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May 25, 2022

Meet Our Commercial Director, Gary Knight – Q+A

Gary Knight, Commercial Director, Concertus Design and Property Consultants Q & A

We recently sat down with our new Commercial Director, Gary Knight, and wanted to share with you some of the highlights from our interview.

Tell us about your time at Concertus so far

I joined Concertus in June 2018. When I was employed by the business, we were a company with big growth aspirations, and I was excited to be part of the journey. I am extremely proud to have seen us achieve those ambitious plans by expanding our client base, widening our sector diversification, and increasing our turnover to more than £20 million. My time here to date has been very exciting, very rewarding, and it is gratifying to have seen us develop and grow as a business – we have had some fantastic highlights, along with some challenges.

We successfully navigated our way through the pandemic, and Concertus should be very proud of its achievements during this time. To maintain our upward trajectory and deliver to a wider range of clients, whilst also finalising the joint venture with Derbyshire County Council (despite having to work from home during lockdown periods), is a massive achievement and a testament to our staff who made it possible.

Now that the world seems to be returning to normal, it is time to start the next chapter in our story. Our focus is now on how we continue to strengthen our client base and build our brand in new geographical locations, whilst ensuring we maintain the high levels of work our current partners are used to seeing from us. We now need to improve our already exceptional service standards. This is vital in supporting our growth. After being successful in delivering our previous targets, we now have even more ambitious ones to achieve.

What does your new role entail and what are you most looking forward to?

My new role as Commercial Director will see me spend more time on business development, with my focus being on how Concertus can continue to grow, both inside and outside of our current operational regions. This is just one of the parts of my work that I enjoy and am passionate about. I enjoy working with people inside and outside of the business and using my skills to understand the best way to meet their needs.

I will be responsible for maintaining and building new client relationships and will look to establish a network of clients and contractors who want to work with us on an annual basis, under a longer-term contractual framework, or a partnering agreement. We have been tasked with aggressive targets and again have an ambitious 5-year growth plan. My role will focus on developing the strategy that makes reaching these targets possible.

How do you hope to see Concertus develop over the next 12 months?

Aligned to our business plan, Concertus will grow and develop its client base across all regions we operate in. We will assess the skills and resource within our current teams and support the diversification of skills with new staff that we welcome into the business. We aspire to employ new professionals who complement our existing employees so that we are recognised as the leading Design and Property Consultant in the regions we are operating in.

To support this, we will focus our attention on the geographical areas where we can expand our client base by introducing new business opportunities. The East Midlands is going to grow from strength to strength. There has been some great work taking place and it is great to see recognition of this with Kilburn being entered into the Education Estates Awards 2022. The great work that is currently ongoing in Derbyshire to develop our brand in the East Midlands will continue and further enhance our reputation over the next 12 months. We will also look at opportunities with the rest of the Vertas Group which promises to be exciting. We know that working more closely and collaboratively with Vertas and Opus People Solutions will see opportunities come our way that we have not necessarily had before, and vice versa. This will only help us grow as a business.

How is it having a much closer working relationship with Vertas and Opus People Solutions?

I have spoken about the next stage of our journey already. After sitting down with the Executive Board and Operational Board, it was clear that Concertus was ready to evolve and take that next step. After looking at what we wanted to achieve, it made sense for us not to do it in isolation. Vertas and Opus have the same aspirations as us in terms of growth and we know that with certain opportunities that arise, it would make sense to consider them as a wider group.

Having our companies work closer together will help create opportunities to support our individual and collective successes. It also opens new opportunities for our staff to progress in their careers. Concertus, Vertas, and Opus are already very successful and only want to continue to grow. Having additional resources and expertise in other areas is only going to help us do that.

Tell us about the team you have working with you to achieve your targets

We currently operate from two main office locations: Matlock has 42 employees and Ipswich has 163 members of staff. Our regional offices support our key accounts, but we are also able to create teams for projects which include employees from both office locations. This is something we plan on doing more frequently to join up the great work taking place in both Suffolk and Derbyshire. Having both offices working together ensures that we can allocate the most suitably skilled members of staff to our projects, which ultimately gives our clients the best possible results on their projects.

The teams in both Matlock and Ipswich have been instrumental in getting us where we are today. In the East of England and East Midlands, we have managed to deliver countless projects that have gone above and beyond our clients’ expectations and helped build the reputation we have today in both regions. Mildenhall Hub recently won the ‘Commercial Building’ category in the RIBA Craftsmanship Awards, with the Basetek offices also achieving ‘Distinction’ in the same category. The Hub also won the ‘Public Sector Project’ category for East of England in the RICS Awards. We have also worked on projects such as The Bridge School and Highfields Academy. The entire Concertus team has worked so hard and pulled in the same direction, which has been vital to our growth. As a result of this, we have been able to start working with Central Bedfordshire Council, where we have recently supported them in the procurement of their new four-year Construction Framework. The framework will support the Authority in completing an estimated £500 million worth of construction projects. It is important that as we now look to grow the business, we keep the high standards our clients have become accustomed to and maintain our exceptionally high standards with our existing partners.

What will the biggest driving forces be behind business development over the next year?

Firstly, we need to ensure we give our existing clients across the country the same level of service and detail they have come to expect from us, so we stay a trusted partner to them. Our current client base has been key to our growth to date and we need to ensure that continues. As a business we must be grateful for the projects we have been entrusted with.

With our ambitious 5-year plan in mind, business development will be planned to ensure it provides sustainable growth. Identifying clients with a long-term pipeline of opportunity will be key to our journey and plan, as this provides a resilient and sustainable method of growing the number of key clients we work with.

By generating a wider selection of clients, from a broader range of sectors (which we will now be able to do by working with Vertas and Opus) we can offer our employees a more diverse job role, which supports their development aspirations and provides an opportunity to grow with the business. Whilst the ultimate driver behind business development is to increase our turnover and profit, it is also important to blend this with providing a workload which allows our staff to achieve their personal goals.

Where do you see the biggest growth opportunities for Concertus?

Our growth to date has mainly focused on developing a relationship with clients who have applied the ‘land and expand’ ethos. This approach enables the formation of key account relationships, where we can increase the volume of work we deliver, by developing an understanding of our clients’ needs and aspirations. We have been extremely successful in using this method. However, we now want to go beyond Concertus just being a designer, we want our clients to feel the benefit of the wider range of services we offer. We will be focused on continuously improving our offering, which will ensure we continue to meet our clients’ requirements. This will, in turn, open opportunities not just for us, but the entire group.

When it comes to specific regions, we currently see Central England and the East Midlands as our key areas for growth in the next 12-24 months. In the East of England, we have a high volume of work but are aware that there is the opportunity to expand here too. This region continues to be extremely important to us on our journey. Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Essex have all been vital to getting us where we are today, and we are confident we can deliver our exceptional standard of work to other areas across the United Kingdom.

What do you think the biggest challenges will be?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine, there are numerous challenges that we still face. There are shortages of vital building materials and prices are soaring. The recruitment market is also extremely competitive, with the pandemic changing the perspective of a lot of people in the country and highly skilled staff having many offers on the table. The industry is also extremely cut-throat. We are seeing contractors priced out because businesses are desperate to land work, and they are therefore making incredibly low bids.

All these factors must be considered in our growth and business development plans as all of them can play a key part in the clients we target. However, I am confident that as a business, with the employees we have, these are challenges which we will successfully navigate.