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Trad it ion steers Linford towards future success

NEWS - 60 second interview

Robert Pearson was appointed managing director of Linford Group at the beginning of the month.

He talks to Joanna Booth How did you get into the industry?

I started off as a trainee quantity surveyor in 1974 and worked in a variety of roles on the QS side until 1991.

There was a change in business focus in the area at the time and I was offered a job with a contractor. I worked my way up to commercial director and set up a strategic partnership arm within the business, dealing mainly with housing associations.

When did you join Linford?

I began doing some part-time consultancy work with them in September 2003, and the chief executive persuaded me to join full time as special projects manager. I worked on a number of f lagship contracts, like the Sir John Rylands library in Manchester.

Another part of my remit was to revamp our management systems. I didn't get time to do that, which is one of the reasons I applied for the managing director role.

Will that be one of you r primary goals?

Yes. The benefit of this position is the ability to drive through change that I see as essential to the company's success. I want to improve our operating efficiency by altering management procedures.

People tend to carry their expertise round in their heads, so it is lost if they leave. With the latest IT we can find a way to store that information in a reusable format.

What other aims do you have?

I want us to be a sustainable business, not only in terms of profitability but also in the way we interact with clients, employees and the supply chain.

We're not chasing turnover. I want us to capitalise on our Pearson: 'Need to capitalise on our expertise' expertise in certain sectors. I believe that if you're a jack of all trades you're the master of none, so I'm splitting the company into focused business streams.

What are your focus areas?

Linford is probably best known for its restoration and conversion work and, although it's not our greatest area of turnover, it's very important to us, as are our specialist craft skills, such as stonemasonry. There is our general contracting arm, and now with my background in the sector we're starting a new arm called partnerships.

I'm hoping to get it going as soon as possible and for it to become a major contributor to the business within four years. It can utilise expertise from any field, but requires a greater allocation of resources. We've also got our own development arm and it's important we expand that. It is working in collaboration with our contracting business.

Are you bidding for any exciting projects at the moment?

We're looking at a scheme in the Peak District which is a mixture of converting a listed 19th centu ry mansion and building new, high- quality detached houses into the face of the hillside. They'll have grass roofs and glass frontages ? a total contrast with the original buildings. The scheme has been approved by the National Park Authority.