Covid-19 pandemic brings unexpected start for new Managing Director Claire Jarvis
Taking charge of Redrow Homes’ Lancashire business during unprecedented times meant an unexpected start for new managing director Claire Jarvis.
Claire switched from her role as group sales director to head up the Chorley-based new homes business just as the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the whole of the UK went into lockdown.
And, if that wasn’t enough, she and her husband John both fell ill with suspected Coronavirus early in the pandemic.
Now fully recovered and easing one of 14 regional Redrow operations in England and Wales back towards full production, Claire talks about some of the challenges of running a housebuilder operation during a major public health crisis.
“The most important factor, of course, was keeping customers and colleagues safe,” Claire says.
“After that, one of the biggest challenges was staying connected with colleagues and the team, especially as we had some staff furloughed, others working from home and some still operating in the field. Our Lancashire operation is well known for its ‘family’ feel and so keeping everyone connected and maintaining spirits was very important to me. Like most companies we’ve had to rethink our communications and have embraced Zoom video conferences, WhatsApp chat groups and daily catch-ups of the virtual kind.”
With construction sites and sales centres closed for several weeks - and little advance warning or time to prepare - Claire’s sales background and appreciation of customer service was particularly important in making sure that customers were kept up to date about their purchase and/or their property.
She’s since had to oversee the phased return of building work at 14 live sites in Lancashire and parts of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, with strict new Covid-19 social distancing protocols in place; and manage not only our adoption of those new measures but ensure that sub-contractors and suppliers are all on board too.
“We’ve now got a Covid-19 supervisor on every site, enhanced signage and PPE, robust social distancing protocols, an e-learning module for all employees and special induction videos for contractors,” Claire explains. “We’re gradually building up the site presence at all locations as sub-contractors un-furlough their own staff and return to work. We’re also having to re-establish our build programmes and revise timeframes to reflect the impact of changes made on site and communicate that information to customers.
“Our sales centres and show homes have also now reopened, again with strict new social distancing protocols in place. To date we’ve been pleased with the levels of interest being shown but it is still early days. It’s certainly been a very interesting time to take charge!”
Claire, 42, first joined us in 2012 as sales and marketing director for our Lancashire division. In 2019 she was appointed to the newly created role of group sales director, taking responsibility for our nationwide sales policies and procedures.
During this period, Claire played a key role in the team that spearheaded the introduction of our industry-leading online reservation tool. She also helped develop and roll out the ‘Readymade’ brand; was instrumental in implementing a programme of national site-based events; and helped to standardise (and develop a group understanding of) regional variances in style and practice.
Now, as managing director of our Lancashire division, she is one of only a handful of female housing chiefs in the UK’s private housing sector. She has taken over from Steve Greenhalgh, who retired after 32 years with the business – the last eight as managing director.
Claire hopes her appointment will inspire and encourage more women into the construction industry.
She said: “We’re now seeing more women coming into trade apprenticeships, into site management and other roles perhaps previously perceived as male-dominated. This will no doubt lead to many more women in senior roles within the construction industry and certainly more female MDs. Likewise, we are seeing previously female-dominated roles such as sales consultants being taken by a much more even split of men and women.”
Claire is also part of our mentoring programme for women. The programme aims to provide inspiration and support to the next generation of aspiring women leaders within the business, and the wider housebuilding sector, by identifying female role models across all levels and providing one-to-one mentoring.
Prior to joining us, Claire also held the role of sales and marketing director at another national housebuilder and held senior roles at estate agents Hamptons International and Knight Frank.