Head of Steam: Story Homes

Carlisle-based home developer Story Homes recently rolled out its regionalisation strategy and appointed Ian Worgan as managing director for the North East. Here, Ian reflects on his first six months in the post and the ways the regional office is preparing to deliver ambitious growth plans.

The unprecedented growth of Carlisle-headquartered Story Homes led the family-run construction company to bring its regionalisation plans forward by six months.

As part of this plan, three new managing directors were appointed to manage and drive growth in the company’s key regions of Cumbria and Scotland, the North West and the North East.

Ian Worgan was appointed managing director for the North East in October 2015. He has brought with him a wealth of experience, having worked primarily in finance, from private management buy-in companies to global PLCs.

His career in the construction sector began in 2003 when he joined home developer George Wimpey, which later became Taylor Wimpey after a merger, as finance director. Going above and beyond in this role, Ian became involved in all aspects of the company, and was eventually appointed general manager in 2007. Just 12 months later, the recession hit, which devastated the construction industry – as Ian puts it, “sales dried up overnight”.

Ian was forced to slow down sites and make redundancies as Taylor Wimpey’s share prices dropped from £5 to 5p. He also had to go back to his finance director role as the company contracted.

Having weathered one of the worse recessions in history, Ian joined Story Homes six months ago, attracted by the family ethos of the company, the quality of the product and the growth plans of the business.

Story Construction was founded in Cumbria by Fred Story in 1987 and split to become Story Contracting and Story Homes in 2001. The award-winning business has grown in size and status over the years and has developed a reputation for building high quality homes in desirable areas in the North West, the North East, Cumbria and Scotland.

“Fred is very strong on maintaining the family culture as we grow, and the company has a number of values which each region lives by,” says Ian.

Ian relished the chance to build the North East office from the ground up, installing systems and processes now that will serve the region – and the wider group – for decades to come.

Over the last 12 months, Story Homes has grown its workforce by 136, with the North East office gaining 43 new positions. Since Ian’s appointment, 35 positions have been created at its recently refurbished regional head office at Newcastle Business Park, with the new managing director sitting in on most of the interviews.

“We want people who will fit our company culture and values, and buy into what we want to do as a business,” he says.

In terms of sites, those in the North East have increased from two to five in the past 12 months, with three more starting construction soon. This growth has not only boosted the required numbers of permanent Story Homes staff but has created hundreds of additional sub-contractor jobs in the region, too.

Over the past six months, Ian has regularly visited the five active sites – Brierdene and Dove Park in North Tyneside, Fallows Park in Wynyard, Kingsbrook in Middlesbrough and The Woodlands in Shotley Bridge – and has helped install new production procedures.

“It’s very important to get the sites right,” comments Ian. “We’ve appointed a new production manager and have looked at all aspects of production and highlighted areas of improvement to ensure the construction of the sites run efficiently and smoothly.”

Each Story Homes site is located in a desirable area. A lot of work goes into the street scenes of each development to create a convenient and attractive place for residents, while each home offers a high specification externally and internally.

According to Ian, such focus on detail is essential for satisfying the demands of the modern home owner.

“Customers have much higher expectations now, and rightly so, which can be seen in the construction industry’s customer satisfaction scores,” he says.

Customer service is something that is a key driver for Fred Story and the whole of Story Homes, reflected in the group achieving a five-star rating from the renowned Home Builders Federation (HBF), for the past three years.

Ian says: “The HBF rating is hugely important for us as it independently measures whether a customer would recommend you as a house builder. You have to score more than a 90 per cent recommendation rate to achieve five stars and Story Homes has managed to achieve this in every year it has been eligible.”

The North East has also been chosen to deliver the inaugural Story Homes Signature development, at a site in Morpeth.

The development will comprise 39 executive homes, above 1800 square foot with average prices of around £500,000 each.

“We’ve bought the site and are currently getting ready to start building, with sales expected to start in the third quarter of this year,” says Ian.

As part of its further development, the group as a whole has invested more than £1 million on technology over the past 12 months. Ian explains: “By installing this technology now, we’re getting the procedures in place to grow. So if the group expands into a new area, everyone will know what’s expected.”

This April was a key milestone for Ian: his initial familiarisation period with Story Homes ended and he is now financially responsible for North East region.

He will continue with his strategy of expansion and improvement, with the region targeting growth to 14 sites and 450 houses by the year 2020.

“These are ambitious, but achievable targets,” says Ian. “It’s important we grow at a rate that allows us to keep our standard of service and our quality of build.

“We will continue to recruit the right team in the North East as well as to look at potential sites in areas where people will want to live.”

The past 12 months

Turnover: The group achieved £124 million turnover and completed 565 homes.

Recruitment: 136 new jobs were appointed across all regions last year. 43 of these were based in the North East.

Awards/accolades: The group gained five-star builder status from the HBF for the third year running. Other accolades include the UK Property Award for Best Residential Development Durham, as well as the In House customer service Gold and Outstanding awards.

Projects in the North East: Five live developments with three more coming soon.

Highlight: The Morpeth site, comprising 39 homes, will showcase Story Homes’ first ever Signature range.

Forecasts: The group is aiming for 154 new jobs to be created in 2016/17 and for 800 home completions, of which 170 will be in the North East.

www.storyhomes.co.uk

0191 226 7260

@storyhomes

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