Our profile of a senior figure from the housebuilding industry this week focusus on 36-year-old Derbyshire man Jim Brooks, who has just been promoted to deputy regional managing director at leading retirement homes specialist McCarthy & Stone, and he speaks about his role and career path.
Please tell us a little about yourself, McCarthy & Stone and your current role
McCarthy & Stone is the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder, with around a 70% share of the market. For more than 40 years it has been enriching the lives of those in later life; with about 1,200 retirement developments delivered across the country since 1977.
As deputy regional managing director of McCarthy & Stone’s North East region, I’m responsible for the efficient running of the region which covers an area from Alnwick to Bawtry and from Ilkley and Scarborough. I oversee all departments, making sure we’re working together to meet regional sales targets; while also upholding McCarthy & Stone’s ‘five-star’ housebuilder values when it comes to build quality and customer service. The buck stops with me!
How have you got to this senior role?
I’ve followed quite an unconventional career path for a deputy regional managing director. I went straight from school to a position as a trainee site manager with Henry Boot Homes in 1997. When I completed the five-year training programme, David Wilson Homes took over Henry Boot Homes, and I spent the next four years as an assistant site manager with David Wilson Homes.
I then moved to Bovis Homes and, over the course of the next eight years, I moved up the ranks; from site manager, through to area build manager, and eventually build director for the Northern region.
Two years ago, I joined McCarthy & Stone as construction director for the North East; and, just recently, following Steve Secker’s departure, I was promoted to deputy regional managing director. There have been some steep learning curves along the way. The biggest was probably when I was build director at Bovis Homes and I lost half of my team within two to three months of taking on the role. It was a dark time, but the experience taught me so much about the importance of keeping people engaged and motivated.
I’m currently going through a two-year leadership development programme with McCarthy & Stone, which will culminate in a Masters in Business qualification, and I’m loving it. It’s really reinvigorated my interest in so many different aspects of my job.
What is it that got you interested in the housebuilding sector?
When I left school I knew that I wanted to do something practical – a job which meant I actually produced something and with a hefty dose of problem solving. Housebuilding fitted the bill.
Are there any past projects and/ or mentors that have been especially inspiring?
Coming to McCarthy & Stone has actually been the making of me. Even though it’s only been the last two years of my career, it’s really diversified my skill set. I’m working with property and housebuilding heavyweights – the depth of experience here is phenomenal. From Ian Wilkins (North Division managing director) to the executive board, everyone is willing to share their experience to aid personal development.
What is it about your role that you find the most satisfying?
It would have to be the people-side of things. There is nothing more satisfying than being part of a team that has delivered a development which has changed the lives of the homeowners.
I’m fortunate enough to go along to coffee mornings with homeowners – which is not generally something that occurs in mainstream – and yes, it can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding. Homeowners can sometimes give you a tough time, but they will always come up to you, one-by-one, and tell you they absolutely love their new home and they wish they’d done it years ago.
There’s a real culture of progression here too. The team gets a real buzz out of helping others develop and move forward.
Is there something about building/ delivering homes for the retirement sector that is very different from the mainstream?
Absolutely – every aspect is different from mainstream housing. The timing of the sales lifecycle is completely different; the customer journey from consideration to purchase is slower and the decision making process can be far more emotive. To be honest, it’s a much more difficult market. This leads us to think differently and to be at the very top of our game, to deliver products that consistently meet the highest expectations.
There’s a huge amount of pride around the fact we have scored five-star housebuilder status for the last 13 years – it’s something everyone wants to be a part of – especially me.
When you go onsite, are there jobs that you see being done that you find particularly admirable?
I’m always bowled over by the levels of commitment displayed by a discipline other sectors of the industry won’t recognise, but we have house managers (Retirement Living) or estates managers (Retirement Living Plus) on our completed developments to ensure homeowners’ expectations are met and the developments run smoothly. All too often I hear examples of personal sacrifice, where they have given-up their own time or gone out their way to help a homeowner.
In terms of job satisfaction and career potential, what do you think housebuilding offers that other sectors don’t?
I’d be a typical example here. I’m not highly educated, but housebuilding will reward you if you turn up and work hard, show a flair for problem solving, and you can work well in a team. There’s a clear path or progression and plenty of opportunities for those who have the right qualities and show commitment.
What’s your advice to those considering or applying for a job in UK housebuilding right now?
Now is a very good time. There’s a real buzz around the housebuilding industry. My advice would be to think differently around your CV – I see too many potentially good people who risk blending into the background. And don’t take no for an answer. Keep going and get in front of people.