13 May 2024

Strong foundations

South West Business Leader, Insider Magazine, Business Leader of the Month May 2024: With 2024 providing a rosier outlook for the construction sector than in recent years, Chris Ward (Insider Magazine) spoke with Mark Beard about what’s driving the resurgence in the industry, as well as Beard's own successes and plans for growth.

Beard Construction has been in operation as a family business for over 130 years, working on an array of commercial property builds across Southern England from its headquarters in Swindon. In March 2024 the company announced it had achieved the biggest year of sales in its history, with turnover rising by nine per cent to £179m, and pre-tax profits restored to £4.3m after a dip in 2022. 

Against the backdrop of what has been a tough five years for the sector that has included the pandemic, supply chain and energy crises and a much-publicised skills shortage, how has the company achieved this growth? Mark Beard, chairman and the fourth generation of family member to head-up the business, says its focus has been on delivery for customers and creating an environment that allows its staff to thrive.

Looking at the industry as a whole, we actually had a good Covid, The government was kind to the construction sector and let us keep working, and the industry reacted positively to the pandemic. The inflationary spike that followed Covid was what led to major challenges, and a difficult 18 months where we had to work really hard to deliver for our customers and in turn they were having to be empathetic to our position. During that time we really benefited from having a variety of small and medium-sized jobs which we were able to get through quickly. And then the last 12 months have seen a good upturn in our industry with the inflationary pressures dissipating and allowing more progress to be made.

Mark Beard, Chairman

Indeed, after a drop in output during 2023, construction in the UK is forecast to record a resurgence of 1.1 per cent in 2024. While this is modest, it’s nevertheless a sign of positive change with an expected growth of 12 per cent this year, compared to the previous year.


For Beard, the company’s growth phase has seemingly preceded the wider industry’s recent uptick, and led to a number of milestones that go beyond its financial successes of the last year. This includes the opening of a fifth office in Southampton, to add to offices in Swindon, Bristol, Oxford and Guildford.

Being appointed to key new projects including the £25m redevelopment of Bristol’s One Friary office building at Temple Quay has also been crucial, as well as securing places on local and national frameworks including SCF, which launched the fifth generation of its £4.5bn Southern Construction Framework last May.

It’s about getting lots of things right and ensuring we’re continuously improving, People in delivery are at the forefront. We have a saying within the business that we need to be better tomorrow than we are today. Making sure the issues that might affect our staff and our customers are always addressed and improved upon, across the board. Another saying we have is that there are two bank accounts – our financial bank account and our reputational bank account. Each project has got to make profits for both. I think we’re achieving that at the moment across the majority of our projects and because of that it means our pipeline is consistently broad and deep.

Mark Beard, Chairman


The projects that have been delivered in recent years include the Bristol Bears rugby club’s much-heralded new training facilities and the restoration of Swindon Carriage Works, a Grade II listed railway building given a new lease of life as a mixed-use development. In December 2023 Beard completed the £17m refurbishment of 1000 Aztec West, as part of the Aztec West business park and the first out-of-town office development in the South West to be net zero carbon in operation.

At any given time, Beard can be working on up to 50 projects at once across the south of England, alongside the addition of maintenance and repair work for other builds. As it continues to win projects and expand into new locations with the opening of its Southampton office, skills and the workforce become a vital part of the discussion.

Data from the Construction Apprenticeship Report 2024 in February revealed that there has been a 5 per cent decrease in the uptake of construction apprenticeships across the UK in the last 12 months. The Construction Industry Training Body (CITB) suggests that approximately 45,000 people would need to join the sector every year for the next five years to meet the growing demand for building.

Beard says that sometimes it’s “too much of a secret” that construction can be an extremely well-paid industry to be in, and that more focus needs to be placed on the career opportunities it offers.

Our industry is a great one to work in, We have a great product to show for all our efforts. Sometimes those efforts can take 18 months to a number of years and there are many different roles linked to delivering those projects – from design to planning to building management systems, and in areas like social value. We like to create an environment where people want to develop a career with us and raise the standard of working environment and development opportunity within our industry. We also like to do our bit to attract different people to the industry. We are utilising our sites to put up hoardings and highlight that there are different careers in the construction industry and that this is an industry for everyone, regardless of background. We want people to feel that the construction industry is for them.

Mark Beard, Chairman

While the business has over 350 employees across the South it is always in need of more. And the need to diversify the workforce is a vital piece of the puzzle. It is estimated that less than 6 per cent of people working in the construction industry are from a black, Asian or ethnically diverse background. Women make up around 14 per cent of construction industry professionals.

Despite this, 37 per cent of new entrants into the construction industry that came from higher education are women, highlighting that a change is occurring. And Beard says continuing to work with schools, local authorities and specialist and higher education institutions is an important role for the company, with the aim of broadening the pool of people available to the industry.


Change is the word when it comes to sustainable practices in construction, also. The global buildings and construction sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for an estimated 37 per cent of global emissions. However, Beard says the industry is evolving quickly and that pragmatism must be adopted.

The company’s goal is to reduce its carbon intensity by 5 per cent year-on-year for the next five years, from a 2019 baseline. Into its third year, Beard concedes that it is a tough goal to achieve but that the business is “broadly in line” with its targets, and that it is encouraging a culture within the business of idea sharing and staff onboarding as a result.

We’ve just completed two schemes and have two other schemes on the ground where the existing frame was maintained and a new façade, new mechanical and electrical systems were replaced. My instinct is that ten years ago the old building might have been demolished totally rather than retrofitted. As an industry we’re on the same journey as many parts of society. We want to make sure the buildings we construct are as environmentally-friendly as possible and utilise new technologies. Then there’s Beard as a company and our own activities – we want to cut down our emissions, and the waste and harm to the environment, in a progressive way. We want to ensure all our offices are at the forefront of environmental efficiency. Our investment in 200 acres of woodland just outside Bristol and being part of the Gresham House initiative to invest in forestry is important, offsetting our CO2 emissions and giving us a route to becoming carbon neutral in the next 20 years.

Mark Beard, Chairman


Mark Beard has now been at the helm of the family firm as both chairman and CEO for over 25 years, with a strong senior team in place to drive the business forwards while ensuring it remains owner-managed and family-run. He takes great pride in the projects the business has worked on over the years and highlights the Bishop Edward King Chapel at Cuddesdon as a particular favourite, for its unique and design and complexity of build.

His desire is to ensure Beard Construction retains a culture built around pride of work, trust, safety and delivery, while also acknowledging that under his stewardship it must continue to expand and provide more opportunities for its staff.

Since I’ve been involved we’ve opened offices across the region. In five years’ time the question will be ‘where next’. We’ve had discussions about going deeper West, perhaps with an office in Plymouth. It would give us a greater foothold in the South West. An office in Canterbury or in Kent would give us a stronger foothold in the South East. These are big discussions but ultimately we want to keep the business moving forwards and keep the opportunities alive and the ambition for our staff across the South.

Mark Beard, Chairman