The description certainly seems apt. In 2001, Cuthbert applied for the top job at Atkins when chief executive Mike Jeffries stepped down, but lost out to Robin Southwell, the former BAE Systems managing director who had no knowledge of the industry. A senior figure at Atkins from that time says: "It was felt that he was competent, but that he was not quite ready. It was a couple of years too early for him."
While Atkins ran into trouble under the stewardship of Southwell, Cuthbert realised some of his ambition and took over as chief executive of Parkman in April last year. The move was a success, and rival support services group Mouchel took notice. Stuart Black, business development director at Mouchel and now of the merged company, says: "Richard had taken Parkman to the next level. They were in better shape than when he had arrived, and had grown about 40%."
Mouchel and Parkman knew that to get into the FTSE 350 and to win large, public sector work, they would have to merge. The move was certainly convenient. Mouchel needed a chief executive and Parkman was on the hunt for a finance boss. Under the terms of a merger the companies had to be represented equally on the senior management team.
Cuthbert was able to fill the former role, and Mouchel's finance director Kevin Young could continue in that role.
Cuthbert thinks that by being able to meet these needs the merged group will be stronger in the long-term: "A lot of mergers don't work out, just because you can't share the jobs out properly." Ensuring that the two companies integrate properly is Cuthbert's main short-term goal, and he is looking to establish a single working culture: "In 12 months I don't want people to think that they just work for Mouchel or that they just work for Parkman. If we don't succeed in that integration, then we won't achieve our other aims."
Up the ladderAge: 50
Academic history: Graduated from Leeds University with a degree in civil engineering.
1976 Joined consultant Atkins as a graduate
1980 Joined Freeman Fox, now Hyder Consulting
1981 Moved to transport planner Colin Buchanan and Partners
1987 Rejoined Atkins as director of transport planning
1999 Joined Atkins’ executive board
2002 Becomes chief executive of support services group Parkman
2003 Appointed chief executive of MouchelParkman after the merger of the two companies.
Email to Banner HoldingsHi there Banner, Building magazine here. We’re launching a monthly column giving smaller firms in the industry the chance to explain who they are and what makes them stand out from the crowd. Questions follow:
When was Banner Holdings formed?
>> 1988. In 2002 the managing director, Peter Elston, bought the company.
What do you specialise in?
>> In offering a fully integrated service based on our clients’ specific needs from project feasibility through the whole construction process and into facilities management.
How big is the business?
>> This year, turnover is anticipated to be £50-60m. We have main offices in Sheffield, St Albans and London. In December the company will take possession of a new office in Hemel Hempstead.
Who are the company’s major clients?
>> The Department for Work and Pensions, Marks & Spencer and Northern Foods.
What makes Banner unique?
>> We think it is probably the quality and technical expertise of our people. Fifteen per cent of our staff have a masters degree.