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Celebrating Fifteen Years


It’s been fifteen years since John Williamson and Phil Marsden took the decision to set up a company that simply did things differently. Reflecting on the last 15 years they take us through their clear vision of what they wanted to create in the beginning, the changes they have seen in the industry over the past fifteen years, and an insight into the exciting future for Vextrix. 

Can you tell us why you created Vextrix? 

John: We wanted to create a business that clients wanted to work with, and that staff would be proud to work for. We were quite conscious that we both were able to do part time degrees and had opportunities that probably our parents hadn’t, so we wanted to offer those opportunities to other people who would be part of the business and the communities that we were working in. 

Phil: We didn’t feel our clients or the people we were managing at the time were getting the best out of us, due to some of the restrictions we were under. We thought it was an opportunity for us to develop a Liverpool based transport focused consultancy but operating nationwide.  

We wanted to grow the team by giving people opportunities, either at the start of their careers, when they were leaving university, or people who wanted to go to university from in or around Liverpool.


Looking back, has the ethos behind Vextrix changed or evolved over the past fifteen years? 

Phil:  I would say it has evolved a little, but not dramatically. I think the focus on development, giving opportunities to people and being dedicated to our clients are still very much part of who we are and drive a lot of the decision making. I’d say probably the biggest change would be how we deliver growth in the business. When we started out, we wanted to grow to 10 people and we didn’t really have a strategy around how we’d achieve this, other than attracting young people coming out of or going into university. As we’ve grown, we have developed a clear structured vision on who and how we would like to attract the best people in the business and how we intend to grow the business through diversification of sectors and service offering. 

John: The main thing that’s changed from our original plan is that we didn’t want to be any more than 10 people. The reason for that was we didn’t feel we could give the clients the personal service or maintain the culture with more than 10 people. That stems from the fact that we come from big organisations. It takes work to keep our culture and that personal service as you grow, but it can, and it has been done. We’ve shown that. When you’re smaller it’s more natural, but now we really take the time to think hard about how we maintain it.  


There have been lots of exciting changes at Vextrix over the past fifteen years can you tell us about a couple of your highlights? 

John: Recruiting Anthony Singleton, now Director, was probably one of the most exciting things that we did at the time (you’re welcome Anthony!) The decision to recruit someone to join us was a big move at the time because we didn’t know what the future held at that point.

So to employ somebody for the future was a massive thing, I remember the effort we went to, to get that right even though we interviewed effectively in a kitchen, it was such a step change for us to bring somebody else in. 

Moving into our current Liverpool office is another one of my highlights. When we very first started, I remember saying to Phil it didn’t matter where we were, it could just be in a room with no windows! When we moved in, it was brilliant because we were able to create the Vextrix brand exactly how we wanted it to be.

Opening our new office in Manchester this week is equally as exciting and has brought those feelings back. It’s brilliant to walk around that office and think we made the decisions on exactly how it looks and feels. To have a base that’s ours and has been created exactly the way we want it, is just so exciting.  

Phil: There are so many highlights for me! I remember interviewing Anthony in our first office (which was made-up of 1 room 6 desks, a kitchen behind 1/2 height petition, and a table and chairs in the corner for meetings) and he probably took the biggest chance of his career joining us. We stayed in that office till 2019 and then moved to our current Liverpool office.  

Another highlight for me was in 2019 when we reset the ten year plan. It started a big change in the business with us focussing on sector structure and our journey to 2030 began. We’ve won awards with Young Rail Professional of the year and Freddie Award and we’ve introduced many team building events and socials including the Big Rail Diversity Challenge, quarterly birthday lunches and our Christmas parties. 

Can you tell us about some of the changes you have seen in the industry and how Vextrix is making the most of these opportunities? 

Phil: There have been some major events that have had an impact on us over the last 15 years. We’ve experienced the financial crisis, rail franchise changes, COVID and the more recent economic crisis. When these things happened, it’s our priority to put Vextrix in the best position. We make the most of change, especially when it could have a negative impact. We take time, take stock and look at where we are and what we need to do. We come together, grow and continue.  

John: I think the construction industry has seen a lot of changes in regulations, particularly in safety. Because we have worked extensively in the the rail industry over the last 15 years, we’re totally comfortable working in the highly regulated arena. We actually welcome these changes because it gives us a competitive edge, while others are learning, we’re simply adapting.   

What are the next steps for Vextrix? 

Phil: I think the next steps are growth. Growth and investment in key sectors to grow market share and investment in the digital and sustainability service lines That’s where we want to be heading. So that may be new locations, expanding our footprint in the UK, and looking at ways to be physically closer to our clients to encourage more face-to-face engagement with them. 

John: To achieve our 10 year target, we need to grow our service offering and to deliver this we’ve developed our strategy to understand what our clients want and what they’re doing. Our next steps are growth, but actually an expansion in the sectors and locations that we’re operating in. 


Why are you taking these steps and how well does this position Vextrix for the future? 

John: We want to be recognised as the market leader in all the sectors we operate in. We can only achieve this by striving towards excellence in everything we do. We learned early on that our drive to grow was symbiotic with the desire to offer quality service. We try to do things right for the right reasons. That’s what our clients and our staff want us to do. 

Phil: We recognise there’s a need to keep evolving, everything we are working on at the moment, digital collaboration, sustainability, geographical location potential, adding additional service lines and new people, this is positioning us in the best possible way for where we are heading.  What we are doing now is positioning all of us for the future.