We welcome Steve Hindley CBE, Chairman of Midas Group and the Heart of the South West LEP to our regular series of interviews with leading figures in the South West business community. Steve tells us about the future of construction, investing in skills for local young people and knowing the difference between managing and leading.
Hello Steve, tell us about Midas and your role as Chairman
Our core activities are in general construction, housing and retail. Midas Retail works with companies like Next, Morrison’s and John Lewis, for whom we built the award-winning store in Exeter. Mi-Space is our affordable housing arm of the business and is enjoying huge growth, recently named in the Western Morning News Fast Growth 75 list 2014. We are of course heavily involved in the construction sector. We have nine offices with our headquarters in Bristol, but our registered offices are in Exeter.
How has the recent difficult economic climate impacted your activities?
We weathered it very well in term of making sure that we had our strategy in place early. When we could see the crash happening we knew we would be in for a few years of austerity, so we avoided going out and taking work on at ridiculous prices. We were very selective and nurtured our best people. We went through the recession with very little growth but we kept our business in place and kept our cash in the bank and never borrowed. Our customers have also been loyal, which goes back to the relationships we have developed over the years and the quality of work we produce.
What challenges are you facing over the next 12 months?
Our plan is to grow the business by employing good people and continuing to deliver on our vision, which we know is working. In the past 12 months, the business has achieved industry-leading customer satisfaction scores averaging well in excess of 80 per cent. Over the same period, 70 per cent of our revenues came from repeat business. Consistency of value and principles are key to a thriving business.
Do you think that the government is doing enough to support your business or the construction sector?
I am passionate about skills and training. With major construction developments coming up in the region such as Hinkley Point, I keep telling local authorities that we need to employ young people when we have all this work going on. We have to encourage young people to get a job. And the LEP has to play its part in spreading that message. It is a tremendous challenge but if we don’t do it we deserve to be criticised because there will be plenty of people outside of the UK who will be happy to do the work. A big part of this is about localism. Clients, public and private, need to support companies who buy and employ locally, and work to ensure job opportunities and training placements are available to local people. This is a way of supporting the home-grown economy, and ensuring the company being hired is going to bring about direct, tangible and sustainable benefits to the very community it is working within. We have long invested in pioneering practices such as these at Midas because we see the inherent value in engaging the next generation of employees at an early stage.
What is your view on the South West business scene?
We are a regional company which employs local people. There is a payback in working with local people. If you build a school, you work with the community and employ young people and apprentices. I encourage our staff to get involved in their community. That’s why I chair the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Devon Community Foundation.
We have got some phenomenal things going for us in the area, in terms of universities, the environment, the skilled people who live here - it is no wonder more people want to move here to live. We also have a nuclear power station just about to be built in nearby Somerset - the opportunities are massive.
Tell us more about your work with the Heart of the South West LEP
I first got involved with the LEP through the CBI, which I was involved with for many years. The CBI is a great organisation which promotes partnerships between the private and public sectors and encourages them to work together. If you have a thriving private sector which makes money, pays taxes to the Government and employs more people, then you have a thriving public sector which pays for schools and hospitals. The LEP is about promoting economic development in the region. We have a Government which is looking to devolve power and money out of London to the regions. It’s an exciting time to be involved.
The biggest challenge we have in the region is transport infrastructure. Government ministers have admitted that the South West has been underfunded in this area for about 30 years. I am delighted with recent announcements from the government committing to a programme of infrastructure development in the South West including the expansion of the A303. This will encourage growth throughout the South West region. I also believe that we are not building enough houses. We have to provide somewhere for people to live. It’s unacceptable to have a generation of people with no home to live in.
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to a newly appointed company director?
I think my success started off by learning the difference between leadership and management and the importance of people.
Businesses are only about their people: what good is an engineering company or any other for that matter if you don't have people who can do the job and are happy and enthusiastic about doing that job? They are the backbone. Nothing is more important than the people behind the business
I am a great believer in trying to lead by example, ensuring that everyone embraces the company values and objectives, we are constantly looking at how we can work with our customers so that they feel they are listened to; we are not just about building - it is also about customers feeling they have been treated very well by our staff.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I think I’m a social animal. I do things which involve being with people. My favourite hobby is hill walking, especially with other people. I recently visited Jersey and walked around the island with a group of friends. I enjoy walking on the coastal path or across Dartmoor. I also love classic cars. I have recently sold a very old Jaguar and replaced it with a Porsche. I also go and see Exeter Chiefs as much as I can. I enjoy travelling when I can find the time. I’m going to St Petersburg shortly and I would like to go back to India soon. It may sound odd but I do actually quite enjoy going to work, going up to London to a CBI meeting and working with politicians is a lot of fun.
What has been your experience of working with Moon Consulting?
Moon Consulting are very well connected in the South West business community. I was delighted to be the keynote speaker at one of the Board 2020executive conferences co-hosted by Moon Consulting. I addressed 100 executives and non-executives on how business is a force for good and the importance of business ethics to secure long-term sustainable growth. I have known Vanessa for many years from our mutual work on the CBI Council for the South West.
About Moon Consulting
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