Jonathan Spencer gave up a career with housebuilder Saxon Homes to sail around the world. Once back on terra firma he set up his own company. So have his experiences given him a different outlook on business?
What are you doing now?
I set up Prime Residential in 2002, with Jake Gresswell whom I worked with at Saxon Homes. For two years we have been finding sites, getting them financed and then getting them through planning. Our aim is to develop homes in locations that are special but where there is no direct competition. I’m buying land in locations where I’d like to invest myself.

Such as?
We’ve got sites in Taunton overlooking the Quantock Hills, Urchfont near Marlborough, Hertford, Bath and Salisbury. There are three sites under construction and three at the planning stage.

What’s it like being back in housebuilding?
It’s fabulous, although it’s been hard, too. The intention has been that the company would have no employees. All our project management is done externally. We outsource selling, marketing and public relations. We buy in bookkeeping and deal with all the financial stuff ourselves. At present, the company is turning over £7m a year. We can manage it at that size, but we’ll probably turn over £10m next year and then it will be more difficult.

What do you think of the mainstream housebuilding industry you left behind four years ago?
It has changed. It is now a much bigger business, and it’s a real business – it’s on a par with any other industry now.

So, didn’t you want to go back into that arena?
I did go back to Saxon Homes for a while when I came back from sailing in 2001. If I had gone back into mainstream housebuilding for good, I would have been walking the same tightrope. I loved it, but when I opted to go round the world the whole of my business philosophy changed and this is the route to give me what I want out of life. I want to go sailing again.

What have you learned from setting up in business?

I’ve learned that if you come from a corporate background you automatically look outside to fix problems. But you actually need to understand what the problem is yourself in order to fix it. I’ve also learned that it is better not to work at home – now I work in a serviced office.

What are your aims for the business?
The trap is to think a company is ever worth more than its asset value. Prime Residential won’t have cachet because it won’t be big enough. I want to get to a level that is appropriate. I’m not interested in unit count; I’m only targeting profit.

Do you have any time for sailing now?
Sailing has to take a back seat to any business role – but I did manage six or seven weeks last year.