By Scott Wright

AN East Kilbride-based construction and refurbishment company has declared it is on course for a big rise in turnover and to expand its headcount after continuing to win business and diversify during the pandemic.

Cosmos Projects Group has signalled its expectation of increasing revenue by 35 per cent to £4.5 million in accounts due to be filed for the year to the end of March, with further growth forecast in the current year.

And the company, which works across the public and private sectors, has created two new divisions in a move described as a “natural extension” by managing director Chris McNeill.

The new subsidiaries are focused on contract decorating and workspace design, with the latter launching as businesses gear up for the return of employees to offices and adapt their premises to account for Covid-19 in the coming months.

The diversification came as Cosmos appointed its first non-executive chairman. Gordon Barraclough, co-founder of Glasgow-based Academy Computers and managing director of West Midlands manufacturer Craig & Derricott, had been drafted in to support Cosmos’ growth strategy.

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Cosmos currently has 26 people on the payroll and is actively recruiting for seven further posts, with plans to add more in the future.

Mr McNeill, who co-founded the business in 2012, said: “There’s no doubt the industry has been massively affected by the pandemic but from day one we have worked hard to put right the processes and governance in place, which has helped us to secure new contracts. The new divisions are a natural extension for us to bring in-house and we have great plans for the fit-out business which is going to be a key focus for many landlords and occupiers in the coming months.”

Cosmos highlighted that its new businesses have started to win contracts. Planet Fit-Out has just secured its first contract, a £700,000 competitively won tender for a bioscience company based in Motherwell, while Planet Decorators has won £300,000 of business.

The original Cosmos contracts business, meantime, has been appointed to two jobs by the University of St Andrews and won work on a new optical lab in Aberdeen. These contracts are jointly valued at £750,000.

Mr McNeill is encouraged by how the business is performing, but it is aware that challenges remain in the wider economy. He told The Herald: “You don’t want to be too excited because the mood isn’t great… there is still a mood in the marketplace of negativity. Getting to where we are just now has been hard graft, it has not happened by accident.” But he added: “The story is positive. Business is heading in a great trajectory and we are continually employing. The headcount is increasing month to month, and sales projections are good.”

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Despite concerns about the wider economy, Mr McNeill forecasts turnover at Cosmos could rise to as much as £8m this year. He is the biggest shareholder in the business, which has been generating pre-tax profits in the region of 15% of turnover.

Asked for his views on how the workplace will look post-pandemic, Mr McNeill said that while companies have shown they can function when people are based at home, crucial aspects of office life have been missing. He cited the example of graduates to professional services firms, who are currently denied the chance to be trained as comprehensively if they are based at home.

Mr McNeill said: “The idea that the office is dead is very wrong… but I don’t think there is any doubt that offices are going to be adapted. Are people going to spend thousands and thousands of pounds, I don’t think so, because there is still a lot of fear in terms of the economy.”

He added: “I’m conscious that all sounds a bit negative, and it is not really. We have bucked the trend and we have diversified into different markets. We have continued to realise growth.”

As well as Mr McNeill and Mr Barraclough, the board at Cosmo includes Juliet McNeill, a lawyer focused on human resources, training, compliance and corporate social responsibility; commercial director Ian Smith; and operations director John Bremner.

Referring to the recruitment of Mr Barraclough, whom he has known for 21 years, Mr McNeill said the new chairman would be a “big influence” with regard to planning, strategy and the “need to evolve as a business, and be aware of risks.”

Mr Barraclough said: “I’ve known Chris and followed his accomplishments over the years and believe the business has terrific growth potential. There’s a great team at Cosmos Projects Group and I’m delighted to be joining them.”