The Harris brothers tell Elaine Knutt about their contract advisory business and the pleasures of working with your identical twin.
Why did you decide to set up in business together?

Michael: We'd always thought that we'd work together at some time. We chose similar disciplines but our backgrounds were diverse – one in contracting, one in consultancy. We believe this gives us the ability to deal with everyone from the shop floor to the chairman.

What does the firm's workload consist of?

Malcolm: At the moment, we're working for utilities companies and a telecommunications firm. We've advised on best practice in procurement, acted as expert witnesses in arbitration cases, and presented time extensions on behalf of a large contractor.

Do you have the same approach to work?

Malcolm: Our working style is definitely different because of our backgrounds. Mike has worked extensively with subcontractors and my experience is more with consultants or main contractors. But I think we complement each other. Before we worked together, we'd often ring each other up for advice.

How do you divide the workload?

Michael: When new work comes in, we work together where possible. There's a benefit from the novelty value you get if you visit a client together – receptionists boggle when we both give our names as "Mr Harris". Later, we'll split up the work – usually, there are no fights. But even then, there aren't many questions a client could ask about a job that only one of us would know the answer to.

What are your plans for the firm's future?

Malcolm: We have to look beyond London. We've already worked in Holland, and are hoping to get work in the Caribbean and the USA. In the future, we expect that quite a lot of our turnover could come from abroad. But we're not get-rich-quick merchants – we want to build the business up slowly.

What was the best thing about setting up your own business?

Malcolm: The freedom to formulate a professional service that reflects our abilities, and the opportunity to work with Mike.

Michael: Being masters of our own destinies.

And the worst thing?

Malcolm: Filling in Inland Revenue and VAT returns.

Michael: Coming to terms with crucial company responsibilities that employees take for granted.

Do you have the telepathy people associate with identical twins?

Michael: If Malcolm has a professional or a personal setback, then I know about it. And we often say the same thing or sit in the same position. Or we both put our hands in our pockets in the same way.

What do you do to relax?

Malcolm: We both play chess. We have a board permanently set up in reception, and play three or four moves a day. Each game lasts a couple of weeks. Clients come in and offer their advice.

What are your dream jobs?

Malcolm: For years, I wanted to be a vicar. Now I wouldn't change my job for anything.

Michael: A professional sportsman.

Ages 40 Current jobs The twins are co-directors of Harris Consulting, a contracts advisory business based in Waterloo, London Salaries About £50 000 each Employment histories Malcolm started as a trainee QS with IE Symonds in 1979, and later worked for Trollope & Colls and Bovis. In 1988-1997, he worked for James R Knowles, rising to regional director. Michael joined Drake & Scull as a trainee QS in 1976. From 1986-98, he worked as a commercial manager for James Scott Live Malcolm lives in Beckenham, Kent; Michael commutes from Wylde Green, Birmingham Drive Malcolm has a Volvo Estate and Michael drives a Land Rover Discovery Family Malcolm is married to Kim, and has six sons aged between 9 and 19. Michael and his wife Helen have three sons aged 7, 6 and 3