Big Japanese job at Westfield powers Stortford electrical firm's growth
Eleanor Scotchbrook meets electrician and former Bishop's Stortford High School boy Chris Alder, whose one-man business has tripled in size and now expects a turnover of £1.5m this year
An electrician from Bishop’s Stortford has overseen completion of all the electrical work at Europe’s largest Japanese food hall – and seen his company triple in size in the process.
Chris Alder, who set up CA Electrical in 2015, is expecting a turnover of £1.5m this year after winning contracts to work on some of London’s most prestigious new-builds and renovations.
The largest of these was Westfield City’s latest development Ichiba, which required Chris to expand his team from 10 to 30 electricians to deliver the 22-week project on time and within budget.
Based in Shepherds Bush, Ichiba brings together the best artisan food, drink, homewares and gifts from across Japan, with a number of theatrical kitchens offering cooking demonstrations, workshops and tasting seminars that allow visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how authentic Japanese food is created.
Chris, 31, who trained at Harlow College, said involvement in the project has taken CA Electrical from a small local business concentrating on the domestic sector to a growing business working on multi-million-pound commercial contracts.
The former Bishop’s Stortford High School pupil said: “It was incredibly nerve-wracking taking it on as we’ve never worked on something of that scale before, but the contractor saw I was ambitious and that the team was capable and gave us the opportunity.
“We were juggling five other projects at the same time and when we were in the thick of it there were definitely moments when I thought ‘Why on earth have I done this?’, but I’d built up a really great team who I knew could deliver.”
Chris, who lives with wife Jess and their two young daughters in Bishop’s Park, decided to pursue a trade straight from school after deciding the academic route was not for him.
“All my friends were heading off to uni and I was the odd one out,” he said. “I wanted to do something a bit more hands on and I haven’t looked back.
“I worked for a couple of different companies while I completed my training and to gain some experience, but I always knew I wanted to start my own business and branch off on my own.
“When I went self-employed I started off with just a few leaflets and a box of business cards from Vistaprint, so it’s quite incredible how the business has grown and changed.
“I envisaged nice steady growth, maybe taking on a few more guys and getting another van, rather than the company growing as quickly as it has done.”
Chris has found in his experience that it is an industry that rewards hard work and reliability, his motto being: It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.
“The Ichiba project really has been a springboard for similar high-end projects and that’s really exciting,” he said.
Other projects in the pipeline include a nightclub in Tottenham Court Road, a French restaurant in Victoria and a boutique hotel in Marylebone.
To keep up with the demand for his company’s expertise, he is planning to take on an estimator and expand his office team, which is based in the town centre.
“I spend the majority of my time now driving from site to site, on the phone or in meetings,” he said.
“I do miss getting stuck in and I do get a bit of stick from the guys that I’m not grafting or getting my hands dirty as much anymore, but that’s just how my role has evolved.
“Yes, I’m more office based now, but it’s working and the company is going in the right direction.”