Craig Jones became chief executive of Verry Construction last autumn.
He talks to Joanna Booth How did you get into the industry?
I'm relatively new to the construction world.
Until a year ago I was running Philips Consumer Electronics. I joined them in 1998 as sales director and worked my way up. After seven years I felt it was time to move on. We'd taken the company from a £300 million turnover up to £650 million and the next opportunities were global. I didn't want to spend my time travelling and looked for something different. I hadn't considered construction but a year ago John Gibson, chairman of Verry, and I put together William Verry Europe as a vehicle to develop proper ty in Latvia. Management changes led to my taking the chief executive position at Verry Construction.
Has the transition been difficult?
They're very different sectors, though there are some similarities even outside the processes and disciplines involved in running a multimillion pound business.
The margins are pretty tight in electronics but they're even worse in construction.
That's been the hardest part, getting my head around the enormous amount of risk contractors shoulder and the level of margins, which don't seem to quite match up.
How are you planning to develop the business?
We will focus on areas in which we have expertise and chase higher margins. In 2002 our turnover was £35 million and this year it's just under £100 million. Our business structure lends itself to an even bigger turnover ? we have a target of £200 million by 2010 ? but I don't want to forsake profitability.
One of the things I think I can bring from the consumer market is the importance of brand. I'm very passionate about getting the Verry name and logo known and connected with high quality.
Which sectors will you focus on?
We have a lot of heritage in the commercial sector and we'd like to build on that as the market becomes more buoyant. In the public sector we have a great interest in schools. In partnership with Costain we have won a huge PFI job in Kent to build th ree schools and we're chasing a City Academy in Hackney.
Verry won work on two sites in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's £60,000 house competition. How is that work progressing?
There is a small site in Hastings where we are building 12 houses and we hope to be on site in April or May. We are also scheduled to get going on a much larger site with 102 homes in Aylesbury by the end of the year. If the Government offers more work through that scheme we'd like to think we'd be in the running for it. We managed to achieve the price they asked for through collaboration with our German partner, WeberHaus. They've been in the prefabricated timber frame market for 45 years or so. We worked with them in Latvia.