

From a sales perspective, virtual appointments and tours now allow any prospective purchaser the opportunity to reserve and buy their dream home remotely – or an allotted time slot can be booked online at any of our 25 sales centres across East Anglia.

One of the main remaining challenges is the difficulty in obtaining certain materials. The manufacturing industry remains an important piece of the house building puzzle. With many businesses within this key sector not able to achieve acceptable levels of social distancing, many of our key suppliers and manufacturers were forced to significantly reduce output or temporarily close. This has consequently resulted in supply issues with almost every vital component of a house. Starting with concrete products, bricks, blocks; on to roof tiles and timber products such a joists, trusses and internal doors – to procurement struggles with radiators, kitchens, appliances and carpets. Communicating our requirements accurately and planning ahead has never been so important.

Many of Anderson’s employees talk of the ‘Anderson way’ of doing business. Have you experienced the ‘Anderson way’ and, if so, what does it mean to you and your business?

The Anderson way is the main draw for Hopkins Homes. We pride ourselves on quality well-built new homes and to successfully achieve that, we need to handpick qualified, highly skilled and competent contractors with an excellent track record. The Anderson ethos is aligned with Hopkins Homes in many ways, none more so than the obvious focus on quality. The attention to detail is apparent as soon as you walk onto one of the aforementioned projects and see the Anderson teams in action.

If there’s one building or development you would have loved to have worked on, what would it be and why?

When you look at East Anglia – Hopkins Homes remain one of the most prestigious developers and we currently build in more locations than any of our regional competitors. That means within my current role I’m fortunate to be involved in all of our projects, which provides great variety. Despite the end goal always being the same, delivering high quality homes on time and budget, each project is completely different in terms of constraints, challenges, strategies and complexities. I enjoy the strategic and planning side of a project; and my latest bolt-on role of Project Manager has allowed me to focus on project delivery in terms of cost, time and quality. The versatility at Hopkins Homes is a huge attraction, and we have some very exciting projects in the pipeline with numerous challenges commercially, technically and logistically.

Away from Hopkins Homes, I’d liked to have been involved in any aspect of the 2012 London Olympics. I was relatively inexperienced when many of these buildings and associated infrastructure works would have been in construction. The main reason for wanting to work on something like the Olympic Stadium, for example, would have been the sense of involvement you would get by being a part of a legacy in such a globally recognised event. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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