Pictured: Steven Misfud
Direct Access Consultancy, a Cheshire-based disability access consultancy, is building on the phenomenal growth of the Middle East’s construction sector to forge its own ambitious expansion plans.
The Nantwich business provides disabled access audits of existing premises, accessibility advice on new builds and bespoke disability awareness training.
Founded by Steven Mifsud in 2004, the business’ reputation has grown nationally with clients now including Virgin Rail, E.ON and McArthurGlen, along with a wide variety of councils, schools and NHS trusts.
In 2017, Steven decided that he wanted to explore opportunities to grow his company in the Middle East.
He sought advice from the Department for International Trade (DIT) to identify the right markets to target and subsequently attended the Design Awareness Exhibition, a major trade show in Dubai.
Steven commented: “The construction sector in the Middle East is continuing to experience phenomenal growth in many parts of the region.
“There’s a real emphasis on ensuring that all buildings and civic spaces have full disabled access.”
He explained: “Last year the Dubai Universal Design Code was finalised which enshrines Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision to make the country the most accessible in the world in the run up to Expo 2020.”
As a direct result of attending last year’s Design Awareness Exhibition Steven’s firm was asked to undertake an accessibility audit for the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
“We’re now hoping to provide similar audits to other embassies across the Middle East and subsequently build on this success to win other contracts,” he added.
Steven thinks awareness surrounding disability access is growing globally partially due to the success of high-profile events like the Paralympics.
He continued: “There’s a real appetite to ensure both existing and new buildings meet requisite standards to ensure full accessibility.
“The main problem you must overcome when you’re looking to export your services overseas for the first time is knowing which markets to target and how to go about it.
“It’s important to plan ahead. Prior to attending the trade show, we’d researched who we wanted to speak to and then asked for meetings to maximise the time we spent there.
“If we can break into a market and build on our success, other businesses can too.”
He believe DIT’s knowledge of the Middle East has been invaluable.
Paul Stowers, DIT’s acting regional director for the North West of England, said: “Direct Access Consultancy is a first-class example of a home-grown Cheshire company that’s rightly identified opportunities for growth in overseas markets.
“We worked with the company to highlight the increased opportunities that exist in the Middle East, help with travel costs and facilitate introductions.”
Paul continued: “We have a network of International Trade Advisers based in the North West of England who provide specialist support and guidance to ensure that companies can truly achieve their potential overseas.”
Exports within the North West have increased by 3.6% in 2017, compared with 2016.