New executive chairman of multidisciplinary consultant aims to triple profit in two years.
The executive chairman of Symonds has drawn up ambitious profit targets for the firm, which was bought from French parent Dalkia last week in a management buyout worth £6m-7m (3 December).

Chris Booy turned down a job as commercial director of Dalkia to lead the nine-strong MBO team, backed by the Bank of Scotland.

Booy, formerly chief executive, will replace chairman Norman Biddle, who retired last week. Booy, whose stake in the buyout is put at 33%, will, however, have a more hands-on role.

Another heavyweight to leave Symonds is Tony Harden, responsible for UK operations (excluding London). Harden, 43, denied that he was unhappy with his role in the new regime. "It's not an issue of responsibility. I was unhappy with the corporate direction of the company," he said.

Booy, 47, wants to increase operating profit from about £1m last year to £3m by 2002. He aims to achieve this by making cuts of £1m a year in overheads. In the first year, many of these savings will come from redundancies made during 1999, but Booy said there would not be large-scale job losses.

Booy also wants to see the firm bidding for more profitable work. "There is loads of work out there but we have to win it at a sensible margin," he said. "And even if we are winning one job in four, I am going to be asking why we can't be winning one in two or one in three."

Booy and finance director Tim Piper will pay regular visits to all Symonds' offices for strategic and financial reviews from the directors. Each member of the management team will have an equity stake in the business as well as increased and wide-ranging responsibilities.

"All the directors are going to be out in the market place working all the time," said Booy.

Even if we are winning one job in four, I will be asking why we aren’t winning one in two or one in three

Chris Booy

The firm's turnover is now £50m a year. This is what is left after Symonds lost £20m of its facilities management turnover to Dalkia as part of the buyout. Booy estimates that turnover will now grow about 10% a year.

As well as the 30-strong FM division, Dalkia will retain Symonds' 70-strong Australian arm. Booy said: "We won't be bidding for operational FM contracts because the risk and the costs of bidding are too high.

"We will, however, continue to do property management work on a fee-paid, consultancy basis."

Booy wants to increase the company's share of the London market, and make senior appointments in the construction management and project management fields.

He also wants to strengthen the company's presence in Cardiff, where it has recently lost senior staff to rival Davis Langdon & Everest.

Booy has been with Symonds for 26 years. When speculation started in April, he said he would not bid for the business, but this week he told Building why he changed his mind.

He said: "I have been here man and boy, and I was clearly going to lose one of my babies."