Gareth Davies of Coastal Housing Group
Gareth Davies, director of development at not-for-profit industrial and provident society Coastal Housing Group, shares with us his top tips for managing and growing a business...
What is it the company does?
Coastal Housing Group is a registered social landlord/housing association managing nearly 6,000 homes and tenancies across four Local Authority areas in South Wales. We also operate Pennant Homes which is a subsidiary of Coastal, and this develops homes for sale on the open market. As part of this, Coastal has become a sector leader in urban regeneration, and has led the revival of the High Street in Swansea with housing led redevelopment supported by creative industries.
What does your role involve?
As part of the senior management team at Coastal, my role involves leading the organisation internally and externally, influencing key stakeholders in our area of operation. I am also responsible for the formulation and delivery of a strategy to develop new housing in areas of identified demand as well as leading on important urban regeneration projects. These form part of wider organisational objectives which seek to sustain tenancies, communities and local economies, while ensuring that Coastal remains a viable financial business. A key part of this is working closely with our sister property development company, Pennant Homes, in building quality, affordable homes that creates sustainable communities.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I obtained a 2:1(Hons) degree in Construction Management from Salford University in Greater Manchester, and because I studied with the support of an industrial sponsor, I spent 18 months working in industry, mainly on construction sites as an engineer and a junior site manager. Following further studies I ended up securing a work opportunity at a Manchester Housing Association, and my career trajectory ever since has been involved in the delivery of new housing projects from small housing estates to large multi-faceted urban regeneration schemes. I am a Chartered Project Management Surveyor, and have worked in housing delivery for over 20 years, spending time in the London, Manchester and South East areas before moving to my spiritual home of Wales in 2006.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Great leaders are complex and multi-faceted, needing a range of skills and attributes that never stop expanding - I learn something new every day! Being clear about expectations and living a corporate vision is a key component to becoming a great leader. This can only be achieved by being able to listen authentically to the people who run the business day to day, and ensuring that you understand what motivates them as people and as a team. People do look to you to make decisions, but I think that if you can help support them to make the decisions in the right way, this creates a motivated and committed team.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Delivering new housing schemes presents challenges wherever you are, be it the planning system, local opposition or contractor disputes. I guess the challenge is knowing how to react and address any hurdles while remaining calm, even if you’re under immense pressure. Certain situations will prompt an instinctively emotional reaction and there can often be a difficulty in staying grounded and assured even if certain situations are not playing out as anticipated.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I spend time with my family, but I am also an obsessive runner, albeit the body is starting to let me down as the inevitable and inexorable advancement of the years take hold. I am a member of Bridgend Athletic Club and try to run three times a week participating in occasional races. I have now run seven marathons, countless half marathons, and have thrown in the odd half-hearted triathlon. I am not a world beater, but it keeps away the creeping stress.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Probably a footballer or a rock and roll star – neither of which I was talented enough to achieve. More seriously, I was keen to explore a career as a physiotherapist, but that avenue was closed off as soon as careers advisers get involved. I think the message is to pursue what you want in life, make a positive contribution, but try to build your own path.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I am not a fan of “that’s not my job”. I think the key is to keep instilling the vision and aims of the organisation – why we are here and that we’re all trying to achieve the same goals even though our day jobs might be different.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
In terms of what I am working on, I would really like for Coastal to have delivered more new housing and be on its way in the next phase of the regeneration of the High Street in Swansea. I am proud to work for an organisation whose focus is to try and facilitate a pathway for people to flourish, and I hope that the work we do at Coastal and Pennant in developing new homes provides opportunities for people in the communities we serve to do that.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Goodness me, that’s tough. One piece of advice that has been given to me is to always be yourself and stay grounded. I think humility and grace always go a long way, and be genuinely interested in people.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Take up yoga!