We talk exclusively to John Griggs about his role at the Kent-based housebuilder and how his career has taken him to this senior position at Regalpoint Homes.
Please can you tell us a little about yourself and your current role?
I am a director of Regalpoint Homes, a housebuilder operating in Kent, Surrey and Sussex from our office in Sevenoaks. Regalpoint Homes is engaged in a wide range of home building projects which is challenging at times, but also great fun and very rewarding. It is a pleasure to work on something tangible that may help shape our environment today and hopefully leave a longer-term legacy.
I believe it is worthwhile to provide new homes for our clients and we feel proud when we receive positive feedback on our schemes. However, what excites us most is seeing a first-time buyer securing their first home and knowing that we provided them with a great experience.
We currently have three projects on site and my role is to project manage these to a successful completion on time and within budget. Naturally, in any construction project there are changes and problems during the build but with our rigorous systems in place any issues can be managed effectively.
What is the education/career path that has brought you to this senior position?
I am a chartered quantity surveyor and after obtaining my degree I worked for several professional practices in the commercial sector eventually becoming a partner in a respected London practice. At that time the commercial market was very active, and I was fortunate to work on major office buildings, shopping centres, industrial and civil engineering projects including some landmark buildings.
Although at that time I was involved with several major residential schemes it was not until I was approached by a close friend who was chief executive of a listed housebuilder that my venture into mainstream housebuilding began. It was quite a change in my career and a huge challenge. Thankfully it was a success and I became a director of a number of listed housebuilders. For the last 10 years I have enjoyed being part of the directorate at Regalpoint Homes and together with Tony Porter, my co-director, we have built a successful and respected company.
What are the projects/mentors that have been especially satisfying?
I met Roy Green in the early part of my career and he became very influential in my approach to business. Roy, who sadly died last year, was an amazing networker long before the word became fashionable. He managed successfully to mix business and pleasure in a way I have seen few people achieve. Like Roy, I believe that our professional, skilled workers and clients should be treated with care and consideration. Our purchasers come from all walks of life with a wide age range and diverse needs and aspirations. To be able to deal respectfully with their questions and problems is an art which I find most satisfying.
Although my early career was satisfying, building fine new homes directly for the owners provides an entirely different challenge and one which gives me greater personal satisfaction. On occasion we are delivering a dream home for a happy client, and to make someone’s dream come true is amazing.
What is it about the housebuilding industry that most appeals to you?
Last year we completed Regal House in East Grinstead. This comprised 14 one- and two-bedroom flats with undercroft parking in the historic part of town. Planning of course was not straightforward but we started on site in spring 2015 and completed on time and in budget 12 months later. During the design period we chose to construct the building above podium level in a timber frame. This was a first for us. We allowed ourselves a decent pre-construction period and happily this proved fundamental to achieving a tight programme. Many flats were pre-sold and on time completion was important to not only the purchasers but also our reputation.
As always, a successful project is never down to just one individual but the entire professional and construction team. I enjoy working with the construction team and the members of that project have gone on to work on two of our current projects. I believe there is little point in building a successful and hopefully happy team merely to disband it upon project completion.
Are there many opportunities for trainees/graduates at well-performing housebuilders such as Regalpoint? Is it easy to find new staff (on all levels) of the quality you want, and what qualities do you look for?
After gaining my degree (BSc in Building Economics) I shortly become an associate of the RICS. That route to qualification is still open but I have tremendous respect for those who take time to study whilst working full-time and achieve their goals. I think that working through one’s career path from perhaps a junior to eventually senior management can provide not only a solid background but also a great life experience.
I think we should put more emphasis on training and apprenticeships to help those who enter professions and trades. It seems we are always lacking good tradesman and frankly the industry is poor in assisting young people to gain a trade which will potentially offer a fruitful and profitable career. The entry point could be at secondary school where we can potentially educate youngsters that learning a trade is a worthwhile exercise, and something that can lead to a happy and prosperous life path. We compete in an active market place and a full and varied CV will always gain recognition.
Are you happy with what’s being done to significantly increase the number of skilled workers over the next few years?
If we are to achieve the government’s targets for housebuilding over the next few years, we are going to need many more qualified and respected tradespeople. I believe that the rewards for hard-working individuals will be immense both in terms of job satisfaction and lifestyle. In our industry, we probably focus too much on the professions and not on the equally important training of site mangers and tradespeople who are essential to a successful project.
What of the immediate future with Brexit and recent interest rate rises?
Housing continues to show strong foundations and growth in the coming months seems set to continue. Residential building is affected by interest rate rises and the availability of skilled workers lacking in the sector. Hopefully the Chancellor will support the training of new construction workers and the pound will recover some stability.
Of course, the planning systems needs examination, but this is an old chestnut and despite their claims it seems no government really appreciate the difficulty of the system. I hope that this will happen in the near future, but I am not overly optimistic. Therefore, with planning an issue and a lack of workforce we will continue to miss the government’s targets.
Nevertheless, I am positive that the future for housebuilding is bright and would recommend a career in the industry to anyone interested in hard work but a rewarding environment.