30 March 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Dez Walker is a founding partner of Walker Sime, established in 1999 with business partner Jon Sime. The two met on Bondi beach in Sydney, hit it off and decided to start a business focused on delivering exceptional QS and Project Management services for the Greater Manchester construction sector. Walker Sime now employs 96 people in 3 locations (Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds) and provides specialist services for the construction industry including quantity surveying, project management, employer’s agent, commercial consultancy and bills of quantities.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was born in Hulme, Manchester on a council estate. I am from a broken home and my mum worked in a sausage factory to make ends meet and feed the family. I qualified with a BSc Hons in Quantity Surveying and worked in London. When travelling in the late 1980s I met someone who was to change my life. On Bondi Beach, Australia, I had a Man City towel unfurled on the beach (my mum bought me as a going away present) and Jon Sime walked over to me and we started chatting. A long lasting friendship and future business partner was created on one of the best known beaches in the world.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
After a few weeks working with Bucknall Austin, David Bucknall (RIP) the founding Director asked “why aren’t you working for yourself? “ The idea crystallised and I made a call to Jon Sime, my Bondi Beach Buddy.
And just like that; Walker Sime was born. 3 months later we had a plan and decided to go for it. We were confident in our own ability and just needed that leap of faith.
David Bucknall mentored us and guided us through a business planning process and provided a platform to take the leap of faith.
How did you achieve awareness?
I have always been a people person. I can talk for England but I’m also a good listener. My enthusiasm can be a bit overpowering to some people. We started out with a couple of clients each and did an exemplary job looking after and we just started to receive repeat business.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We started the business with a £45,000 overdraft and never used it. We generated business from day one and never looked back.
What are the key successes?
Jon and I are very different people from different backgrounds and different personalities but in my opinion that is the perfect mix for a successful partnership. None of us have egos and in 21 years we have never fallen out. I can count on one hand the number of times we have had a heated debate but the outcome has always been “what is best for the business”
Key successes of our business are numerous but below are a few:-
I am so proud of the team that surround me in the business. Incredibly loyal, driven, intelligent and people I absolutely trust. I love the culture and open management style in which we run the business. There are no secrets and we treat everybody like intelligent adults
I pinch myself when I reflect on the amazing clients we work with. We are involved in a number of remarkable projects including the £5bn Liverpool Waters mixed used team, Liverpool2 (a Peel Ports £350million project to overhaul of the Port of Liverpool), Liverpool Waters, Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network, as well as iconic Manchester City Centre buildings including the Great Northern Warehouse, Media City, Manchester Business School and New Victoria (to name a few)
Our reputation is exceptional and I am continually reminded of this by clients.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Challenges in starting the business were the obvious. Who would give us work? The dead cert list of top 10 didn’t materialise and we had to dig deep and go knocking on doors and be persuasive and ensure people believed in us and gave us work. When people realised how hard we grafted for them we got repeat business and work continued to come in.
As the business grew we had to get the infrastructure right and build a talented team around us. We kept the purse strings incredibly tight for at least 4 years paying ourselves the minimal of salaries as we were so fearful of something coming left-field and derail us. It didn’t, thankfully.
What are your plans now/for the future?
In 2015 we set a 2020 Vision and that was to develop a structure and platform that would grow a successful, well managed and profitable consultancy business.
We are currently developing a new strategy for the next 3 years which although isn’t ratified yet we could be a £11m – £12m business by 2023 with circa 150 staff across three locations Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you believe in something and are passionate about it, do something about it.
Can you share your top 5 tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Believe in yourself
- Failure isn’t an option
- I like working with a business partner to share ideas and bounce things around when you are unsure.
- Be passionate about what you do. Others can see it a mile away and begin to believe it too
- Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people drain the energy from you. Get rid of them or don’t employ them.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
I’m always inspired by people who weren’t born into wealth and have had to work hard to be successful and gain respect from their peers
David Bucknall OBE (RIP) was a massive inspirational man. He always had time for everybody and encouraged and listened
I love the vision of John Whittaker of Peel Land & Property (@PeelLandP) and what he has done for the region, regeneration and job creation. He thinks 30 years ahead and has been prepared to play the waiting game to deliver his vision
Pep Guardiola (The Pep @GuardilaTweets) MCFC Manager. I love watching him and his style of management. He has the magic to get the very best out of a team consistently and deliver successful results year after year
Barack Obama(@BarackObama) an amazing man who was able to lead a very troubled America with calmness and intelligence
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
- Anything is possible – Ironman Quote – I set myself a target of completing an Ironman when I was 50. I did 2 the second when I was 53
- A thousand mile journey begins with that first step
- Pain is only temporary, failure is forever
- Just be yourself
- Never regret anything you have done, only what you haven’t done
- Live life in the fast lane
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