Future dynamic: the young ones to watch

Future DynamicA special report presenting a selection of the most promising young director-shareholders from the North West property community under the age of 40. Published in association with Crowe Clark Whitehill and Experian Corpfin, the list has four criteria for entry: aged under 40 as of 1 June 2011, director, shareholder, company registered in North West.

See full list below

Before we get into the list proper, Michael Jayson, partner at Crowe Clark Whitehill, reflects on the economic challenges facing the future dynamic generation, and two leading figures – both on the other side of 40 – share memories of making their way in their 20s and 30s.


Michael Jayson, partner at Crowe Clarke Whitehill: The prospects may be bright for the young professionals listed below who are now making their moves in the development, design and construction industries but the wider economic and political landscape remains challenging.

Michael JaysonThe government underscored the importance of a buoyant construction industry for sustainable economic growth in the 2011 Budget. Its views came through loud and clear: building and maintaining homes, commercial property, and infrastructure all underpin the UK's economy. Boosting available housing stock is crucial to encourage a mobile workforce and create a dynamic economy.

Levels of house building are currently at their lowest peacetime level since 1924. Economic uncertainty and low levels of mortgage lending have taken their toll. As the economic environment improves, it's essential that the construction industry gets the support it needs through planning reform and new financial incentives for homebuilding.

Nonetheless, there are a number of major obstacles to growth and the efficient operation of the construction market. A prime example is the lack of a clear view of forward work flow, which results in companies not having sufficient confidence to invest for the future. Added to this, poor and inconsistent procurement practices, particularly in the public sector – which accounts for almost 40% of the industry's workload – are leading to waste and inefficiency.

The heavy regulatory burden on construction firms is yet another barrier. The Forum for Private Business estimates that these firms spend a combined £1.1bn each year complying with legislation. The bureaucratic planning system and the wider consents required are one of the deterrents to investment in the sector. Historically, investors have hankered after more relaxed planning rules offering the returns and potential gains that were available prior to the financial crisis and which are harder to come by in today's economic climate.

As the 2011 Budget showed, the Government is intent on creating a business environment where construction firms have the confidence to invest in training, improve supply chain integration and develop innovative processes. In addition, it promised to tackle regulation by reforming the planning system to increase the supply of viable land allocated for development.

Enough of the lofty words; it would be nice to see these proposals turned into practical workable solutions that provide north west property firms with the help and support they deserve – ideally sooner rather than later.

If I knew then…

Stephen Hodder, chairman of architectural practice Hodder + Partners, reflects on his early days starting out: "I was at BDP in the early 1980s and the opportunity of some work came my way which meant I could set up on my own after only one year qualified. Those first few years were a huge learning process; one building informed the next, and I didn't have the benefit of a gradual easing into business.

Stephen Hodder"The skills of an architect don't prepare you for business or managing the process of seeing a project through to completion, dealing with suppliers and contracts.

"Winning competitions and awards [the first Stirling Prize at the age of 39 in 1996 for Salford Business School] brought with it great expectations as we were asked to bid for major projects the scale of which we weren't prepared for. I didn't know whether to hire and put in place the mechanisms for bigger projects before winning the work or during the work. On the other hand, I couldn't have handled the major projects without that intensive period of learning to stand on my own two feet in the beginning."

Don't be afraid to change course if it does not feel quite right, says David Partridge, joint chief executive of developer Argent. "I qualified in 1983 after seven years studying architecture and had to join the real world. I studied at Cambridge which was quite a nice place to have been pissing around for seven years.

David Partridge"I decided to set up my own architectural practice with two other mates from university and we kept it going for seven years even though we were only out of the red for about two weeks in that time. Our practice did pretty well and was great fun but ultimately I came to the conclusion it wasn't what I wanted to do for the next 20 years. As one of the founding partners there was nowhere else to go from that point so I decided to move into a different area of the sector. By the early 1990s Argent had picked up Roger Madelin [now joint chief executive with Partridge] who I knew as a client and I joined Argent. Being a developer rather than a designer suited me as I felt I was not very good at designing but better at knowing what goes into driving good buildings. I guess the lesson was that it's important to understand what you are good at and make sure you apply that to what you do."

The List

Helen Senior / 39 / Jackson, Jackson & Sons / Construction contracting / Rochdale

Helen SeniorHelen Senior has been with the company 18 years and controls the finances of a £15m-plus turnover and 106-staff business, which has no bank overdraft and relies on "excellent credit control, negotiated payment terms with clients and very good relationships with their supply chain." Senior is one of the shareholders alongside the managing director Graham Jackson, who is also her father, and operations director Kieren McDonnell. The company has strong female managers and has been nominated twice in the Women in Construction Awards 2010 and 2011. Senior says she restricts her support team of accounts and administration staff to a minimum, around 20 at present, to reduce overheads and that she relies on hard work, efficiency and communication to get all reports out by the set deadlines required for her co-directors to maintain their controls on each contract and to ensure that they are achieving their overall financial targets.

