Commercial painting and decorating contractor makes the right brush strokes

Stephen Bagnall

Stephen Bagnall paints a picture of a family business that is rightly proud of its heritage, longevity and values.

They are at the heart of the continued success of one of the country’s leading national painting contractors, founded by his great, great grandfather Alfred back in 1875.

Stephen took over as group managing director of the Shipley-headquartered group in 2004 and despite paint being in his blood, the 51-year-old says he is still learning about the business every working day.

Bagnalls is unusual in its sector for employing all its workers directly. It has a 700-strong workforce and 600 of those are painters and decorators.

Bagnall believes that’s what gives the business its edge and says: “We’ve got some great people and that’s what the business is all about. We look after them and they look after us.”

Alfred was an apprentice trained painter and decorator and five generations later that commitment to training is as strong as ever. The business has been recognised for its commitment to training and the work of its painting academy.

It also has an enviable record for worker retention, with many of its people having worked for the company for more than 25 years.

Bagnall says: “Apprenticeships are still a very important part of the operation. We like to see people develop.

“What it means is that at an early age they are immersed in the values and culture of the business. They realise what we are trying to do.

“We’re about building relationships, not making a quick buck. We are in it for the long haul.”

That commitment to training and development pays off. Bagnall explains how the company’s newest director started with a paint brush in his hand as one of its apprentices – just like founder Alfred.

He also speaks of the business’ reputation for quality workmanship, customer care and professionalism in site safety.

Bagnalls has been involved in some notable decorating projects over its many years in the painting trade. The current MD reels of a host of them, from royal palaces to factories, offices, hospitals, educational establishments and everything in between.

They include the famous old Wembley Empire Stadium. Bagnalls also works on heritage projects. Alfred’s first job was painting a railway bridge a stone’s throw away from its current premises, and it still operates in that sector.

The business has shown its continued resilience, not least in the way it came through the last recession.

Bagnall says: “We kept going and navigated our way through it.” Today the business has a £44m turnover that is growing.

Bagnalls is committed to remaining a family-run business and the focus is already on the sixth generation.

The present MD says that there are a number of that generation who are qualified or getting experience that could see them stepping into senior roles. However, it will require more than having the family surname.

He says: “The ambition is to remain a family-business, assuming the next generation has got the right attitude, capability, passion and emotional attachment to the firm.”

You get the feeling that Alfred wouldn’t accept anything else.