Tue 19 Aug 2014
Business: Sound As Houses
Quality and integrity are key words to Soundhouse, and to their discerning customers
When Latest Homes first went out to meet Nick, Managing Director of Soundhouse, we thought they were a firm that solely converted lofts and roof spaces. Not that that wouldn’t be interesting enough, but we soon discovered they were far from jobbing builders, and that lofts were only a part of the service they offered.
That was only part of the story. Soundhouse were, and remain, a particular kind of company – ‘particular’ in every respect. There is a relaxed air to the way Nick talks about the company, but one which belies the fact that they are a close knit team of professionals and experts. And since that meeting, the team has hardly changed, with the exception of Roger – a longstanding, crucial member of Soundhouse. Nick has gathered around him building professionals who have stayed because they like the work, the integrity, and because both Nick and his clients respect quality craftsmanship.
So has the firm grown over those years? We went along to see where Soundhouse are today.
“We are still very much a local firm; we still have a local phone number and deal very directly with our clients. We have not spent money on sign-written vans, we are not wasting money on branding, t-shirts and that sort of stuff. By staying small we feel that we are still able to offer those exacting high standards that have got us to where we are today. And those high standards mean that much of the work comes to us by recommendation – it is still word of mouth that works for us.
“We are definitely independent and we like to work with other independent companies who, like us, understand that we need to be flexible.
“The team is the same size today as when you first met us, with a few new faces, and we are still doing jobs next to jobs that we have already completed. Neighbours remember the name and are a great way of spreading the word.
“Initially, we were loft specialists, but we are now doing more and more extensions and many of those are for people who have already had us convert a loft for them.”
It sounds like Soundhouse are busy, then? “Yes, long term we are booked way ahead – but that is how it should be. With planning etcetera it is worth getting on that list, so that everything is in place and approved when it comes to the build itself. Lots of people ring and want it done straight away, but we dont work like that. Once you are on our schedule, the planning and building control process can start fast, but the build will begin later.”
What marks Soundhouse out from other firms? “What customers get is our experience and our skill. We are a quality firm offering a quality finish. We like the finished job to be a seamless transition from what went before and your new build, whether that is a kitchen or a loft. And we’re clean and efficient.
“We also still stick with the local council to inspect the work we have done, rather then contracting an independent provider. We trust that the standards that the council work to are the very best. In fact, we have just been nominated for best local builder and craftsmen by the council department, and should we get it, we are looking forward to the kudos that the award will bring.
“Having a good relationship with the council building control inspectors and working closely with them, we can reach the right results and the best results. Over the years, talking to them and asking for advice has stood us in good stead.
“High standards are very important to us as a company, and they have proved to be our best selling point. We have resisted expansion because we are happy to be as we are and maintain that same high standard of service. And we love being independent, and are proud that our clients are our best link to new work.
“We really care about the finish of each job and we love to work for people who care as much as we do – people who have an eye for good design, for quality craftsmanship. If that is what a new customer is looking for then we will work well together, but it is essential getting on the list, meeting with us and looking at what they want and what we can achieve for them as soon as possible.”
Meeting Nick is always a pleasure, but over the years we have also met with many of his happy customers. Susan Corlett is one such person and we went along to take a look at her new kitchen, extension, and the loft conversion that Nick had previously done. Once again, it was a strikingly good job maximising on space and, as ever, fitting seamlessly into the existing building.
We asked Susan how she heard about Soundhouse. “We found Nick and Soundhouse through a recommendation from a friend, who had had her loft done and was thrilled with it. That was back in 2010. We had planned to do the kitchen at that point, but a change in our circumstances meant that a loft conversion was a better plan at that time.
“Nick came and chatted about the kitchen but we soon told him that we wanted to change to the loft. He wasn’t at all phased, and he came along with such great ideas. He encourages you to go and see other projects the team have done, so you get to the see the quality of the work and meet previous happy customers.
“I was immediately struck by the huge amount of attention to detail, and was very aware that his team have been with him a long time. Many of them come from an artisan background – crafts people who have an eye for that kind of detail rather than taking easy routes and shortcuts.
“They are also very respectful of the fact that it’s your home, and do their best to ensure that there is minimal disruption to your life. When we did the loft there was none at all, as they went in through the roof for the whole build and only opened a door into the house when that work was completed. They were also considerate of our neighbours – Nick helped us with the neighbourly consultation and the planning process.
“Soundhouse are hard working, too, and you can see that hard work and the progress that they make on a daily basis. Nick is also very good at managing your expectations, the timings, and the budget. Any delays were for good reasons and nothing has cost more than he said it would cost. In truth, he maybe errs on the cautious side with timings and costs – which is very nice, there were no nasty surprises!
“We consulted with him on everything at every stage; he has a great eye for design and that was a great advantage. Nick understood our vision and made it real.”
A few hundred yards away, we visited another home where Soundhouse had worked their magic. George told us about their experience.
“It took Jo and I over a year to plan who would carry out our loft conversion. We spoke to a range of loft conversion companies, both local and nationally, looking for a combination of best service and price. Soundhouse were competitive and we liked their non-aggressive style. While relaxed, Nick was still very professional. We felt comfortable with the advice he was giving us, at no time being ‘closed’ on any commitment – which, I believe, is important when making such a big decision.
“The team were fantastic, headed up by Andy who was extremely professional throughout the entire process. As our main point of contact, he worked with us every step of the way. No matter how trivial a decision seemed, Andy would always go through the options with us, explaining clearly before committing to any work carried out.
“Our ideas were added to the ‘house folder’ and were always acknowledged and discussed, sometimes at length! (Which we really appreciated.) The rest of the Soundhouse team were polite, prompt and professional. The quality of work has been excellent and the finished conversion is perfect. We are very happy, and would recommend Soundhouse without hesitation.”