Rob Williams co-founded Merseyside-based construction firm Intelligent FS with Adam Gallagher in 2015 after leading major MoD infrastructure projects and commercial airport radar facilities in Syria. At Intelligent FS, Rob is responsible for project and programme management, client relations and strategic planning. He recently spoke to YM Liverpool about his long career and plans for the future
Hi Rob. Can tell us about your career to date?
I started as an apprentice bricklayer on a five-year apprenticeship. I then came off the tools, into site management, project management and eventually reached project director.
I have carried out numerous high-profile projects, such as Canary Wharf in London and Damascus Airport in Syria. Closer to home I have worked with United Utilities and Peel Ports in Liverpool. I have been in construction and business management for 50 years, so there isn’t much I haven’t come across!
You launched Intelligent FS in October 2015. How did the business come about?
Adam Gallagher visited me shortly after I retired. He had worked for me for quite a few years and told me he wanted to set up a business. I told him there were a few rules! There was to be no bank overdraft and it was not a lifestyle business.
I wanted Intelligent FS to be based on giving people value for money and doing what we say we will do. These were the initial values we laid down and seven years later we remain good to them.
You have been awarded more than £30 million worth of contracts to remove unsafe cladding in the UK. Did you always believe Intelligent FS would be a success?
We have certainly put the sweat equity in, there is no doubt about that!
But Adam and I enjoy a special relationship, almost like a father and son. I told Adam when I’m retired, I want to see him running a £100 million enterprise. We are always working towards that goal.
I am looking to take partial retirement in 12 months, but I’ll always be there for Adam because I have a genuine desire for this company to become a household name.
Intelligent FS are experts in the removal of unsafe cladding following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. How did this area of the business become so successful?
Adam and I never stand still, but as the pandemic took hold our traditional areas of revenue started to dry up.
I had worked on major cladding projects in London and after a conversation with Adam, we decided to try and make a difference. We secured a £31m contract and it enabled us to re-shape the business.
How much more work is there to do in removing unsafe cladding in the UK?
There are still more than 100 buildings across the UK which require a degree of fire compliance work, which will take up to 10 years to complete.
We are on-site in Manchester, and work is beginning in Leeds, London and Mansfield. This work totals £15m as the government continues to approve work.
We are going in to put bad work right and we take this very seriously. We use specialist monitoring systems, drones and bespoke software to capture all of our work on the job.
You recently partnered with Salford University to launch two scholarships for students from low-income backgrounds. How proud were you to fund these awards?
It’s absolutely fantastic. It is something I have always wanted to do, so it was a no-brainer for Adam and I.
Salford University welcomed us with open arms and the students are now using our major cladding contract at Milliners Wharf in Manchester for their coursework.
Intelligent FS also sponsors MMA fighters, boxers and junior football teams.
I’ve been very lucky in my life, and have always liked supporting people, but being able to help young people into business, put money back into Salford University, and support the next generation of sportsmen and women gives me a lot of pleasure.
Where do you see Intelligent FS in the next two to three years?
I would like Intelligent FS to be a leading re-cladding organisation – turning over £50 million per annum. We have a lot of major work in residential building and remodelling, which gives us two main revenue streams.I want to see Intelligent FS stable, secure and with a good reputation – a contractor people approach because of the way we do our business.