Gordon Cairns is the very hands-on MD of this commercial interior contractor. After more than 20 years in business, he says to trust your gut – and tidy your kitchen!
What is it the company does?
Celebrating our 23rd anniversary this year, we have grown into one of the UK’s leading principal contractors, specialising in the fit-out, design and refurbishment of commercial interiors. Working with our first-rate supply chain partners, we provide a complete service to private and public sector organisations primarily across Scotland but also in England for existing clients.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I am involved across all facets of the business, including business development, bid preparation and tender review to ensure we have returned the best possible commercial and qualitive document as possible. I keep in contact with many of our customers during and after their project has been delivered as well as the working closely with our other department heads in finance and operations. I also try to visit all of our 15 live sites at least once a month. Finally, I implement the strategy for the company, considering development and short and long-term growth opportunities.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I graduated in Building Surveying from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1994 and was lucky enough to secure a graduate position with Jones Lang LaSalle, where I worked for three years, which included securing my professional chartered surveyor status. I have been with GHI for over 20 years and MD since 2004.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Being a good communicator, allowing staff the opportunity to take responsibility and listening to others are vital. Not being afraid to make a bold decision is also important and others looking to you when it really matters.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Prior to the recession in 2008/09 we had been on a very successful growth path however we really felt the impact of a slowdown in business. Unfortunately this led to us having to make a number of good people redundant, and having to deliver that message was one I did not enjoy.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It is very difficult to switch off in such a fast moving sector. I think the old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved is quite accurate, so talking to colleagues, friends or family gives a different perspective of any difficult situation. Away from work, time with the family, a game of golf and socialising with friends also helps.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought very carefully about joining the police for along a time however both my father and elder brother were involved in the construction sector and this ultimately won me over.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
An untidy kitchen area – my OCD kicks in!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I would like us to continue our growth as a leading contractor with consideration towards further expansion beyond our current boundaries.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Take advice from people you trust but at the same time follow your gut instinct as you will be right more times than you are wrong. When you are wrong learn your lesson and move on.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
To be honest I have had good mentors throughout my career and never been slow in asking for advice however if there is one thing, it is don’t be afraid to learn from others, no matter who / what / where they are.
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