We recently sat down with our Operations Director, Kirk Schartau, and wanted to share with you some of the highlights from our interview.
Tell us a little about your journey before joining Concertus
I’ve worked in engineering and the construction industry throughout my whole career. Leaving school at 16, I started in an engineering role in the FMCG industry as a multi-discipline craft apprentice. During my time here I worked with control and instrumentation, electrical and mechanical services, and refrigeration systems. My apprenticeship gave me a solid grounding in complex engineering systems, troubleshooting, and diagnostic techniques. I used this knowledge and experience to progress my career and moved into technical design and management roles. These roles presented an obvious overlap in the world of construction and the built environment and allowed me to move into contracting, and ultimately into design and property consultancy.
Since starting out as a Junior Consulting Engineer, I have worked hard to reach Board Director level and have been lucky enough to work on some world-leading construction regeneration projects.
I’ve chalked up now over 30 years in the industry and feel fortunate to have been involved in both contracting and consultancy which has given me a great blend of technical knowledge and practical experience for a deeper understanding of how buildings come to life. From land and development assessments through to detailed design and construction, post-occupancy evaluation and ongoing property management.
I’m also incredibly proud to have been regional chairman for the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineering (CIBSE), where I worked on the committee for almost a decade. I’ve also previously chaired the Suffolk Joint Construction Committee (SJCC) representing CIBSE.
How has your time been with the company and what does a day-to-day now look like for you in your new role?
I’ve now been at Concertus for three years and it’s flown by! I initially joined Concertus as an Associate Director leading our Building Services teams. Since then, I’ve been heavily involved with our new joint venture with Derbyshire County Council and leading our fantastic professional services teams in the East Midlands region. I now have responsibility for our professional services teams across both of our offices and national regions.
It has been an exciting and challenging journey. In the three years that I have been here, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the business, which has meant a large increase in the volume of projects, professional fee revenue, and team members we have in the business. The success of Concertus is down to the incredible hard work from everyone within the business. We have fantastic individuals, who in turn make up extremely talented teams. There is a strong sense of comradery between everyone here and you can sense everybody pulling in the same direction. Concertus isn’t like anywhere that I’ve worked before, it is a great place to work and for people to develop their skills and knowledge. I’m excited to be part of the future of the business and the direction the business is taking by working closer with Vertas and Opus People Solutions.
In terms of my day-to-day, it’s cliché but every day is different. I spend my time collectively and individually working with our entire professional service teams. We can be working on how we improve the services we are providing for our clients and how we can aspire for excellence in all our services. I work regularly with the business teams to improve quality management systems and I find myself spending significant time working on training and development, business planning and strategy, and working closely with our finance team.
I want to ensure our staff are always working with the most up-to-date technology and class-leading design tools so we can provide our clients with the exceptional service standards they have come to expect from us. It’s wonderful to see the business recently achieve ISO 19650 accreditation and this is testament to our continuous improvement ethos and a real credit to our teams. Ultimately, my day-to-day is looking at all the ways we can help grow the business and assist with the next step on our journey.
What has motivated you to this point and what motivates you now?
The motivation has never really changed over the years. I have always been motivated by doing a fantastic job for our clients and being the very best we can be as individuals and as a team. There has been a lot of hard work by hundreds of staff that have seen us get to where we are today. When I hear that Concertus are recognised by many industry peers as a great business it motivates me to want to take the business that next step further.
There is nothing more gratifying than bringing our clients’ visions to life. Seeing the hard work including brainstorming sessions turning into sketches, into drawings, and then into a building and all the incredible hard work that goes on in between, is very rewarding. What we are doing here is creating lasting legacies for communities and improving the infrastructure of entire towns and cities. There is nothing more rewarding than designing an education setting, knowing that the built environment is going to be used for teaching our children and starting them off in life on the right track. Especially now, where we are encouraged and able to build sustainably and have a positive impact on our carbon emissions, we can truly create environments we can be proud of for years to come.
I’m also an advocate for the construction industry as a whole. I want my story to motivate others to be a part of the industry and I want to act as a mentor for younger members of our team and help them grow within the business. I also want to make the sector more attractive and appealing to young people, so working somewhere like Concertus where apprenticeships are such a big deal and encouraged is great. We currently have 12 members of staff on apprenticeships, but I would love that number to increase.