 Dominic PozzoniDominic Pozzoni / 39 / Ella Magill / 36 / Property Alliance Group / Development / Trafford Pozzoni, a former Edwards & Co office agency partner, joined the board of Alliance on appointment in 2004 to manage the firm's office portfolio in Manchester city centre and out of town. Pozzoni leads the deals and manages client relationships as well as overseeing the project management of new and refurbishment projects together with working with joint venture partners, such as Development Securities on the Axis tower on Deansgate Locks.

Ella MagillMagill worked in private practice at St Quintins, Donaldsons and DTZ Debenham Tie Leung specialising in asset management and professional work before moving in-house to the Emerson Group. She joined Property Alliance Group in 199. Her role involves maximising asset value and mitigating liabilities, lease structuring and professional work. She also oversees in-house development including liaison and advising from architect stage to practical completion and ongoing asset management.

Accounts for the year to June 2010 show net assets at £57m and a pre-tax profit of £3.3m on £13.7m turnover.

Nicholas Bell / 39 / Jeremy Whittle / 34 / RP Tyson Construction / Blackpool

Founded in 1949 the firm now employs 116 staff and had a £16.9m turnover in 2010 and made a slight profit of £91,000. Customers include: Great Places Housing Group, Northern Lights Consortia, Blackpool Council, Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Constabulary and the Salvation Army.

Andrew Camilleri / 31 / Fresh Start Living / Residential development / Swinton

Fresh Start, formed in 2008, specialises in refurbishing unwanted tower blocks disposed of by local authorities. In May the company signed a partnership with Chinese online property broker SouFun Holdings to boost buy-to-let investment sales. Fresh Start's assets include Trafford Press, Madison Court in Salford and Bispham House in Liverpool. Camilleri entered property investment, following his father's example, at the age of 16 and claims to have a portfolio valued at £50m.

Mark Lyons / 38 / Forrest / Social housing contracting / Preston

Mark LyonsLyons began his career in property and construction at Preston-based Eric Wright Group as a quantity surveyor. During his time at the firm turnover grew from around £14m to more than £80m. He then joined First Investments, owner of Chorley's Botany Bay retail warehouse. He then moved to residential developer, PJ Livesey Group, where he joined as commercial director and became the first non-family board member in over 40 years. He was then hired by Bardsley as construction director. In January 2010, Lyons joined social housing specialist Forrest as managing director within a new management team. This year Forrest reported an increase in turnover of 11% to £52m, with profit down slightly to £4.9m while expanding the workforce by 10% to 450.

Gareth Simm / 39 / Greg Simm / 35 / Martyn Simm / 29 / HE Simm & Son / Safety, engineering and asset management / Liverpool HE Simm & Son turned over £21.4m in 2009 and basically broke even, with a small profit of £84,000. The firm began life in 1948 headed by Ernie Simm and 'struck gold' when it was awarded the contract to install plumbing at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. Ernie's sons Lawrence, Tony and Graham joined in the 1960s and are still involved. The business employs 100 staff and is based in Sefton Street. There are three distinct divisions: fire & safety systems, engineering and asset and facilities management. The Simm family own all 100% of the share capital between them.

 Damian FloodDamian Flood / 36 / Real Estate Development Partnerships / Salford Flood is managing director of the development firm he established in 2009, following the demise of his uncle Brendan's retail developer Modus. RED is in the process of completing the 35,000 sq ft Halls Mill Retail Park in Bury which started on site 100% pre-let to Dreams, Smyths Toys and Pets at Home. Work is also soon to begin on site at Howard Town Mill in Glossop, a 140,000 sq ft mixed-use retail development with M&S Simply Food secured as the anchor pre-let tenant.

Ben Harvey / 39 / DBH Serviced Business Centres / Liverpool

Harvey is finance director of independent surveyors Mason & Partners as well as being a director and shareholder of sister company DBH Serviced Business Centres. Mason & Partners broke even on sales of £3.3m in 2010. DBH posted a £1.3m loss on turnover of £3.8m in 2009. DBH owns and manages ten serviced office buildings around the country including sites in Ellesmere Port and Liverpool. DBH was co-founded by Harvey and Geoff Mason, founder of Mason & Partners, in 1999. Mason and Harvey are the only shareholders in DBH, Mason the majority.

