I am Donovan Galling. No there is no one in the firm that is called Martha or Mockford.
Originally my family were farmers here in Devon. I still live on the farm in a house I designed and built. We work out of what was the farm buildings, it still looks a bit agricultural here and there; though inside we have a large showroom and workshops.
The Galling Family came to Deer Park Farm Buckerell in 1968. In the village, we are nearly considered to be locals now. The farm expanded with the purchase of a neighbouring farm we used to farm nearly 400 acres here. I went to the Welsh Agricultural College in Aberystwyth and took an HND in agriculture. Unfortunately, I was unable to agree with my lecturers on how to make a profit on a farm; I was clearly told by the management lecturer that one does not include the cost of land in one’s business plan because one is given that. That sort of accounting did not cut the ice with me easily, but I did have a good time as one does. I spent a number of years ploughing, drilling and harvesting wheat, back in the day when the environment was not on the agenda and Monsanto was an alright company; how things change.
The purchase of the neighbouring farm took my family into the building world. We developed the range of red brick buildings that came with the farm, all were sold for prices that one would not get a parking space for these days, but it was a great learning curve. My parents set up Martha Mockford to handle the building enterprise as a separate entity to that of the farming company Chaffcombe Thorns. On completion of the houses in the village, we moved on to another farm locally where we developed another seven houses. These I built some twenty-five years ago now. Most of my time was spent in a shipping container on site with two land telephones, no mobile and thirty staff.
Having learnt the skills necessary to change a clutch in a tractor, I was now learning architectural and management skills. I still use AutoCad today to design kitchens. With Whimple finished the company moved onwards and upwards to carrying out building works for the local authority and private clients. I personally offered an architectural and planning service to private clients in my spare time, not that there was a great deal of spare time but the work was fun and included precision and design.
Twenty years ago I was asked by a client Mrs Harrison of Ottery St. Mary to design and fit a kitchen. One of my senior staff put me in contact with some suppliers and we got on with the work; I designed it priced and sourced it, my staff member fitted it; Mrs Harrington was very happy with the outcome and we made a little money without going out in the rain and cold, which building houses is all about, while also not having to deal with bricklayers who insist that there are twelve concrete blocks in a square meter when there are ten. Frankly it was easy money while still a very acceptable price for the client.
While directing the company into kitchens, we continued to finish our last two houses in the portfolio; both on the farm here, one of which I now own myself. At around this time the company was transferred to my name, thanks, Mum, and Dad.
To my own house, I continued to develop it into what it is today. This venture took me into planning law involving a number of planning applications, planning appeals and even a couple of public enquiries. Unfortunately, the planners here in East Devon have had a propensity of not seeing the wood for the trees at times. In that development, the bricklayers still walked off the job when it got to the difficult bit.
So here we are today. I live down the drive from the workshop and showroom and yes I drive to work the whole 180 yards. I have developed my Cad skills, I have developed my management skills, I have written my own computer programme which prices, specifies and organises the work we do. The one main thing I learnt from the building business is that a free quote has to be quick, accurate and easy to read and understand. Builders spend ages working out prices for buildings and extensions and all that time has to be paid for by the clients. My Cad skills and computer programme enable me to visit my clients, generate and present a design and price accurately and efficiently often within the same day as the initial visit to the client. In this case, speed does not compromise quality.