SANDY Adam is probably the only chief executive of a listed company in the UK who has been with the business since before his legs could touch the ground when sitting on a chair.

“I’d go to meetings and sit with my legs swinging in the air while my dad was doing the negotiations,” he says of his introduction to the family firm.

Back then, the Elgin-based company which became housing developer Springfield Properties operated a

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market garden.

Mr Adam laughs when asked what his grandfather, who founded the business in 1956, would think of it becoming listed on the stock market – Springfield Properties was valued at £90 million when it floated in September.

“He’d be very interested in everything that’s going on,” he says. “He was the real entrepreneur in the family.”

By the late 1970s Mr Adam and his brother were third-generation directors, at which time the market garden retained just 10 acres, all of which had been zoned for housing.

Having failed to sell the land to a developer, Mr Adam – who had sold plots of land on his farm for housing – was backed by the family to turn the company into a housebuilding business.

“I took over the company in 1989 and developed that market garden land into about 100 houses,” he says. “That seemed to go well, it was profitable, I enjoyed it, so we bought more land and just kept the business going.”

The next development was 130 plots on a site in Forres, and from there the company did not look back.

By the mid-2000s Springfield was turning over about £20m, but Mr Adam sensed something was not right in the market. “In 2006 we could see that there was a bubble in the housing market and we took steps to protect our business,” he says. “We sold a third of our landbank, we got into affordable housing when no one else wanted to do it. We stopped building on spec and stopped buying expensive land. We ran the company very much for cash, very conservatively.”

The moves protected the company from the property market crash of 2007 and 2008, leaving it in a strong position, with no bank lending, and a contract for a 438 house development in Morayshire, which meant all staff could be retained.

“We just thought we were protecting our business, but what it did was give us a huge opportunity to move down into Central Scotland where there were a lot of half built blocks of flats boarded up,” he says. “Developments had gone into liquidation and we were able to buy some of them and get started in Central Scotland.

“In good times everyone is doing well, but in tough times, that’s when you get the opportunity to expand your business. So it was in the mid 2000s that we started to scale up in a big way.”

In 2011 the company cemented its place in Central Scotland when it acquired the Scottish business of listed builder Redrow.

Mr Adam tells of how he read in a newspaper that the company wanted to pull out of Scotland, with an offer of £50m likely to seal the deal.

Turning over £30m at the time, the price was too high, but Mr Adam wrote to Steve Morgan, chairman of Redrow, saying he’d pay whatever the company wanted but would pay in increments every time it sold a house. “Much to my surprise he phoned me and said ‘we’ve got a deal. Within six weeks I want to report to the City that we’ve pulled out of Scotland’.”

This allowed the company to continue its growth trajectory, pushing past the £100m mark in the year ending March 2017.

“There are more people, that’s a thing you notice,” says Mr Adam when asked what has changed as the company has grown. “We had to expand our car park in Larbert about four months ago and the car park extension is now full so it’s just a sign that if you want to expand they first thing you have to do is take on more people.”

With the IPO, the company is well-funded to continue its growth, and that will come through the development of a series of villages across Scotland, a concept being led by local authorities, but which has faced huge challenges relating to complexities of land ownership and infrastructure works.

“For a housebuilder it’s a very exciting prospect to create a whole new village – it’s an awesome responsibility,” says Mr Adam. “We have to get everything right from the start when you’re doing the plans. What does the village need in terms of community facilities? Does it need a primary school? A secondary school? And various shops, commercial and industrial buildings and so on. We’ve worked with local authorities in these local areas to identify what is needed and what is commercially viable.”

The five villages, in Dundee, Edinburgh, Perth, Elgin and Stirling, are at various stages – from planning to first completions. It is estimated they will each contain about 3,000 homes.

Mr Adam is typically direct when asked when they will be finished.

“When was Edinburgh or Glasgow finished? Towns and villages keep growing, there isn’t an end date on it.”

He adds: “If we do it well the chances are that the local authority will like it and they will zone more land on the edges of them and they will keep growing the way that all towns and villages grow.”

Last year the company completed 650 houses and there is a short-term target to pass 1,000 annually. And with a land bank securing a 17 year pipeline, that target looks eminently achievable.

It is a number which he never envisaged when converting the site of the market garden, but from operating one development to running a listed building, Mr Adam says the scale may be different but the basics remain the same.

“To have a successful business you have to look after your customers and staff and that’s still our top priority and our focus,” he says. “I keep telling everyone, it’s not Springfield that pays their wages it’s the customer, so the best way to run a business is look after the customer.”