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Chisholm & Winch is celebrating 50 years in business this year. Founder, Tony Winch, reflects on the last five decades, his Co-Founder Jim Chisholm and how they built the company. 

Ambitious Beginnings 

“I have always been excited by business, beginning my career aged 11 working for my brother’s green grocers. I found that I enjoyed earning a wage so started work in the construction industry as soon as I could, at the age of 15, as an apprentice carpenter and joiner with Moody Homes Construction, alongside studying at South East Essex Technical College for nine years covering carpentry, joinery and construction.

“Aged 22 I began working for Matthew Hall Civil Engineering as a General Foreman then moved to Rush and Tompkins working on large projects including the redevelopment of Bromley and Catford shopping precincts. In 1968 I met Jim Chisholm who was doing formwork and reinforcement for his company Shuttering Ltd. As well as the shared interest in construction, we discovered we had common ground (or water!) as diving enthusiasts and we both trained at Ilford pool with Ilford British Sub Aqua Club. 

“In 1973, Jim and I decided to team up and form Chisholm & Winch, with me offering the specialisms of carpentry, joinery and construction and Jim bringing his experience of civils, reinforcing and concrete. Our first project was a shop fit-out in Catford. During the early days of the business, most of our jobs were small construction works like extensions, then we added painting and decorating, and, later, a profitable MEP side of the business, Chisholm & Winch Building Services, which ran for 10 years. 

“A significant breakthrough for Chisholm & Winch came 32 years ago when we began working with Bovis at Heathrow Airport. We were responsible for fitting out the shell and core of the Commercially Important People (CIP) lounges, as well as construction and fit-out at terminals one and two, then every new terminal thereafter. This client win was a game-changer for our company and led to the establishment of a dedicated team based at Heathrow for the last three decades.”

A Booming Business 

“The dawn of the 21st century and the Millenium Boom brought about a significant transformation for Chisholm & Winch. We worked on notable public construction ventures, including prestigious establishments like the British Museum, Maritime Museum, and the Royal Opera House – all of which make the list of our most memorable projects.

“Collaborations with celebrated architects became a defining aspect of our work, including a partnership with David Chipperfield, on high end residential projects in Park Lane, Richmond, and Kensington Palace Gardens.

“We also had the privilege of working alongside Sir Norman Foster on luxury residential projects in Regents Park and Belsize Park, as well as with Richard Rogers on the fit-out of the River Café, a cherished restaurant where the young Jamie Oliver was discovered by Channel 4, launching his stratospheric journey to fame.”

Ongoing Success

“I believe the secret to our success lies in our tenacity. We’ve ridden the construction rollercoaster over the years and have made the sacrifices and hard decisions during the challenging times, as well as enjoying the fruits of the golden ones.

“We collaborate closely, negotiate openly – always in the spirit of achieving the optimum result for all involved – and prioritise profitability over turnover. This winning formula has earned us a trusted reputation.

“In the last couple of years, we have identified key growth sectors that hold immense potential for us as specialist fit out contractors. 

“Firstly airports, which really leverage our ability and experience of working in operational environments with minimum disruption, alongside main contractors that we are proud to have developed trusted relationships with over decades.

“Data halls is a huge area of growth and we are perfectly set up to deliver the fit out of these enormous facilities. 

“Also, post pandemic, collaborative workspaces where the shift towards flexible working has led to a demand for agile environments, breakout spaces and aesthetically pleasing settings that create enhanced wellbeing at work.”

An Industry Evolved 

“I’ve seen a lot of change over my years in construction, from evolution in procurement methods, to the adoption of digitalisation, a sharper focus on quality control and of course health and safety, particularly in the stringent airport environments.

“What hasn’t changed is our passionate, committed, collaborative approach to construction. I’m still here as Chairman, although Jim left in 1994; our MD Simon Castle has been with us for 28 years, Jason Winch (my son) has been in the business for 25 years and is our Procurement and Health & Safety Director, and we have extremely high staff retention across the board.

“Great working relationships with the likes of Mace, Balfour Beatty, Spie, T Clarke and BSB have been in place for many years.

“And I still wake up at the same time every morning – 4am! – thinking about my to do list for the day ahead. Yes, I’ve always been a workaholic but I’m not a worrier, I still have an appetite for and enjoyment in what I do, and this has served me well.

“I feel so lucky to have founded and stayed at the helm of Chisholm & Winch for 50 years while other companies have fallen by the wayside. As I approach another big birthday next year (clue: it’s not 50), I am proud of the strong team we’ve created that will surely serve Chisholm & Winch for at least another five decades.”