November 5, 2019
What was your first break in business?
After joining Lofthouse and Partners in 1989, I started acting on behalf of Gus Carter, a Sunderland-based firm of bookmakers. At the time, they had 15 outlets and over the following six years I worked closely with directors John and Nick Trewhitt as they grew the business to 90 outlets throughout the North East. I also worked alongside Muckle LLP (then Robert Muckle) in the flotation of the business on the AIM.
What did you want to be growing up?
I didn’t have any great ideas – other than the boyhood dream of playing football for Newcastle United or rugby for Gosforth – but I did know that I didn’t want to follow my father into banking. What will always stick with me is the very frank advice from my school careers advisor: “Well White, you’re not very academic, so there is no point going to a proper university and having watched you play rugby you aren’t aggressive enough to hurt or kill anyone so the army is no good to you, so what do you want to do?”
What attracted you to your current role?
I should probably say I planned to get to this position over the last 20 years, but honestly, I have just worked my way to where I am today. I have always been very clear that I wanted to work on the consultancy side, rather than ‘client side’, and working for a big firm has never been an attraction. Ever since I ran my own practice for three years in the late 1990s, I have always been attracted to having a role in managing and developing a firm.
How do you get the best out of your team?
We provide a supportive framework and structure for all members of the team to allow everyone to grow and develop their skill sets. We undertake regular staff reviews in order to identify training and development needs. We have a very positive outlook and attitude as a firm and a good working environment where we actively encourage both personal and team development.
What has been your career highlight?
I’m not sure there has been one defining moment, but some of my career highlights include advising Warner Bros on the sale of their cinema site in Manors to Northumbria University, and advising Bovis Lendlease on their successful bid and development of the First Newcastle Schools PFI.
I also led the professional team on securing the first planning consent on the 200-acre Durham Green Business Park, which is now Integra 61, at Bowburn, and becoming managing director of Naylors, leading the re-branding and growth of the business that has led to the merger with Gavin Black & Partners.
What has been your biggest challenge?
At present, my biggest challenge is the integration of the two businesses into a strong single unit, then to build on and develop the values and qualities of the two firms to continue to improve on the delivery of excellent client service.
Who or what inspires you?
I strive to continually improve as an individual and always try to have a glass half full outlook. In terms of people who have inspired me, I tend to gravitate towards people who have worked hard to make the most of their talents and people such as Kevin Keegan or Jonny Wilkinson stand out. Jonny Wilkinson’s saying “be the best that you can be” has particular resonance.
What are your company’s short and long-term goals?
In the short-term, the successful integration of the two businesses. Longer term, we will continue to build on our position in the marketplace along with a focus on the strategic growth of our team. We will rise to the challenges that politics, technology and the environment throw at us, so that we can continue to provide clients with a nimble and forward-thinking consultancy service. I also want to us to make an increasing impact in the North East as our regional economy grows and diversifies with the built environment being a key facilitator of future growth.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
I am not sure I have got the balance right at present, particularly having spent the last 12 months working on the merger. But one of my strengths is that I don’t generally get too stressed by pressure and can switch off quite well away from work.