SCOTLAND’S construction sector is forecast to have the highest growth rate of any industry this year at 3% GVA, according to research from the EY Item Club. However, the industry faces a skills shortage and has stereotypes of unreliable tradesmen. Iain Martin set up Revere Contracts last year to tackle these issues and change the face of Scottish construction.

Name: Iain Martin

Age: 29

Position: Managing director

WHAT’S YOUR BUSINESS CALLED?

Revere Contracts

WHERE IS IT BASED?

Edinburgh

WHY DID YOU SET UP THE BUSINESS?

I WAS previously working with another contractor which had lots of problems. I realised this could be a profitable business if it is done right. I wrote down every mistake my employer was making and set up the business. I got my mum involved – she worked for the NHS and the army so I spoke to her about finances. I headhunted tradesmen and messaged architects and surveyors. I managed to get some on board.

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I’m an engineer to trade and worked at nightclubs while I was at university. The nightclubs are very customer focused – if you’re running a weekly club night you need repeat custom and that’s one of the focuses of the business.

Feedback from customers was really good. We do weekly reports and photo reports give a visual update for the customer. Communication is a big part of it.

WHAT IS YOUR TARGET MARKET?

WHEN I started out I thought I’d go directly for architects and quantity surveyors – I thought I would get repeat custom that way. I wanted the unique selling point to be professional services. We work

for a couple of wealthy developers who use us all the time and give us so much business. We’re moving more towards commercial [projects] now.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM COMPETING BUSINESSES?

THERE are very few people out there with a good story to tell as so much goes wrong but it’s how you deal with it that matters. We have a project manager and that means it is much more customer focused – they know when it will happen and how much it will cost.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT RUNNING THE BUSINESS?

I LOVE it, I absolutely love my job. When you produce something of such high quality it is good for the team and myself. It is good when people see the final product and it is good to see how pleased the customer is that you delivered what you promised.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN RUNNING THE BUSINESS?

STAFF. There’s such a skills shortage in Scotland and tradesmen are often questionable. It is almost constant recruitment for us. A lot of them don’t even have CVs and can’t prove their education and past employment. I headhunted a lot of the staff and I pay more than lots of other contractors would pay, so they are often happy to come on board. We also have seven apprentices, including a 16-year-old electrician and a man in his 40s – these guys are keen to learn. We have 47 staff in total so it’s a big operation. About 40 of them are tradesmen.

IS SCOTLAND A GOOD PLACE TO RUN A CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS?

DEFINITELY. It’s easy to see that – everywhere you look there’s a crane and new houses are being built all over the place because of tax breaks. There have never been more extensions to people’s homes or commercial property being built. There’s lots of overseas investment in Scotland and more and more businesses are moving here. Edinburgh especially is absolutely thriving. All it takes is to get planning permission from the council.

WHERE DO YOU HOPE THE BUSINESS WILL BE IN 10 YEARS’ TIME?

I WOULD like the business to grow further in terms of our own developments. I’ve always wanted to do affordable housing – to help Social Bite [a homelessness social enterprise] with its affordable homes villages which will have a big impact on the community. In 10 years we would definitely increase staff – we are looking at employing more at the moment until we reach adequate numbers. We still use a lot of contractors but would rather keep it in house and having more staff will make that happen. It’s about doing business honestly with integrity as there’s not enough professional people in this industry.