It all began 15 years ago in 2004.
After working for a national health, safety and environmental-risk management company, our Director Christian Shaefer decided the time was right to start his own business, and Eton Environmental Group was born.
Named after the town where Christian and his wife/business partner Joanna lived at the time, Eton Group (as we’re also known), began life as an asbestos surveying company.
That’s because two years prior to this, The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations came into force on 21st November 2002. This Act of Parliament placed an explicit duty to manage asbestos in all non-domestic premises. So great was this change in the regulations that a two-year lead period was granted to enable compliance. This duty to manage came into force in May 2004, at almost the exact time that Eton began life.
With two large London authorities signed up, as well as Christian (who managed the sales side) and Joanna (who managed, well everything else!), eight asbestos surveyors were employed to work for Eton and the rest, as they say is history.
But, in a very competitive market, what has contributed to Eton’s success and enabled it to grow into the much bigger, and diverse, health and safety building compliance company it is today?
Over to Christian:
“From the outset, we were always adamant that we wanted to be nationally accredited for the work we did, so one of our first achievements was to be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to carry out asbestos surveys.
“We also quickly set up our own, in-house laboratory to test asbestos samples. We gained accreditation for this too and it meant that as well as our own samples, we were also sent samples by other companies who did not have their own labs, so this increased our revenue.
“We were also clear from the start that we did not just want to be a company involved in asbestos surveying, so we began to introduce other services in response to new Government legislation, the next one being energy performance certificates (EPCs).
“EPCs were introduced in 2007 as a measure of the efficiency of homes and buildings and it is a legal requirement to for landlords to have valid EPC for all domestic and commercial properties built, rented or sold.
“We then introduced legionella testing and fire risk assessments, the latter which has become even more important following the tragedy at Grenfell.
Even 15 years we’re also continuing to look to the future, so newer services we now offer include the removal of pigeon guano from building and carrying out lead paint surveys. We’re seeing increasing demand in particular for the lead paint surveys as people become more aware of the dangers of exposure to lead.”
Because of the sectors it works in, such as local government and education, much of Eton’s work comes in via competitive tendering, so what makes the company successful in this area?
Christian adds: “It comes down to the relationships you build up with clients, because they move onto other jobs in the future, and the quality of service you provide – two things we have always prided ourselves on.
“Plus, we encourage our staff to go over and above when it comes to training, so the people who work for Eton are among the most qualified in their areas.”
In 2004, Eton’s staff worked out of small office in Darlington, County Durham, with Christian and Joanna using their home as a base in the south. 15 years later and the head office in Darlington is now much larger and owned by the company. There are also offices in Berkshire, the Midlands and the North West, with over 55 staff employed.
Clients include Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Willmott Dixon, Pizza Hut, River Island, Safe Style, The Crown Estate, Capita and CBRE.
Here’s to the next 15 years!