A £300m deal with Land Securities will make property chief Manish Chande a major construction client, but contractors aren't his favourite people.
It's just after lunch and Manish Chande breezes into the meeting room of his Barbican offices with a can of Red Bull in his hand. He's always drinking the stuff – not so much to quench thirst, he says, but to pump more caffeine into his system. It's virtually the secret of his success. "It keeps you going, especially if it's 11 o'clock at night and you've got to work late," he says.

Not only does Chande work long hours – unsurprising given that he's just sold his company, Trillium, for £330m – but every second of them is at a premium. An hour for an interview? What about two 30 minute slots over two days … It does not come as a shock, therefore, when he confesses to being a bit of a workaholic. "It's in some people's make-up," he says, furiously twiddling his pen, "I'm on the go constantly. I can't sit still."

Chande's hard work has paid off handsomely. In three years, he and long-term business partner Martin Myers have turned Trillium into a corporate outsourcing firm that has made a big impression on the property world. It has just been snapped up by property giant Land Securities, earning the duo £15m and their employees about £11 000 each.

The deal certainly made the market sit up and listen, especially given Land Securities' image as a less-than-dynamic operator. So why the interest from one of the grand traditional names in the sector? Trillium has been at the forefront of a major movement emerging in property – the rise of the services–led firm that oversees estates, as opposed to the traditional landlord or developer role taken by most firms in the sector. The company works in what is often termed "corporate PFI".

Myers and Chande met while they were working at Arbuthnot Properties in 1985, when Chande was in his late 20s. They set up their company to own and run the Department of Social Security's entire property estate, comprising 650 properties, at the end of 1997. The deal was for 20 years and worth a cool £2bn. No wonder there were late nights and plenty of energy drinks for Chande and his colleagues.

The DSS deal – which was among the first major PFI projects – turned Trillium into one of the UK's biggest commercial landlords. The scheme's success has started a domino effect among other large property owners. There is a similar deal for the right to run the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise estate, won by Trillium's arch rival Mapeley in April, and others in the pipeline include the BBC's London property portfolio and the London Underground Property Partnership.

Trillium and Land Securities put in joint-venture bids for the BBC and London Underground deals earlier this year and have been shortlisted for both. The pairing led to them "exploring a bit more of a closer relationship", as Chande puts it. The Trillium acquisition, due to be completed this month, looks good on paper – the property investment skills of Land Securities (property portfolio currently standing at £7.6bn) will be married to Chande's service and facilities management experience.

This will undoubtedly make Chande a big construction client. Once the deal with Land Securities is sewn up, Chande will join its board looking after the total property services business. He could be overseeing large-scale projects such as the BBC's White City redevelopment or above-ground schemes at Tube stations.

Not surprisingly, Chande is looking for long-term relationships with contractors, and plans to create a list of preferred firms for upcoming work. Unfortunately, he is not that enamoured with the breed. This is partly from direct experience, partly from "gut feeling".

Nice noises are made, they talk about partnering – but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s different

Manish Chande

Trillium already lets construction contracts – mostly small DSS jobs that add up to about £40m annually. And his dealings with contractors in this context have left Chande unimpressed. It's as if Egan and Rethinking Construction never happened. "The relationship always seems to be confrontational," he says. "Nice noises are made, you get a wonderful presentation. They talk about partnering and this and that. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, it's different. If I am in choppy waters, it's critical that the other person is not trying to topple the boat at the same time."

Contractors have a fair bit to learn from the service providers that work for Trillium, according to Chande. They listen to his needs and the relationship is that much closer. "We have to get contractors working and believing the same way, to develop relationships with other suppliers and clients."

While he admits that some of his negative attitude is instinctive, Chande is not a flash developer shooting from the hip. His firm is quite hands-on in looking after construction work, employing project managers and engineers to oversee projects. Chande thinks that the firm successfully blends property people – "the white boots brigade" – and technical staff – "the dirty boots brigade".

To work well with different elements, Chande reckons it is best to have strong beliefs. "Values are more than just names on plaques. What I say should be what I genuinely believe. When you go home in the evenings you should ask yourself: 'Did I breathe what I believe?' Inevitably you have done something wrong, but you come back the next day vowing not to make the same mistake."

This is part of the touchy-feely approach to business at Trillium – the firm has a children's day for staff offspring to see where their parents work, and runs a Trillium Foundation through which staff carry out work for the community such as teaching in schools. Surely there's a bit of a culture clash with the rather more establishment-friendly Land Securities? Chande counters:

"We are young, ambitious and vibrant. LandSecs is quite traditional in its approach. It's been a tanker, we are a frigate, which is easier to turn round. I think the cultures will blend."

Chande is clearly brimming with enthusiasm for his new role, but hopes that not running his own set-up will curb his workaholic ways. "It's an opportunity to form part of the strategy of one of the largest firms in the UK.

Personal effects

Age 43
Family Wife and two children.
Lives In Hampstead – I run past Noel Gallagher's house, Supernova Heights, in Belsize Park most mornings.
Drives A second-hand Mini. Everyone makes fun of me. It's always filthy and I don't drive well.
Hobbies I keep fit going to the gym or running. I also like going to art galleries
Business hero My father, Andy. He set up his own business, a flour mill in Tanzania, from scratch.
Ultimate property estate to run The combination of Trillium and LandSecs.