While most men will occasionally buy their wives flowers, Torran Construction managing director John Rodgers went a stage further when finding a new headquarters for his growing groundworks and civil engineering business.

In 2014, John and his fellow directors moved to Preston Garden Centre in north east Kent because the site had development potential and the space to site a new office building from which to run the company.

When his wife Sarah, a keen landscape gardener, saw the garden centre she persuaded husband John not to lease it to another operator but to let her run it instead. “So instead of buying her a bunch of flowers I bought her the whole garden centre,” he commented.

The decision highlighted the entrepreneurial spirit and the determination to succeed that has marked the growth of Torran Construction, which has quickly established itself as a major player in the agricultural construction field.

It was an equally bold, yet carefully considered, decision that saw Torran Construction set up 20 years ago. John was working as contracts manager with Gallagher Construction when he was offered the chance to tender for the cold store groundworks for one of Kent’s top fruit growers.

“I won that job and so I had to make a decision about my future,” he recalled. In the event John parted company with the Gallagher Group to pursue his dream of running his own business, to be joined a year later by Jason Glanville, a former colleague at Gallagher.

“I had been there seven years and it felt like time to move on,” John said. Looking back now as his own company celebrates its 20th year in business, he added: “Decisions like that change your life. It was risky, of course it was, but it worked out.”

John left the Kent-based aggregates, groundworks, civil engineering and property development giant on good terms – “Pat invited me back to their 50th anniversary celebrations last year,” he pointed out – and John is now a customer of his former employer.

Torran may be 30 years behind in terms of anniversaries, but John, Jason and fellow director Malcolm Cook have built up a successful, multi-disciplined construction firm that has built a solid reputation in this part of the world.

Alongside groundworks and civil engineering contracts, Torran Construction has taken on a number of projects as the main contractor, a role that the team enjoys.

“We are very happy to be brought in to do the groundworks side of things, and it’s what we originally made our name doing, but we now have the contacts, the expertise and the experience to take on the whole project,” said John.

As Jason explained: “We are good at organising the various trades that have to combine to create a modern agricultural building and get it finished on budget and on time. In many ways it’s easier to organise all the bits than to be one of the bits someone else is trying to organise.”

That first cold store contract included providing all the drainage and a power-floated concrete floor, which highlighted the high standards that Torran Construction has continued to build on. “It’s about providing the right quality at the right price and working closely with the client,” John explained.

Flexibility is another one of the company’s watchwords, with the company always doing its best to work with the client if schedules slip or issues arise.

“Some of the bigger and shinier companies are a bit quick to point to the contract terms if there is a delay and can even see it as an opportunity to increase the bill,” said John. “In our case, if someone else causes a bit of slippage we do our best to take the guys off site and use them on another contract. We want to work with the client, not just for them.”

It’s an approach that has won Torran Construction plenty of repeat business, sometimes after a slight gap. “In one or two cases a client has gone elsewhere, either because we were already fully committed or because they were persuaded to try a different contractor, but then came back to us for subsequent jobs,” Jason said.

In the early days, and given John and Jason’s background, a lot of Torran Construction’s contracts were in the commercial or light industrial sectors, including completing a £3m groundworks contract for a new high school in Maidstone.

Following the economic slump of 2009, though, with funding drying up for major school and hospital projects, the company in effect went ‘back to its roots’ and focused more on agricultural work, either completing groundworks for steel frame contractors or, increasingly, project managing new buildings from grain stores to cold stores.

Initially based at St Nicholas Court Farms at St Nicholas at Wade, the business moved to the Preston Garden Centre site in 2014 and built its new headquarters there, as well as building an extension to the garden centre and adding a smart, modern bistro.

The office and bistro at Preston highlight the attention to detail and quality of workmanship that has established Torran Construction’s reputation over the past 20 years and seems set to propel them on to more and bigger anniversaries.

John explained that he liked working with farming businesses because farmers had “a good, hard-work mentality”, an ethos that he believes the team at Torran Construction shares. That core workforce can be quickly increased from the company’s pool of carefully selected and well-trained casual employees.

While John and Malcolm look after the admin and costing side of the business, Jason’s main responsibility is for the workforce and for the plant. “He’s the one who knows where everything and everyone is all the time,” John said. The line-up includes six excavators ranging from two-and-a-half tonnes through to 13 tonnes, four dumpers, ride-on rollers, fuel bowsers and a wide range of ancillary equipment.

The team can tackle projects ranging from silage clamps through cattle sheds and milking parlours, grain stores and cold stores to slurry storage, yards and anything else a farm might need.

For recycling experts Ling Demolition Services at Hersden, near Canterbury, Torran Construction erected a number of large buildings complete with a complex anti-pollution drainage system and a weighbridge.

Other recent projects have included building battery storage compounds for Tesla in Essex and at Burgess Hill, West Sussex. “Those were complex jobs featuring lots of ducting for the electrical cables and deep foundations to take the weight of the batteries,” Jason pointed out.

Other challenging projects have included a storage facility in Bromley which involved putting in concrete piling and then digging out a basement area, while the company has also built a number of anaerobic digestion plants in Kent.

Torran Construction has also worked for a number of vineyards in the South East and John said he was keen to do more in the sector. The company attended last year’s Vineyard and Winery Show at Detling and found the atmosphere “exciting and purposeful,” he said.

Meanwhile current activity includes working on new glasshouse buildings for Thanet Earth, building light industrial units for Rastrum in Rye and carrying out the groundworks for a packhouse extension for top fruit growers A C Goatham & Son on the Isle of Grain.

“Whatever the job, we aim to deliver a quality finish, on time and on budget,” John said. “It’s a philosophy that’s brought us this far over the past 20 years and we look forward to working with farmers across the South East as we move forward into the next 20 and beyond.”