‘Knuckle Down, Work Hard… All With Military Precision’


John Ayres the founder and owner of Ex Army Builders has entered the 2024 UK Plant Operator of the Year competition.

On reading John’s entry, we were intrigued by his story of two passions, a passion to serve his Country and a passion to build a business in the construction sector. Growing up John was, as most of us are, influenced by his mother and father. John’s mother came from a military background whilst his father worked in construction. After spending a childhood around construction equipment and on leaving school, John had a brief spell working in the industry. On his 17th birthday John joined The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment of the British Army. In addition, John’s brother Tony went onto to serve in the Royal Engineers. John’s military career spanned some seven years and saw him serve with pride and see active duty as a corporal, with tours of Kosovo, ahead of the country’s independence from Serbia. 

The Princess of Wales Regiment was part of an armoured battalion, so working with machines, although of a vastly different sort, was to continue, as was working with construction equipment. Because of this, John was able to complete his CPCS card thanks to the Army during his time of service. The idea of setting up a building business was very much in John’s mind in those last years of service, with the company officially trading in 2003 and operational in 2004. The concept was to build a business that used and transferred the skills learnt in the forces. So, promptness, good communications, highly skilled problem solving, planning and the best trained people, were all at the heart of the new business’s mantra and customer communication. With contacts gained from within the military, John was able to recruit from a rich vein of people, who had learnt and became qualified, whilst serving with the British Armed Forces…Ex Army Builders was born. The company quotes a refreshing value statement as, ‘Knuckle Down, Work Hard all with Military Precision.’ 

The company has in the last 20 years, gone from strength to strength, building a great reputation in and around the Guildford area. The focus these days is on residential work, with new builds, extensions, refurbishments and landscaping at the heart of what the business does. 20 UK PLANT OPERATORS | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2024 Ex-Army Builders has continually evolved with the latest element of their offer, being in the highly creative and rewarding area of Eco-friendly new builds. Meaning that the practices employed and installed are100% energy efficient, minimizing utility bills for future owners and protecting the future of the environment. Current project values range from £40,000 extensions to the more opulent 18,000 sq. ft £10m mega builds. 

The company is now a firmly established and recognised design and build business, with a key differentiator being that John and his team take personal ownership from the design phase right through to completion. Interestingly, the business owns and maintains its own fleet of tipper trucks, grab lorries and plant, including a full range of excavators, dumpers and attachments. The philosophy of the business being to fully utilize their owned plant, either on their own projects or through their plant hire company, thus, improving financial and physical utilization. As for the choices John and Ex-Army Builders have made over which brands to work with, they have concluded on three, owning and operating only Takeuchi Excavators and Th waites Dumpers 

In addition to a range of essential attachments from MB Crusher. John commented on these choices, “We believe, after extensive testing during our early years, that Takeuchi offers the best excavators on the market for our type of work. Whilst they are not the cheapest, they pay for themselves many times over and never let us down.” John went on to say,” We have owned one Takeuchi mini excavator since 2006, which is still going like new today, the Takeuchi fleet consists of six machines from the compact 1-tonne through to the 16-tonne”. For Dumpers it’s a similar story with Thwaites the unanimous choice of the business. With John commenting, “Thwaites dumpers are the best on the market. Th e levels of reliability and performance we have found have been second to none. We run the range and have done so for the last 20 years”. 

Last, but not least, John mentioned the attachments the business works with, “MB Crusher provide a great, robust range of crusher buckets. The products are easy to connect, safe to use and provide a quick and efficient solution on site”. It was good to catch up with John and talk about his story and business. We look forward to hopefully welcoming him to Finals Day of the UK Plant Operator of the Year on Saturday September 21st at the CITB National Construction College Bircham Newton.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbDk67bIqho