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Industry veteran retires

This month Ridge says goodbye to long-standing Senior Partner Phil Jones, who is retiring. A real industry veteran, Phil joined Ridge as graduate quantity surveyor back in 1978. Having led Ridge for some 17 years, Phil has overseen the company’s growth from a thriving provincial firm into today’s dynamic national practice that punches well above its weight, competing with the nation’s largest and best consultants to deliver a full suite of leading-edge services across the construction and property lifecycle. With a good deal of this achieved while steering Ridge successfully through the last recession – arguably the severest the industry has faced – Phil’s story is an inspiration for business leaders through to young people entering the industry.

When Phil started his career, Ridge employed just 30 people and had an annual turnover of around £750,000. The practice was based in Oxford and had recently opened a Reading satellite. Phil says: “I worked in the Reading office, which was in a Greyfriars Road basement long since demolished – thankfully! Straight away, though, I saw the opportunity to grow this business. That has endured and it’s why I’ve stayed so long.”

Indeed, by the time Phil became senior partner in 1998 Ridge had already grown exponentially to over 100 people with turnover of £7M. Phil’s CV now boasted blue chip clients such as Vodafone and landmark schemes like the Thames Water headquarters buildings in Reading, as well as international assignments to Greece, Malta and Uganda, among others. (And the Reading team no longer lurked in a dank basement.)

Under Phil’s stewardship, Ridge has expanded even further into a national network of nine offices, 15 disciplines, 435 staff members and turnover (for 2014) of more than £35M. This outstanding success is based on firm foundations of organic growth combined with strategic acquisitions. Phil says: “Because we really do meet and exceed clients’ expectations time after time, over 80% of our work is repeat business.” Meanwhile, Ridge has continued to expand its geographical reach as well its range of disciplines through well-judged and managed acquisitions, including five deals in the past ten years alone. The result is a business that is extremely well-positioned for the current economic recovery.

But having been through multiple recessions, Phil says that the property and construction sector will continue to face challenges. “As often happens during economic recovery, the costs of manpower and materials are going up and construction capacity is becoming stretched. So the challenge now for Ridge is to manage costs and educate clients about the present market conditions.”

Notwithstanding these challenges, Phil leaves having set the business on track to hit targets for further growth. He hands the reins over to new senior partner Adrian O’Hickey, whose goal is to achieve 12% growth in turnover, to £40M for 2015. In addition, while the practice has long worked abroad, this year Ridge launched its first overseas office, in Shanghai, China. Phil says: “I am leaving the business in really good shape and in excellent, dependable hands.” Like Phil, Adrian has spent his entire career at Ridge and the two have worked together closely throughout Adrian’s 29 years with the practice. This gives our clients confidence in the continuity of the management of Ridge and a smooth handover process.

Phil will retain a connection to Ridge. He says: “I will continue to watch the practice with interest.” In addition, Phil will spend some of his newly acquired free time at the quarterly lunch for Ridge retired board members. He says: “I’m looking forward to finally being admitted to this legendary lunch club!” His other retirement plans include spending more time in Cornwall, where he has a house designed by his son David and project managed by his wife Corinne. Phil, who has also built a house in Oxfordshire among other private projects, says: “There may be more development projects in the future.” Well, you can take the man out of property and construction…

A built environment professional through and through, then, looking back on Phil’s career shows the opportunities that Ridge can offer. It is also testament to how far a young graduate in the property and construction sector can rise: Phil was made an equity partner aged just 29 in 1985 and thirteen years later he rose to senior partner. He says: “When I joined Ridge you knew every staff member’s name and there was a real family atmosphere. These days the business is too big to know everyone’s name but I’m pleased to say that the ethos is the same. We remain a less corporate and more caring business. I’m really looking forward to watching how Ridge develops in the future.”



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