What was your early career?
I started as a construction engineer on a BT building in St Martin’s le Grand. I then did eight months at a contractor’s planning department before moving on to site management and contract management. It was during my role as assistant contracts manager at Morgan Lovell Contracts that I became interested in interiors.
What attracted you to interior fit-outs?
It was more interesting. With new-build projects, after you build the ground and first floor, it gets pretty repetitive. In fit-outs, there is more variety – you put in different touches, such as nice joinery, curved walls, featured ceilings as well as dealing with existing fittings. It’s faster and more exciting and you work for sexy clients like ad agencies that demand high-tech touches. You also have more control of projects as there are fewer consultants working on them.
What was it like founding Churchfield?
It was really hard work. Originally, there were four of us who founded the firm but within months there were only three. I was looking after the construction side. We struggled for the first year on small jobs.
How has the interiors market changed?
The idea is now to provide the best service. It’s not just about having the best tradesmen any more. I remember when my mum and dad used to take me out to the carvery for dinner when I was young and thinking it was a blinding night out. These days, the demand is that much higher – you need the right ambience in a restaurant as well as decent food.
Why is service so important in fit-outs?
A lot of the jobs are in occupied buildings, many in prime sites such as Tower 42 (formerly Natwest Tower in the City of London). You have to manage people as well as the jobs. There are also many Building Regulations to adhere to. It makes the work very buzzy. That means you can’t rest on your laurels after one or two good jobs.
How has your role changed now you are at Newco? It’s more than looking after the projects. I have a hands-on role here. So I now look after financial issues such as forecasting and overheads where before in Churchfield this was left to colleagues. It means I have to have more of an understanding of the industry. At the same time, the projects I am doing are pretty similar to the ones we did at Churchfield.
What’s your typical job at Newco?
Our bread-and-butter jobs are between £750 000 and £1.2m. Those are the nice speedy jobs that you don’t need all your staff working on. If you have too much big work, you tend to have to use all your staff on them. They’re not necessarily more complex, it’s more the timing of when you commit resources.
What are your plans for Newco?
To grow it over the next few years. Last year’s turnover was about £4.5m. I am targeting £7.5m this year and eventually hope to get up to the £20m mark. I have also been recruiting people – nine since I started – to achieve this target.
What do you do to relax?
I play the odd game of squash – I used to be ranked as a junior at county level. I generally like racket sports.