WHEN Mark Greenfield decided that it was time for a new challenge, it was unlikely that Jersey would feature in his plans.
However, when a London-based recruitment agency advised him that Style Group was advertising for a managing director for its shopfitting division, his interest was immediately piqued.
‘I’d been running my own business for the past 17 years and I wanted a new challenge, probably the final challenge before I retire,’ he explained. ‘Although I’d only been to the Island a couple of times for work, I loved the idea of discovering somewhere new and working for a company where every client was only a few minutes’ drive away from the office.
‘I also love the outside life and love trail-running, cycling, swimming and sea-related activities, all of which Jersey has to offer in abundance.’
Keen though he was to see more of Jersey, the pandemic meant that he had to wait longer than planned before travelling from his home in Fareham to the Island.
‘The vacancy came up in March 2020 when the previous managing director, Phil James, announced his intention to retire,’ Mark explained.
‘I applied for the job straight away but, because of all the travel restrictions, my first interviews took place online. It wasn’t until June that I was able to come to the Island for a face-to-face interview – and then the process took a few days because I had to isolate.’
After a further successful interview in August, Mark and his wife, Helen, moved to the Island in September.
‘Helen came with me for the August interview and we both fell in love with the Island,’ he said. ‘Our daughters have both grown up and flown the nest so it was the ideal time to make the move. It was also great that Phil continued working for the company for six months after I arrived as that gave us the opportunity to meet as many clients and team members as
possible to ensure a smooth transition.’
Having been a fixture of the Island’s construction industry for more than 40 years, Style Interiors (or Style Shopfitting as it was when Mark took up the role) is part of the Style Group, which also includes AC Mauger, Style Homes, Style Windows and Style Office.
‘I was conscious that I was joining a company with a strong heritage and I didn’t come here with the intention of making changes straight away,’ he said. ‘However, through conversations with new and potential clients, and other members of the team, it soon became apparent that the word “shopfitting” was not as widely understood in the community/industry as it would have been, say, 40 years ago.
‘Many people were categorising the business as one which only handled retail projects and therefore we were not always getting the opportunity to tender for work. As a result, we have rebranded the division as Style Interiors, a name which reflects better the broad scope of commercial, retail and leisure work we undertake.’
With a new name and a new boss at the helm, it would be easy to think that there have been widespread changes across the company but Mark stresses that this is not the case.
‘I never had any intention of coming and saying “this is what you used to do and this is what you do now”’, he said. ‘The handover with Phil was a really useful period for assessing all areas of the business and, while we have introduced some simple changes to improve efficiency, the staff have all stayed the same and have been very open to the rebrand.
‘I’m sure that they had reservations about the change in managing director but they have been tremendously welcoming and receptive to everything I’ve tried to do since joining. They’re a great team and it was their passion for their work and the company which affirmed to me that coming here was the right move.’
Mark is also keen to build a close working relationship with the managing director and team at Style Office to raise awareness of their ability to offer a one-stop-shop to existing and new clients as businesses rethink their working environments for the post-Covid era.
Having entered the industry as an apprentice carpenter and joiner, Mark is a firm believer in the benefits of such training schemes and is keen to help develop a Style skills academy.
‘One of the greatest challenges facing the industry on Jersey at the moment is a shortage of skills, both on sites and on the pricing and contracts side in the office,’ he said. ‘Since I’ve been here, I’m managed to persuade some staff from the UK to come across for specific projects but I’m really keen to develop more skills and opportunities among the local population.’
Having already started discussing his ideas with Skills Jersey, Back to Work and Highlands College, Mr Greenfield wants to raise the profile of construction careers among young people.
‘There is clearly a big emphasis on the finance industry here but I really want to show people the variety of roles and breadth of opportunity in construction,’ he explained.
‘I don’t think people always realise the true value of an apprenticeship but the skills a programme like that gives you are yours for life. No one can take those away from you. You can go anywhere in the world with those skills and you will always be able to get a job or develop those abilities to work your way up through a company or set up your own business.
‘My aim is to launch a skills academy that will give school-leavers, existing tradesmen who want to develop their abilities or people who are looking for a career change, the opportunity to benefit from in-house training and mentoring, as well as the chance to complete college courses or university degrees if they want to take on more senior positions such as Estimators, Contracts Managers or Quantity Surveyors.’
While keen to launch the academy initially for the Interiors divisions, if it is successful Mr Greenfield says it could then be rolled out to the other divisions within the group.
‘Ultimately, such a scheme would benefit the industry as a whole,’ he said. ‘While there is a skills shortage here, that is also exacerbated by the amount of construction currently taking place – and that is a situation which is likely to become more challenging as a number of the projects approved by the Fiscal Stimulus Fund get under way.’
Style Interiors is already involved with two of those initiatives – the refurbishment of a new property for Brook Jersey and the refurbishment of the cricket facility at Grainville.
The team has also recently completed work on the new Santander Work Café and is midway through a project to remodel Hawksford’s Esplanade premises in line with post-Covid thoughts for the workspace
‘The Santander project was a really testing project, as we were working under Covid restrictions. The architect and project manager were based in the UK while the designer was in Spain so were having weekly site meetings conducted over Zoom and WhatsApp to show them the progress while they were unable to travel,’ he explained. ‘We also had to obtain exemption licences to bring specialist contractors into the Island but, despite all these challenges, we completed the project on time and it’s great to see the positive response it’s had.’
While some of those challenges have eased as restrictions have been relaxed recently, plenty of obstacles remain.
‘One of the biggest challenges at the moment – apart from the shortage of skills – is the procurement of materials,’ said Mark. ‘Between Covid and Brexit, it has become harder and harder to source even the most basic of materials, and prices of many items have increased by 50% this year alone.
‘Despite that, though, it’s an exciting time to be in the industry, with lots of projects on the go and in the pipeline. I said I wanted one more challenge before retiring and with a new job, and a new home, that’s exactly what I’ve got.’
nMore information about Style Interiors is available on their Facebook and Instagram pages.