Looking after SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) has been cited as one of the ways our country can tackle its national shortage of new homes. Here, we speak to Henry Fordham about the boutique housebuilding company his father founded a few years ago, Bellis Homes, and his love of the industry.
Please tell us who you are and a bit about your current role?
I am Henry Fordham. I graduated in politics and economics at Oxford Brookes. I jointly set up Bellis Homes, which took over the main residential vehicle for the St James Business Group.
Since the company started in 2013, we have had over £90m of property being built and for sale. The group focuses on residential property, including individual houses in prestigious locations such as Hampstead, London for £16m and village houses ranging from £250,000 to £6m in the Home Counties.
I currently help run the acquisitions and the management of the diverse projects that Bellis Homes is currently involved in, whilst my core focus is to expand the brand.
What was your first role in the housebuilding industry and how did you get it?
My first role in the housebuilding industry was a refurbishment for one two-bedroom house locally. I borrowed £160,000 from Lloyds and turned into a three-bedroom house and upgraded for £40,000. This project made a profit of £75,000 in six months. It was a very challenging start as my first role but it definitely taught me a great deal and quickly!
How have experience, study and good/bad fortune influenced what you’ve done since then?
Good and bad fortune has been everything. I have learnt that timing is key and you definitely learn from the bad, and savour the good! Each project brings up something new and a lesson to be learnt which helps prepare for the next project.
Has there been a mentor who has been especially helpful to you?
I would say my father would be my biggest mentor: he has tons of experience in this industry and I learn a lot from him day-to-day working together. After all, he is the reason why I’m in the industry.
Is there one particular time/project/achievement that you look back on with most pleasure – and what makes it a favourite?
I love the diversity of our schemes, even if there have been some difficult times in most of them. However, the biggest achievement is knowing that the Bellis Homes brand is starting to be talked about in the property industry – it makes all of our hard work and determination completely worth it.
Are there changes in the new homes industry that you believe are especially positive to those entering it today?
There are expansive financiers available today, with supply being greater than I have ever known it. If you have a good scheme, you are likely to find the money, which is exactly what you want to be happening in this type of industry!
What are the qualities you look for in new employees?
I look for a few key qualities in any new employee, being driven is top of my list and to have positive attitude towards the role.
What is it about housebuilding that still brings job satisfaction to you?
Seeing a scheme start from nothing, to something that people can enjoy the day they move in, is still a feeling that hasn’t changed for me!
What would you advise anyone considering a career in housebuilding?
I can think of worse industries to join, so I would definitely recommend it. It is an extremely satisfying and rewarding industry to be a part of!