Meet the MD: Richard Bass, regional MD of Keepmoat

Meet the MD: Richard Bass, regional MD of Keepmoat

After starting his career as a trainee and working his way up the construction industry, Richard Bass is now the managing director of the North East homes division of Keepmoat. He talked to BQ about his career so far and what he believes makes a great leader...

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

I head up the Homes division in the North East, ensuring we deliver our numbers within the region for the wider group, as well as managing the team. Housebuilding is fairly unique as we not only manufacture, we also sell to the end user, so it’s a wide ranging role that encompasses managing the purchase of sites, to selling houses and dealing with staff and customers.  Keepmoat is also unique in that the majority of our land is purchased and developed in partnership with local councils and so ongoing engagement with our partners plays a key part in my role.


What is it the company does?

Keepmoat designs, builds, refurbishes and regenerates places to improve economic and social outcomes for people across Great Britain.  We specialise in new build homes, community regeneration, retirement solutions and energy efficient technology.  On the homes side of the business, our core product is centred on affordable quality.  We build and sell new homes predominantly to the first time buyer, and more than 70% of our purchasers are under the age of 35.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I started my working life as a trainee Quantity Surveyor at Leech Homes in 1989, moving on to then Haslam Homes (now Keepmoat) in 1995 also as a Quantity Surveyor. This was when the new North East region had recently launched and so it was a really good opportunity to be involved in everything; as I was one of only four employees at that time. I took on the role of Land and Partnerships Director before becoming Regional Managing Director in May 2007.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

Honesty and encouragement are vital and that’s always been something that I’ve valued from my leaders.

I think when it comes to construction, a great leader not only has a responsibility to deliver for the staff and customers; but nourishing young talent.  For a number of years we have been facing a well-documented skills shortage and as somebody who has climbed through the ranks in the field and started as a trainee, I’ve seen first-hand how looking after trainees, apprentices and graduates (TAGs as we call them) is paramount.  Our TAGs make up 9% of our workforce – which is higher than the industry standard – and we are committed to growing this by another 20%.  If they can see how hard work and dedication pays off, we can hopefully support them to become the next leaders of their generation.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

My first and biggest challenge was not long after taking over in May 2007; when the financial meltdown followed the collapse of Northern Rock in the September of that year.  This resulted in us having to shrink the business to suit the market and like most companies, resulted in us losing some very good staff.  This was a really tough time but we’ve definitely grown stronger for it; and this year we have broken the 500 homes sold barrier which is our highest yet – even pre-recession.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I try not to get stressed as it isn’t productive.  As the MD, it’s my job to listen to employees concerns or stresses and try to put them at ease and find solutions.  In my free time I wind down by finding time to get out and ride my bike. 


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Anything where I could take things apart and rebuild them!  I also had a major fascination with cars and motor sport.  I would have loved to have been a professional racing driver.


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

I think we’re in a world where it’s commonplace to send emails left, right and centre.  I think it’s much more efficient to pick up the phone and this bodes well for building relationships.


Where do you see the company in five years time?

Given the pressure from government to provide more housing, the key for Keepmoat is to build on this agenda and continue working with our partners in local authorities, housing associations and the HCA to deliver new quality homes across the region.  Our company is on an aggressive growth plan which centres on those partnerships and also looks at the types of housing that is needed across the country.  While we absolutely need more homes for first time buyers, we also want to look at more mixed tenure schemes and provide housing for older people or those with special needs.  Central to all of this of course, is our commitment to delivering work and training opportunities for both our staff and new entrants into the sector which is key to our growth as a business.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Do something that you feel passionate about and treat people the way you would want to be treated.   Somebody once told me remember the people you pass on the way up and you might well pass them on the way back down one day.