Construction Entrepreneur – Introducing Lee Marley

Lee Marley, 46, is the founder of multi-million-pound nationwide enterprise Lee Marley Brickwork Limited, which he formed in 1997 at just 24 years old. Lee’s business is now one of the UK’s leading integrated brickwork, scaffolding and stone subcontractors, the company turned over £47.1million in 2019.

Lee was born in Wembley, London, his grandfather was a bricklayer and by the age of 7 Lee knew this was a trade he too wanted to follow. The family moved to Devon when Lee was as a child and it was here that he got his foot on the construction ladder and completed a bricklaying apprenticeship at North Devon College. By the age of 19 he had two employees, one of whom still works for Lee today as a Project Manager!

The team kept on growing and in 1995 Lee moved back to London with his family. The firm he was working for went bust but the customer took him on to finish the job, his small business went from virtually nothing to a million-pound turnover in 6 months. By the time he’d hit 25, the business was creating an annual turnover of five million. The company has continued to grow year on year and in 2001 Lee spotted a gap in the market and acquired a failing scaffolding business providing his clients with a one stop shop.

The business has survived two recessions and Lee has learned valuable lessons along the way, looking ahead at forward workloads, splitting jobs across the sectors and how not to put all your eggs in one basket! Over the years they have worked on some exciting and high-profile projects and some of Lee’s major achievements in the industry include the Olympic athletes’ village, Eton College, Belmarsh Prison, Reading Station and The Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre in Nottinghamshire. However, Lee is very much a believer that you shouldn’t forget about the “bread and butter” residential building work and the more sectors the business has, the more outlets you have got to keep the business going.

Lee’s righthand man Dan Clarkson partnered in the business in 2011 and has helped drive the company forward creating a new client base and developing customer relationships. Since Dan joined, the company have worked for more tier 1 contractors and the business has flourished. They have grown the scaffolding business from £1m a year to £10m a year turnover and the business as a whole from £14m to £47m a year.

The company operate nationwide with clients across residential, commercial and public sector (MoD, MoJ, rail, and education etc.) Services include masonry, scaffolding and stonework. In 2015 and in order to meet the nationwide demand of their key blue-chip clients, the business expanded to Scotland and now works on projects across the Central Belt, between Glasgow and Edinburgh. In Lee’s driven style the company went from doing no business in Scotland, to securing the largest masonry package in the country within 4 years.

Having trained as an apprentice bricklayer himself, Lee strongly supports the need to develop the next generation of bricklayers, scaffolders, stone masons and steel fixers. In 2016 he formed a partnership with Brooklands College in Surrey and now runs an Apprentice Programme at the College; 30 young people have been through this scheme so far. The apprenticeship teaches them what is relevant to the market such as modern methods of construction, fire barriers, insulation, IT, signing work off; all the aspects that are often hidden and could go wrong on a job meaning that  when they end up on site they are extremely valuable early on. In 2018 one of the apprentices, Tyler Pearce, was awarded Apprentice of the Year at the Construction News Specialist Awards. The Lee Marley Apprentice programme was awarded Apprentice Initiative of the Year at the 2019 Constructing Excellence SECBE Award 2019. The company also brings on apprentice and trainee scaffolders.

Other accolades include the company being featured in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100, which ranks Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing profits in 2019. They were also awarded Specialist Brickwork Contractor of the Year at the 2019 Brick Awards. This is their third win in six years having won in 2014 and 2017 also.

Lee is proud to be investing in not only his company but in the future of the industry as a whole and the company also run a graduate programme at Reading University which they set up a few years ago, supporting young quantity surveyors and construction managers  on their journey to gain RICS or CIOB memberships.

With Lee at the helm, the company continues to grow nationally on its journey as the first-choice brickwork, stonework and scaffolding supplier to many of the UK’s leading property developers and construction contractors. Lee is also looking to open another training college dedicated to industry apprenticeships possibly in Scotland or South East England – watch this space!


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BDC 314 : Mar 2024