National Timber Buildings celebrate 40 years in the business

September 2022 is a special month for our company as it marks 40 years since we first opened our doors. 40 years is an important milestone for any business, but for a family-owned business like ours, it has even more meaning, memories, and nostalgia to contend with!

Director, Lee Taylor, looks back at the past four decades at National Timber Buildings to reminisce and remind us of a few of the challenges and achievements the company has shared over the years…

From humble beginnings…
It all began back in 1982 when the company (Ashford Timber Limited as it was registered then) was founded by Roy Elliot. We began trading out of our original site - Ashford market, under the name Ashford Fencing and Sheds. As the name suggests, fencing and sheds were Roy’s original focus, but when sheds really ‘took off’ the company branched out into other timber buildings and refocused the business strategy to concentrate on stables. With this shift, came a move to new, bigger premises in Little Chart (just outside of Ashford, Kent).

Following our move to Little Chart, the stables side of our business really started to grow, and we soon went from independent stable manufacturers to a household name. As we grew, so did our need for space and we finally moved to our present site here in Badlesmere, Faversham. It was also around this time which we started trading under the name National Stables and National Timber Buildings.

We have always been a very close-knit team which has remained one of our company strengths. We are all invested, we’re all passionate and we all genuinely care about delivering the best of the best to customers.  My dad knew our founder, Roy, from an early age and was a big part of dad’s life. Dad started working for Roy when he left school at 16 and when Roy took a step back in 2007, Dad took over the running of the business. A few years later, in 2012, dad took over the business completely when Roy sadly passed away. Roy’s Stepson, Ed Scott also had a significant role in the business from day dot until he retired in 2021. Dad has since passed the reigns onto me and despite having big shoes to fill, I am hopefully doing the family proud.

40 years is a big achievement. We are not the oldest manufacturer by far, but would argue we’re the most established, experienced and passionate!

How has the industry changed over the years?
The biggest changes have been with the treatment of materials and how the construction industry has needed to adapt to the world’s commitment to sustainability.

For example, years ago, timber was treated with copper chrome and arsenic to help preserve the lifespan of structures, but many associated illnesses and health conditions were later uncovered because of exposure to these preservatives. When the industry laws changed, so did the treatment requirements. For example, all our timber is treated with Tanalith® E. Tanalith® E is water borne product which contains a mixture of chemicals which when impregnated into the timber, the preservative components bond with the wood structure and cannot easily be removed. It does NOT contain arsenic and is well suited to environmentally sensitive applications.

Our sawmill also boasts a ‘four in one’ policy, whereby for every tree felled, four trees get planted in its replacement.

Our products have developed a great deal since our early days. We listen to what our customers tell us. We understand their wants and needs and try to adapt our product accordingly. We are always looking for innovative ideas for new products to add to the market. We work on a bigger scale compared to 1982, but our values remain the same. 

Have people’s requirements changed over the years? Are they looking for more extravagant buildings nowadays?

No, I think people, particularly in our industry, are looking for functionality more than anything else. Robust stables and structures which function well, is key for them. 

Aesthetics still play a role, and we can offer customers a combination of both function and aesthetics. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that customers prefer substance over style when it comes to timber structures, and primarily they want a long-lasting stable block or timber building in general, that serves its purpose well.

The quality of our workmanship is reflected in the longevity of our products. We still have customers who have been with us from the early days and their stable structures are still standing tall with plenty of quality life remaining in them - some structures may have needed a new roof (as to be expected), but the timber structure of the buildings themselves remain sound.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Covid hit the construction industry and our colleagues within the equine community extremely hard, and our company had to weather that storm along with so many others. When the spring 2020 lockdown hit, it was a worrying time for us all. It was difficult to determine how our business would be affected by Covid-19 and our priority turned to keeping our staff and customers safe and well. Ensuring our HR procedures were up to date and keeping up with the changing health & safety requirements resulting from the virus was time consuming. Our biggest challenge during that time was trying to meet customer deadlines whilst trying to keep our staff and customers safe.

Despite the challenges, our team spirit and long-standing, committed staff members rallied to ensure that we came out of the other side stronger than ever. In fact, our reputation won us one of our biggest ever customers during the peak of the pandemic – a massive achievement for the team.

Many of our customers and suppliers have grown with us over the years which speaks volumes of our craftmanship, customer service and commitment to the cause, but don’t just take our word for it…

“I have very fond memories of my career at Nationals. When the company first opened, I was still at school, but started helping on a Saturday performing general duties around the depot.  Back then, the business was a fencing and sheds cash and carry operation and I would help customers load their goods into their vehicle and make sure the depot was kept tidy and presentable. As soon as I left school and got my driving licence at 17, I went out delivering goods, meeting, and building rapport with customers, and even erecting a few buildings on my own. 

As the business grew, so did my responsibilities and I was soon erecting buildings nationally for the company. In the early 2000s, I was made a Director of the company and became more office based. My role focused on the sales side of the business. I left the company with a heavy heart in 2021 when I retired my work boots and moved to Sweden with my wife for ventures new.

The company’s secret to success comes in the shape of a small, but enthusiastic, knowledgeable team who deliver a great, quality product at a competitive price. It is this ethic which sees Nationals retain lots of loyal, returning customers. I always enjoyed helping customers with their own domestic equestrian facilities the most – it was common for us to erect buildings for parents in the 90s whose children later returned to us in the 2000s to become customers of ours too!

Well done to all the team on reaching a great milestone, and all the customers for sticking by us.” - Edward Scott, Director, National Timber Buildings 1982 - 2021.

“My first experience of National’s was over 25 years ago when I bought my first stables from their Grand National range – two stables and a tack room to be exact.  Since then, every time I have moved (which is four times!) I have bought a stable from Nationals. In the last couple of years, I’ve also bought three mobile field shelters too.  

Aside from the quality of their products, there are two main reasons why I always use Nationals. The first is that they are a customer friendly business that genuinely listen and understand a customer’s needs and wants.  If I make design suggestions or request specific design modifications, they will willingly incorporate them.

Secondly, their fitters are exemplary. Nothing is too much trouble and in the years that I’ve been using Nationals, many of the installers that come out to me are the same.  Continuity of fitters is incredibly important to us customers because it shows a commitment to a quality finish and the pride in workmanship that is withheld within the company.

I have pride of ownership in the National Stables I have bought and will continue to recommend to their timber buildings to my friends and colleagues.” - Julia Valentine, horse owner and long-term customer.

What do the next 40 years hold for National Timber Buildings?
Our family business has grown from a handful of employees to the 18 strong staff members currently in operation at Nationals. Many of our colleagues have been with us a long time (some have been with us over 25 years). We look forward to growing the National Timber family further, as well as promoting internally ensuring the valuable knowledge and experience within our team stays where we need it most – at the heart of our business.

Our product range has already grown enormously over the years, and we look forward to growing and refining our offering in the years to come. We are already a household name in the stables market, and we’d love to replicate this reputation amongst our other timber building ranges.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all our family, customers, suppliers, colleagues, and friends who have worked with us over the last 40 years.  Here’s to the next 40!

More information about National Timber Buildings can be found on their website.

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