Inside the Ambition: Emmerson Critchley on growing his business to minimise risk

Published · 4 min read

Inside the Ambition is a series that tells the stories of business owners, going from how and why they started their businesses to where they are now. I spoke to Emmerson Marshall-Critchley, the founder of specialist, traditional building firm Emmerson Critchley Ltd.

Emmerson was one of the Sage Ambition competition finalists, which had a prize of a business advice meeting with entrepreneur and Sage Ambition Ambassador Peter Jones. Here, he talks about how he is growing his business and the steps he’s taken to minimise risk, plus he reveals the inspiration behind his venture into menswear and retail.

You can listen to a podcast of the interview or read about what he had to say below.

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Tell us about yourself and your company

Well, it all started with me at a young age really. I kind of fell into construction and didn’t expect to really get on with it but it just started to grow with me.

Over a period of time, I realised I’d spent many years in the construction industry and actually, it was where I was starting to develop in more ways than one.

By luck, I fell into the construction industry but after a while, it kind of grew and grew and grew with me.

And what is the ambition that drives you to do what you do?

Well that’s a good question because the ambition that drives me has changed over the years. Initially, it was more to have money. But then I went through a phase where I had children and then it was more about providing for my children and having something that I could pass on to them, like a legacy.

More so now, it’s about creating the bigger picture. I want to make construction different so my ambition is a mixture of many things really. It kinds of leaves that question, or the answer, open a bit from my point.

Tell me about the transition from construction to scaffolding. Why that shift?

Well that was quite an easy one for me because I was quite reliant on different trades. And the thing with different trades, because I’m so reliant on them, if they don’t turn up on a day, it has a knock-on effect on any of my other projects that I have going on.

A big part of what I’m trying to do with my company is to minimalise on risk and with scaffolding, that was one of them. So outsourcing scaffolding was a risk, so I purchased lots and lots of scaffolding and developed my own team.

We do other items within the company that we now don’t have to outsource, that we actually do in house, which makes us better equipped to cater for every eventuality but also make sure our projects run to plan.

Emmerson (left) has grown his team and his business to minimise risk
Emmerson (left) has grown his team and his business to minimise risk

And tell me a little bit about your passion for menswear. That’s quite a shift, from construction to scaffolding to menswear.

Yeah, that’s right, it is. The whole situation was by luck. I’ve always loved clothes. I’ve always loved dressing nice. I met a dear friend of mine in the industry and he, I’d turn up to shop. I just love the whole feeling around it.

From my point of view, most of my friends, they go into a shop, they see a top, they grab it and pay and they walk out.

But my friend Tom, he dressed me. And it was a lot easier him choosing clothes for me and I fell in love with them. I loved the whole image around it.

It was only recently where he came to me with this idea. He wanted to do something himself and I could see an opportunity. So I jumped on the bandwagon really.

Me and Tom have been working closely together. We’ve already developed some clothes and he’s doing an amazing job. I know it’s a bit of a change but it’s always been a passion of mine anyway.

Who is a hero of yours and why are they a hero?

It’s a bit like the first question you asked me. I’ve gone through different role models.

The one who stands out for me is my Uncle Dominic. He’s always been a gentleman but he’s always been a businessman. And I have learned a lot from him over the years.

Some of my most valuable lessons, I’ve had to learn the hard way and when I’ve spoken to him about these things, he’s guided me in the right way.

The smallest of things when going into business with a friend, many, many years ago, my Uncle Dominic said: “You need to do it this way, you need to have everything signed, sealed, delivered, everyone needs to know what’s going on” – and that was the best bit of advice I could have got.

I’ve always looked upon him in times where I feel I’ve been struggling or more so just seeing how he deals in situations. How he holds open doors for people. He’s just a very honest and loving guy, and is someone I’ve always looked up to.

Anyone who can act that way and be that way and is an honest person can be a good role model for anyone.

Ambition In Action

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