There's a good reason for these kid-in-a-candy-store looks. The boss of one of the UK's hottest project management firms is out to double its £20m turnover in three years – and fulfill his childhood dream.
While other teenage boys were dreaming about fronting a punk rock band or being James Bond, Peter Vince was hearing the call of a different drummer. "I always knew that I wanted to be a quantity surveyor," he says. I had a real passion for it." There is a pause. "I don't necessarily want you to print that," he adds. Oh dear.

At the age of 45, Vince's dream has come true. He has taken over the helm of AYH, one of the industry's most exciting outfits. But what underlies this rather worrying admission? "I was about 14 and was good at figures.

I used to walk across a golf course to get to my grammar school, and over time I saw it turned into a housing estate. When I saw the transformation, I just knew that I had to be part of the construction industry." Vince's enthusiasm is undimmed by time – he talks quickly in his soft Brummie accent and constantly chuckles through a broad grin.

The impression of a kid in a candy store is reinforced by his boyish, Michael J Fox image and corresponding lack of height.

Despite this appearance, it becomes clear during the interview that Vince is not to be underestimated. For the past six months he has been running one of Britain's fastest growing consultants. It was founded as a one-man band in 1946, but today is working on one of the UK's biggest projects, the 60,000-seater Arsenal football stadium in north London. And it was listed as the UK's 58th fastest growing firm in the Sunday Times' annual league last April – profit has soared from £1.5m in 1998 to £4.5m in 2001.

I always knew I wanted to be a quantity surveyor. I had a real passion for it … I don’t necessarily want you to print that

Vince doubts whether AYH can make the growth league this time around. But he has adopted the ambition of David Thompson, former managing director and current chairman, to double the business' £20m turnover within three years.

The key to AYH's business strategy is diversification: "My primary aim is to double the business by 2006 by exploiting the sectors we are operating in. The London commercial market has been slow for two years, so we have sectorised the firm into five businesses – 25% of our work is now in hotels, residential, retail and sports markets. We also want our international activity to grow, from less than 10% today to about 20%."

The overseas market might expand through work in Eastern Europe. AYH is working on a feasibility study for a stadium in the Ukraine for one of the country's leading football clubs, Shakhtar Donetsk. Vince believes that the Eastern European stadium market is about to boom – a relief after the collapse of ITV Digital, which led to English football clubs cutting their stadium investment plans.

AYH might also be doing a spot of shopping. Last year it was in the running to acquire 325-strong QS Citex, but was pipped at the post by a management buyout led by David Bucknall, the doyen of British QSs. AYH has since formed a joint venture with Glasgow-based QS Brown & Partners to get a foothold in Scotland. If the venture works out, the two firms will merge.

Personal effects

Who is in your family? My wife of 21 years and four children. They turn 19, 17, 15 and 12 this year.

What’s your favourite drink? If I’m honest, it is a pint of Bombardier. It is served beautifully in a pub near my place in the Lake District.

When you’re not holidaying in the Lake District, where do you live? Although the job is primarily London-based, the family have stayed in Birmingham. I do an element of commuting and staying over in London.

Okay then, where’s better: Brum or London? From a business point of view, London is exciting. There’s a buzz; it’s happening. From a personal point of view, my family and friends are in Birmingham.