Shaw Gibbs director Sarah Gardener invited journalist John Burbedge to join her on a client meeting with Gelder Joinery at its new industrial estate home in Kidlington.
Master joiner Bryan Gelder is passionate about creating attractive built-to-last structures that fit together extremely well – a passion shared by independent accountants and business advisers Shaw Gibbs when it comes to client-adviser relationships. Woodwork joints combine different material strengths and qualities in a supportive and functional working harmony, and so it has turned out with this Oxford client-adviser ‘join’, formed in 2016.
Today, through a combination of their individual professional skills and mutual understanding, Gelder Joinery is successfully achieving its objectives and growing, evidenced by its Easter move into upgraded, purpose-fitted and significantly larger working premises north of the city.
One long-term objective of Bryan Gelder, who founded this family business in 1978, has been to create an ongoing legacy of joinery craftsmanship.
Like-minded customer Sandy Arbuthnot admired Gelder Joinery’s handcrafted work so much that in 2013 he invested in the business to help it grow and preserve its traditional woodworking skills and craft training.
Many of Gelder’s 14-strong workforce have been in-house trained and apprenticed within the business. “Bryan had been desperate to find heritage-skilled joiners, so training has been both a good thing to do for young people, perhaps struggling with academic subjects at school, but also essential to keeping these traditional skills alive for refurbishment, restoration and modern creative work.”
Several former apprentices now have decades of service with Gelder Joinery, general manager Carl Hewlett being one example.
Arbuthnot – a successful businessman, non-executive director and business ‘angel’ – also saw the need to modernise the administration and commercial focus of Gelder Joinery. He chose Oxford headquartered Shaw Gibbs to advise and assist.
“I was looking at putting in non-paper accounting systems and they could offer that. They were local, on my wavelength, understood our business, and very familiar with handling companies of our size.”
An appropriate integration of computerised digital technology and traditional human skills was key.
Sarah Gardener explained: “We implemented *Xero cloud-based computing alongside developing specific customised software for Gelder Joinery, whose staff now use iPads to post their work-time, project progress and invoicing on our cloud systems. We can now drill down to see the efficiency and commercial margins of different work within the business, provide valuable management information, and advise accordingly.”
Arbuthnot added: “Bryan always intuitively knew which jobs would enable him to make a living, but increasingly as we got more and more business there was a danger of being sucked into the wrong areas. Now we are absolutely clear of the right areas for our skills and business abilities.”
“There was a time when admin work was keeping us away from our essential woodwork. We were always looking over our shoulders to see what we hadn’t done. We can now see our wood through the trees,” remarked Gelder with a smile.
“Shaw Gibbs don’t just explain things, they take the worry and work off you, deal with it or come back with solutions. And it’s nice to have someone you know at the end of a phone to quickly advise on new legisation and things we’re not familiar with, such as workplace pensions.
“Our relationship with Shaw Gibbs is, we like to think, the same as we have with our customers.”
Arbuthnot: “It’s work in progress but we’ve come a long way already.”
Gardener agreed, noting that Shaw Gibbs has an extensive range of accountancy and advisory services, plus international expertise, which other clients utilise but Gelder Joinery has yet to require.
Key results of this winning partnership
- Having the right management information to hand has enabled astute commercial decisions – such as investing six figures on a new Kidlington home.
“Shaw Gibbs’ assistance has enabled us to have the confidence to spend strategically and move our location. Without clearly seeing the accounts as we do now, I don’t think many people would do that,” noted Arbuthnot.
- Arguably, focus on high-quality bespoke work and in-house training excellence has improved.
In November 2017, Gelder Joinery was awarded the prestigious British Woodworking Federation’s Project of the Year Award for restoration work on an Edwardian mansion in Henley. Trainee James Mayo won a BWF runner-up award, and Liam Ives was shortlisted as a BWF Apprentice of the Year.
* Shaw Gibbs is a Xero Partner and assists with accounting technology solutions for owner-managed business in Oxford and London.