Why Artez put heart into all their projects

July 7, 2016

Construction firm Artez survived the recession and is now on track to hit £10m in revenues.  But founder Mike Banton tells Dominic Smithers his work is about much more than money

As the founder and managing director of construction and development company Artez, Mike Banton likes to do things differently. After working as a quantity surveyor for more than 10 years and helping to regenerate Manchester with Urban Splash, he decided to go it alone in the middle of one of the worst financial crisis for generations. He launched Artez in 2010 with just two staff and has since grown turnover from £380,000 in its first year to a projected figure of £10m in 2016. Along the way, it has won several high profile contracts, including the renovation of Stubbs Mill, in New Islington, and The Bund, MediaCityUK. It is a far cry from the company’s formative months of working out of Banton’s spare bedroom.

This has left the boss and his team in the enviable position of now having to turn down work, which he says he chooses to do to stay local and not to expand too much so he can keep the company’s standards high.

“We don’t want to be big. We don’t want to be the biggest. We are happy for people to know that we are arguably a little more expensive, but we’re very consistent and we are very honest.

“We really care about what we do and we’re up for a challenge.

“We have the depth of experience in our team because we’ve all done big projects in the past, and are now applying that knowledge and experience to small and medium sized projects, so the skill set that we have is what sets us apart?

“Also, we are passionately regional, we have stopped working in London which means that our senior team are involved in every project.

“Bolton-headquartered Artez delivers high quality new build, renovation and refurbishment projects across thecountry.It has two stand-alone divisions concentrating in commercial property fit out (Artez Interiors) and new build residential housing construction (ArtezLiving).

And where some companies may have shied away from taking the risk to diversify, choosing instead to consolidate and protect what they had, to make it through the worst, Bantonwas instead spurred on by the difficulty to create something for himself.

“When the crash hit in 2008, I had a pretty tough time with Urban Splash where we made a lot of people redundant and the business shrank,” he said.

“At which point I began looking at whether there was something I could do myself, with my own business and after a year of having a foot in two camps, I set up Artez in November2010.”

But with the country in turmoil and many in his position just trying to keep their head above water, what was his motivation for taking such a risk?

“Being in control. I wasn’t the boss at Splash, I was far from it.

“I hated that lack of control, I was always confident in my own ability and confident that I was good at what I did and I’d spent years making money and delivering projects for other people.

“I just wanted to be in control and I was quite happy to do small projects again rather than just doing big, complicated projects. I was happy to go back to my roots, really.

“This newfound control allowed him to not only go back to basics in the type of contracts he took, but also the people he worked with.

Around 90% of his current staff are former colleagues and it is this, he insists, which makes Artez stand out from the crowd.

“I always try to employ people I know and trust and I am lucky that in my 18 years working for other people I have worked with a lot of people, good and bad, and I have cherry-picked the very best of all those.”

“I’m very pleased to say that all of my staff have personality and I like to think they are all a bit different. And we differentiate ourselves from other contractors because of our people and our approach.”

Yet despite holding much stock in tried and tested expertise, Mike is not one to ignore new emerging talent in the industry and his forward thinking approach has led to him to look to the next generation to help push Artez even further.

And ironically for someone who is by his own admission ‘not the most academic’, Mike has been asked by the University of Bolton to give lectures to its undergraduates, something which has allowed him to share his knowledge but also keep one eye on the future of the industry.

“It’s really interesting, giving a bit back in a very practical sense to students and to tell them the story about Artez and they find it very inspiring as somebody who’s had a goat starting up on their own. And just giving them some of my knowledge about what’s made us successful makes me feel good.

“We’ve spoken with the university about creating some sort of graduate programme, where we can offer some work experience and also, hopefully, hand pick a few students that need work when they come out. It just feels like the right thing to do. I’m a big fan of construction, there are a lot of people who are quite negative about it, especially those who have been through the recession. But I flourished in a recession, I suppose, and I built business from nothing, so I can’t discourage anybody from the industry, I think it’s great. And as someone who was not particularly passionate about construction I am now probably the most passionate.”