 Andy CritchlowAndy Critchlow / 31 / AEW Architects / Manchester

Critchlow became a director of AEW in 2007, having joined the practice in 2001. He manages the retained account with McDonald's Restaurants delivering new and revamped restaurants nationally, totaling several hundred commissions a year. In addition, he is involved in the development of new 'home away from home' accommodation for Ronald McDonald House Charities typically built on hospital grounds for patients' families. Critchlow was part of the management buyout team headed by managing director Steve Burne that took control of the
company at the start of 2011. AEW was valued at £1.8m in June 2010. Away from the office, he is currently converting a Grade 2 listed water tower into his own home.

Simon Bowker / 39 / Bowker / Electrical engineering / Morecambe

Turnover at the Lancashire-based contractor rose from £12.4m in 2009 to £14.1m in 2010, turning a slight profit. The firm was founded by Chris in 1968 and is now in the hands of his son, Simon. The company employs 120 staff and works with some of biggest contractors in the area including Allenbuild, Eric Wright Construction and Miller Construction.

Mike Hanlon / 38 / Maghull Developments / Liverpool

Mike HanlonMaghull owns a 700,000 sq ft portfolio in and around Liverpool including a former Liverpool John Moores University portfolio on Hope Street in the Georgian quarter of the city centre. The developer recently secured planning consent for a 30,000 sq ft extension to Maghull town centre, which they acquired for £21.5m in 2007. The scheme has a forecast end value of £35m and work is due to start on site in summer 2012. Plans are in development to extend the four star Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa to provide an additional 60 hotel bedrooms. Maghull is working on a revised pre-application design for Josephine Butler House in Hope Street which includes two mixed-use buildings and is anchored by a 176-bedroom hotel. A new planning application will be submitted later this year. Mike is son of Maghull founder Mick.

Darren Thomas / 37 / AWT Painters and Concrete TS / Painting and decorating, concrete contracting / Leigh

Concrete TS, with sales of £4.2m, is the larger of these two profitable specialist contractors based in Moss Industrial Estate. The Thomas family controls both businesses, founded in the mid 1980s. Darren is among director shareholders of Leigh Sports Village Stadium and Leigh Centurions Rugby League Club.

Jeff Smith / 37 / Smith Group / Mechanical and electrical engineering / Preston

Jeff SmithThe 50-year-old company employs 230 staff and had a £37.6m turnover, in 2010, producing a £1.6m pre-tax profit. Jeff qualified as an electrician and worked his way up through the positions of foreman, site manager, contract manager and now director. Current work includes Ask Development's First Street in Manchester.

Ian Sherry / 35 / UK Land & Property / Development / Liverpool

Ian SherryDevelopment director of the diverse property developer with a range of high-profile projects in Manchester, Liverpool and North Wales. UK Land is working with banks to finish stalled projects such as Sarah Point on Great Ancoats Street, with Clydesdale Bank. UK Land previously triumphed at the Exchange Flags office building in Liverpool, wresting it from long-time owner Bill Davies and bringing it back to life.

Giles Worthington / 36 / Russell Worthingon / 31 / Stonewell / Development and construction / Preston

The family-owned group includes construction, development, house building and investment businesses. The development side, Marcus Worthington Properties, refinanced to the tune of £18.6m this year with the Co-operative Bank. Schemes include student halls near the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, to follow similar schemes in Preston and Lancaster. The construction business has a £10m turnover and has remained profitable throughout the downturn.

Dan Mitchell / 36 / Barton Willmore / Town planning / Manchester

Dan MitchellMitchell became the youngest equity partner at the national town planning consultancy in 2008. In January 2011 he opened the firm's Manchester office after heading the Leeds branch for seven years. Manchester has now grown from two to five fee earners. Major projects in the area include the expansion of Chester Zoo, St Modwen's Project Jennifer in Liverpool and a
150,000 sq ft foodstore for Fordgate Group in Halton Lea town centre near Runcorn. Mitchell is also a member of the Places Matter! Design Review panel.

Kierstan Boylan / 35 / Dorbcrest Homes / Wigan

The family-owned business was founded in 1979 by Jim and Gladys Boylan. In 2010 turnover was £11m and pre-tax profit £1m. Kierstan joined the board in 2001 and is now project director of the 35-strong business, which showed net assets of £10m on 30 September 2010. Dorbcrest has half-a-dozen current sites in Preston, Wigan, Ormskirk and Whiston.

Tim Heatley / 31 / Centric Property Group / Development / Manchester

Tim HeatleyEx-Modus development surveyor Heatley founded Centric in 2009 following Modus' demise. He now has £12m of commercial property under construction in the North West. The first project to start was Crown Business Park Rochdale, where phase one is on site to deliver a speculative development of 30,000 sq ft industrial warehouses and 20,000 sq ft of offices plus the servicing and remediation of the whole 18 acre site. Royal Bank of Scotland is funding the project. In Liverpool, Estuary Banks will see the speculative construction of 82,000 sq ft of offices and warehouses next to Liverpool Airport, with an end value of £6m. Heatley says he has further projects in the planning and pre-planning stages.

