Name: Eamonn McGarvey.


What is your business called:

Hugh L S McConnell Limited.

Where is it based:

Offices in Kilmarnock and Surrey.

What services does it offer?

We are contractors who operate within the construction and property sectors and we have in-house specialities in Flat Roofing, Sheeting & Cladding and Painting.

To whom does it sell?

We operate across both the public and private sectors working for councils, housing associations, defence contractors, supermarkets, drinks industry firms and property owners.

How many employees?

We currently have 90 directly employed staff and operatives. We also employ the services of around 30 specialist sub-contractors at any one time.

When was it formed?

Whilst the previous owners of the business incorporated a new company in 1998, the McConnell business has been trading from Kilmarnock since 1929.

Why did you take the plunge?

My business partner Rob McGregor and I had first worked together in London over 30 years ago and worked for the same businesses during three subsequent periods over the years. Following a short career break, I was looking to get involved in a smaller business, where I could have a stake in the company.

I had worked for a larger national company for the last 10 years, who had been taken over by a huge international energy firm, and I felt that it was time for a change.

Rob and I wanted to find a vehicle to work together again in the building refurbishment sector.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I had been the managing director in Scotland for Keepmoat Regeneration, having grown the business from scratch to a turnover of £60 million before the group was acquired by Engie in 2018.

Rob, who had been my managing director and chief executive at Apollo Property Services Group (which merged with Keepmoat in 2009), retained an interest in housing developments in London.

How did you raise the start up funding?

We bought an established business which had been trading successfully in previous years. We have brought in commercial processes and protocols to improve cash management, such that the business continues to self fund it’s operations.

What was your biggest break?

The timing of the deal to acquire the business was a major break for us. The previous managing director and main shareholder at McConnell, Angus Tosh, was looking to retire. After initial negotiations went well, Angus and I worked together closely during a three month due diligence period.

Having such vital access to the company information was key to making a successful and seamless change in ownership and much of this was down to Angus’s commitment to ensuring that McConnell would be in safe hands for the future.

There had been previous discussions on a management buyout which didn’t get off the ground, so it was vital that the changes in the business ownership had the support of the staff and employees. By communicating openly and at frequent intervals with the staff, we were able to gain their confidence that the changes would bring job security and opportunities for career development.

What do you enjoy most about running the business?

I get to work with a great bunch of people at McConnell. We have worked hard to empower our staff and to listen to their views. Feedback from our staff demonstrates that we are all pointed in the same direction.

We get a real buzz when we get positive feedback from a client on a job well done.

What is your biggest bugbear?

Payment terms in the Industry can be challenging enough, but trying to collect retention monies on completed projects, can be extremely frustrating.

What are your ambitions for the firm:

Our first-year targets in relation to stabilising the business have been achieved, and we have now started to build successful foundations across the business to ensure that we are in a good position to achieve sustainable growth in future years.

The Camberley office in Surrey has secured some major project wins over the past six months and in Scotland we are achieving real traction in our progression towards carrying out more Principal Contracting schemes for new and existing clients.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish Government do that would help?

Follow through on commitments made in regards to public procurement opportunities by supporting local SME businesses. Recent procurement seems to have been geared towards large value, long term contracts and frameworks which often preclude smaller firms. If government bodies could break contracts into smaller schemes and cooperate more with SME’s at a local level, we are sure they could get better value.

The Living Wage should be made mandatory across the construction industry and its support services.

What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned?


Not every issue can be quickly resolved, and previous experience has helped me realise that sometimes we need to step back and avoid a “quick fix”, to get to the logical outcome.

How do you relax?

Believe it or not, I really enjoy my work and it’s always in the back of your mind. However, as I get older, I do appreciate going on relaxing holiday breaks with my family, without communicating with the office!