Andrew Stevenson was appointed managing director of Yorkshire-based contractor Strata Construction at the start of the year. He talks to Joanna Booth
Do you have a long history with Strata?
I first worked for them in 1994 as a contracts manager. When I left five years later I kept my eye on how the business was doing, particularly as my close friend Jon Croll was managing director. Tragically he passed away last year ? it was a complete shock as he was only 39.
I was approached to run the business.
Where had you worked in the interim?
I was a project director with Jarvis on a PFI school and regional director with Gleeson Building. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! My experiences didn't put me off PFI. The key is how you deal with the local authority. People make the mistake of thinking it's just a building contract ? that's the tip of the iceberg. At Gleeson the problem was that only lip service had been paid to risk management. Up to 15 per cent was being lost on major high-risk projects. It was in a bit of a state, but actually a year before the press got hold of the story. We restructured the whole business the year before the management buyout.
What are the main challenges at Strata?
I want to put some of the highlevel risk management strategy I developed at Gleeson into practice here, interpreted to fit a smaller regional business.
We've got a very solid business in social housing. There's a growing market in what is called extra care ? retirement villages with leisure and retail facilities, often run by housing associations. They are a great source of revenue as central government has called for all local authorities to provide them.
Is the social housing market currently strong?
Central government funding continues to grow. We're not involved in the large-scale arm's length management organisation projects ? they are massive schemes which only suit a few big players.
There is a myth that all the money is being pumped into huge housing modernisation projects. We do £2-5 million new-build schemes which the big guns aren't interested in.
We have th ree housing association frameworks which provide 50 per cent of Strata's £31 million turnover. Funding is guaranteed two years in advance. We agree the programme with our framework partners so it is in both our interests to meet those deadlines.
What other sectors are you working in?
We have s tarted work ing on our third school with Balfour Beatty under its Rotherham Schools PFI. It's not a market we will pursue as a matter of course. We have a great relationship with Balfour Beatty where they trust us to run our own sites. Strata is a main contractor and we wouldn't want to be treated as a subbie.
We a re a lso ve r y choosy abou t which developers we work for ? we have contracts with a couple of tried and trusted companies. The business is in a very stable position and we want to keep it that way.