 Will AinscoughWill Ainscough / 34 / Himor Group / Investment / Newton le Willows

Himor Group was incorporated in December 2008 and now has £60m of assets under management. It was co-founded by Bill Ainscough, owner of Langtree and Wain Group, and his son Will, formerly a fund manager at Healey & Baker and the co-founder of WR Estates. Will is the group managing director and responsible for the day-to-day running of the company. Himor's highlights so far have been the sale of the office building 40 Spring Gardens in Manchester to Climate Change Capital for £47.5m in May 2010 and the acquisition of another prime office in the city, Ship Canal House, from Catalyst Capital for £22.88m in January 2011. There have been other acquisitions in Wigan, Preston, Macclesfield, Deeside, Middlesborough and Barnstaple. Himor aims to double its assets under management over the next five years.

Peter Done Jnr / 36 / Done Developments / Warrington

Peter Jnr is part of the formidable Done family of Betfred fame headed by brothers Fred Done and Peter Done Snr. The family group also contains employment law firm Peninsula Business Services, which bought the Peninsula office building from Development Securities in 2009 for £48m. Peter Done Jnr is building his own empire; his Whiskey Jack Developments has net assets of £6.9m.

Rob Maxwell / 27 / Aztec Interiors Northern / Fit-out contracting / Liverpool

Rob MaxwellA former Royal Navy engineer, Rob joined the family firm founded and built by his father, Neal, as a director in 2008. In 2010, he led a management buyout that enabled Neal to retire. Rob restructured Aztec and has acquired smaller contractors, including a Birkenhead-based electrical engineer rebranded Aztec M&E. Staff numbers have grown 40% and Aztec now has three offices across the country with plans to have ten fully operational units in the near future.

Tim Groom / 35 / Formroom Architects / Manchester

Tim GroomGroom left the corporate world of Broadway Malyan to set up his independent practice in 2006 and has now grown it to an eight-strong team working from offices in the Knott Mill area of the city near Deansgate station. Live projects include a retail and leisure development for Everton Football Club on a car park in front of Goodison Park and a boutique hotel in Manchester. Groom is among the impressive alumni of Manchester School of Architecture and has sat on the council of the Manchester Society of Architects for the past six years.

Jeremy Lefton / 25 / Michelle Lefton / 24 / Roundhouse Properties / Development / Windermere

The family firm, Roundhouse Properties was founded by Janet Lefton, who, with her brother Brian Scowcroft, made £150m from the sale of Swinton Insurance.

Jeremy LeftonJeremy and father Harold run and develop a mixed-use portfolio around the North West that is currently 95% let. The latest project is the £8m South Rings Office Village south of Preston. While nominally a director-shareholder of Roundhouse, Michelle is currently forging her career elsewhere as a graduate surveyor in CB Richard Ellis's valuation team in Manchester. She started with a series of experience placements at DTZ, Hynes & Co and Bailey Deakin & Hamiltons. Like her brother, Michelle is a keen athlete and has swum the English Channel. She is currently in training to  Michelle Leftoncompete in the Arc du Arch race, an 87 mile run from London to Dover, followed by 26 mile swim across the Channel and a 180 mile cycle to Paris.

Your Comments

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Unbelievable! The majority of these individuals are listed because their parents gave them the job or the company! It’s good to see a handful of genuine entrepreneurs that have started from scratch but I’m surprised that the North West property industry has such little talent to take us into the next cycle……

By Jeff

Family has always and always will be a major factor in business, none more so than property given the attraction of its rewards and the longevity of the assets themselves. Grosvenor, Pochin, McAlpine are great examples of businesses we can be proud of that were established and remain family firms. However, it is interesting to imagine who is out there that we haven’t yet heard of and weren’t on the list that will make it big one day. God, and the banks, willing.

By Mitch

I happen to know one of the people on this list. He comes from a very normal family, not rich, not working with some huge inheritance or influence, he’s just making use of the brain that god gave him.. It is nice to see someone working hard to make something of themself and enhance their local environment. Let’s face it; In today’s market, if you can get the RBS to lend you even a few quid, you have to have a damn good plan with realistic returns. I wish them all the best of luck. It’s really easy to sit back and talk negatively about ‘the market’, foreclosures and unemployment. Perhaps instead we should support those who are working hard to make the best of this economy, are taking advantage of limited opportunities, are creating jobs and truth-be-told are actually the ones making a difference to get things back on track. Just my 2p.. Dan.

By English Dan

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