What was your first break in business?
My dad owns a coach business and in the early days – before child labour was frowned upon – I earned my pocket money by washing and polishing the buses. He still has the business and the coaches are much bigger. Mercifully, I have not washed one in over 20 years. As a teenager, I set up a car valeting round with a couple of mates in the area where we all grew up.
What did you want to be growing up?
The clue is in the company name – a Formula 1 driver. But in the end, becoming a chartered surveyor was marginally more attractive.
What made you set up your own business?
I would say that I’ve always wanted to work for myself. Perhaps because it’s in our family background. In reality, the idea to create Silverstone came about in late 2007. The commercial property sector was hit in the recession and firms were laying staff off. Although not under any threat of job loss myself, I could see the risk ahead. Ben and I knew each other and started talking about what we would do if one of us were to be made redundant. We decided to have a Plan B, and set up a dormant company that could be activated if one of us were to be in that unfortunate position. We spent about a year working up a proper business plan. When we determined how much that new company would need to generate in order to sustain our employment salaries and cover its costs we figured that we could make a go of it. That was it; Plan B became Plan A.
What is your company mission?
We aim to be the number one independent building consultancy in the North of England.
How do you get the best out of your staff?
Ben and I have had some good and bad experiences at previous employers over our careers. We’ve learnt from those experiences and take all the good bits from our past to really look after our staff. We give them a great office environment, quality work and as many benefits and nice things as we can think of. We listen and then we act.
What has been your career highlight?
I still remember the very first instruction that I did for Silverstone. I measured up an office property on a Saturday morning for a refurbishment scheme we had been instructed on. Driving home I was genuinely buzzing that it was the first proper instruction under our own company. Jump forward a few years and I attended the official opening of an £8 million new build scheme that Silverstone project-managed for a client and the buzz was the same. That project won an RICS renaissance award.
What has been your biggest challenge?
You never really learn how to totally manage the expectations of people.
Who or what inspires you?
I do like the holiday fodder-type business books. For example, Anyone Can Do It by Sahar Hashemi, founder of Coffee Republic, was an interesting read; as was Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m clearly not sufficiently motivated to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’ve had a copy at home for about ten years and I’ve not progressed beyond habit one. Most importantly though, I’m inspired by my family who are all hardworking people.
What are Silverstone’s short and long-term goals?
We are hoping to open a new office in Leeds and diversify into new sectors this year. Beyond that and at this stage in the business we aim for conservative growth and respect among our peers.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
I do try to leave work at the office. It’s not always that simple when you have more responsibility, but having two young kids with many after-school activities means that I have to.