How does your role tie in with the closer working relationship Concertus now has with Vertas and Opus People Solutions?
As part of my role, I sit on the group senior leadership team that works closely with the leaders from Vertas and Opus. We’ve already created a great forum for how we are going to move forward as a group. I want to ensure we are working collaboratively and sharing best practices so our entire team can do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and so we can in turn improve the services with current and future clients. As a group, we are keen to harmonise our approach with business processes and where possible make sure that the procedures we all have in place drive efficiency into the group. It’s an exciting time to be part of Concertus. Now that we have that closer working relationship with our sister companies, it allows the group to be presented with opportunities that can be looked at that weren’t necessarily there when we were working in isolation.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that you will have to face in achieving business goals?
Prevailing economic conditions make business planning challenging and we see real uncertainty in the global and national economy that affects fuel prices, cost of living, construction material cost and supply availability, and the impact of the cost of the pandemic – all these factors play a part in making trading difficult.
It’s also no secret that the recruitment market is extremely difficult right now – it’s a candidate market. We need to work hard on continuing to make Concertus a great place to work and to encourage our staff to grow and develop within the business, instead of looking elsewhere. We need to make sure that our trusted suppliers are well looked after so we can continue to deliver the projects we have been trusted with. There is also a skill shortage within the industry, one of the main reasons for this is an ageing workforce. This is, as mentioned earlier, why apprenticeships are so important and why we need to be doing all we can to make our industry as enticing as we can.
But I have no doubts, that these are all issues we will overcome. We have an extremely efficient and dedicated team and we have systems in place that are already great but also improving. This will ensure we continue to deliver exceptional results for our clients.
From an operational perspective where do you see the big wins for Concertus over the next 12-24 months?
I’ve been extremely lucky to work so closely with Derbyshire County Council since our joint venture was announced in 2020. Since then, it is a relationship that has gone from strength to strength, and I see further improvement over the next two years. The organic growth in the East Midlands is going to help us no end. We’ve delivered some brilliant projects in the region already – Highfields, Alfreton Park, and Kilburn. We’re also seeing great progress at Harrington and Glossopdale. These projects are only going to help boost our already growing reputation.
I also see us taking great strides towards becoming Net Zero. We will be tackling scope one and two carbon emissions. We want to be continually investing in best practices and industry-leading design tools. We’ll also be working with the group and delivering best practices that will drive up efficiency not just for Concertus, but for Vertas and Opus too.
Concertus, along with the rest of the Vertas Group, are committed to being Net Zero by 2030 – how are we going to reach that target?
As a business, we have already invested significant time and resource into developing our strategy to become Net Zero by 2030 – it’s something we are very passionate about as a business, and a group. For me, it’s incredibly rewarding to have already been accredited with Bronze status in the Suffolk Carbon Charter. We have clear reduction targets and planned actions in place and we’re always monitoring our progress. We have Silver and Gold in our sights.
Our design solutions also reflect our carbon reduction aspirations. We are currently delivering multiple Passivhaus certified care homes including Steppingley Road (the largest registered Passivhaus care provision in the UK). Our team recommend environmentally friendly and sustainable materials to our clients, and we continuously develop policies and procedures to adhere to what aids our environmental awareness and contribution to reducing our impact on the environment. We’re also extremely proud of our ISO 14001 accreditation and are working towards ISO 50001 accreditation later this year.
We want to make renewable energy a much bigger part of what we do here and have recently announced our electric car policy for our staff members. There is still much to do but we are very much on the right path.
How would you measure the success of your team and the wider business?
I think the engagement we have with our clients and our contractors is vital – we need to be gaining as much feedback as possible at every stage of work so we can continue to improve our services and our procedures. This will allow us to improve our service offering to our existing clients, and new ones too. We need to continually be assessing where we are in terms of costs and making sure we are delivering these fantastic projects on time and within budget. The success of Concertus is in the quality of the built environment for our end users, the post-occupancy reviews which we conduct following completion, and in our measurable building performance scores. It is also in being successful in delivering our energy reduction promises.