Workspace backs local communities. Brian Murray tells why
Workspace describes itself as a social enterprise. What does that mean in practice?
We operate pretty much the same as any private sector business, but with one key difference — any retained profits we have are used for the good of the local community as opposed to being handed over to shareholders or owners.
For example, with the profits made from our commercial enterprises, we have already funded a youth centre, a recreation centre and a community fund that makes grants available to worthwhile projects and initiatives. Given that we were set up by the local community in Draperstown and now have offices not just in Mid Ulster, but also in Donegal and Wales, with a turnover of £8m and over 100 staff, it is quite an interesting business model.
How long has Workspace been operating in Northern Ireland?
We celebrated 25 years of operation last year.
What has been the highlight to date?
We measure success by the impact we make on the local community in terms of a whole range of factors, including new businesses start-ups, people we help get into jobs, community facilities, homes insulated to help reduce fuel poverty, cuts in CO2 emissions and cost savings made by customers from retrofitting our lighting systems. Thankfully, on all these measures our performance has been very strong.
Any other achievements?
Overall, being able to grow the business amid a difficult economic environment and being optimistic about future growth.
Do you have any plans for further expansion?
We saw 55% turnover growth last year and we expect growth to continue. We are an ambitious organisation and we see growth through new service and product provision in both existing and new markets. We are continually seeking new opportunities and growth by acquisition is one way of doing this.
You have just reported a strong trading year for 2009/10. How did you achieve that?
We know it’s down to working harder and smarter and making sure we deliver top quality customer service. We have a dedicated group of more than 100 employees who are the secret of our success, alongside an entrepreneurial board of directors.
Name: Brian Murray
Title: Chief executive
Qualifications: BA business administration and computer science, MSC business improvement
Membership of professional bodies: Chartered Management Institute
Name: The Workspace Group
Trading since: 1985