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Andrew Mann of Clarity Homes and Commercial tells Elaine Leahy all about how he built a successful development and project management business that is growing from strength to strength – and why he is so determined to change the culture of the construction industry.

For someone who dropped out of school at the age of 16, Andrew Mann, now 31 and managing director of Clarity Homes and Commercial, has proven that rooted ambition and ingrained business acumen can certainly match any traditional educational qualification.

“After I finished my GCSE, I decided to take an apprenticeship in carpentry,” Andrew told me as we sat chatting in the site office at one of the many properties his company is currently working on.

This private building is a wonderful reconstruction of an original Dutch barn at Corse Lane in Cranbrook which is currently being converted into three luxurious four bedroom townhouses overlooking a beautiful wild meadow.

“We’re working on this with Gray Feather Development, Kent Design Studio Architects, and Maddisons Residential marketing it,” explains Andrew, whose firm specializes in providing first-class project management to property developers, architects and commercial property managers across the Southeast. .

So how did the 16-year-old apprentice in carpentry find himself running a highly successful construction company which earlier this year saw him win the times Business Award for Entrepreneur of the Year?

“I’ve always been very excited in life,” Andrew reveals. “I decided to train as a carpenter because my dad was one but before I qualified, I was putting together business cards and thinking about how to push something forward. I used to laugh if I spoke in college saying I wanted to do better in life but I always had a vision It’s clear what I want to achieve.”

Andrew initially started the business in 2008 and can easily see the potential to grow the carpentry business outside of the local sector.

“My father is a very skilled carpenter, but he was very happy to do price work. However, I saw an opportunity to create and develop my own business. I have always loved reading recruitment brochures and entrepreneur stories, so I was keen to start building my own business.

“It was starting to move forward, pricing and evolving, so we were also getting new commercial clients as well as expanding our residential business.”

It’s time for change

Andrew says that over the years he continued to develop and expand his business, which at the time was called The Man Building.

“I got a truck and invested in branded clothing and had two guys working with me. By then my team and I were mostly doing business for big developers, doing office fit outs across the country in places like Oxford, York, London and Wales.

“At the time I was working seven days a week doing business for the company from Monday to Friday, then working the local business on the weekends. Any free time I had to sleep!”

Andrew told me his first big goal was to buy a home by the time he was 21. Not that he only started acting at the age of 18, and although he didn’t quite reach that goal, for reasons beyond his control, Andrew did just two years later.

By that time, we had expanded into doing more than just carpentry. We’ve been making kitchens, bathrooms and expansions for the residential sector but we’ve also been doing big jobs for the commercial market as well.

“I was organizing the plumbers, the decorators, the tilers, the electricians and then we started doing the laying, so I was managing the land workers and the masons too. This meant that I quickly gained invaluable experience in being able to manage everything and anything.”

Around the same time Andrew says he and his wife started thinking about having children. “I wanted to cut back on work, but ironically I ended up working more!” Laugh.

personal approach

After rebranding to Clarity Homes and Commercial in April 2021, Andrew and his team now mainly specialize in commercial functions such as large-scale cladding processing, new construction, and architecturally sensitive developments such as the aforementioned Dutch Barn in Cranbrook. The company also has a number of residential projects on its books including full renovations, additions and cosmetic upgrades.

Andrew moved away from gadgets a few years ago in order to focus solely on business development more. Clarity Homes and Commercial now offers customized services designed to make life straightforward and stress-free for real estate professionals, including architects, developers and commercial managers.

“We understand all of the challenges and goals associated with the projects that have been commissioned, and as such we are committed to making it not just an aesthetic but a financial success as well,” says Andrew.

He adds that all of this is made possible, not only by the skilled workers that Clarity Homes and Commercial is proud of, but by having a robust infrastructure behind each plan, and after consideration to invest in innovative technology.

“Traditionally, this is not something most builders do, but we always look to the future to see how technology can help improve what we offer.”

Investing in technology

Successful programs include a smart project management app that Andrew has invested in so clients can see how far their construction has progressed and whether their budget is on track with just a few clicks.

“Since we now manage everything in our projects – residential and commercial – we are committed to ensuring that customers are aware of everything. Using the app, we can also create schedules, send photos and customers can comment as well.

“The idea to do this came by writing weekly updates Friday night, factoring in costs, so there was no confusion about pricing, but it was labor intensive! I always wanted to be clear with customers about everything, but I thought there had to be a solution. Software, it can help. Most construction companies aren’t looking at how technology can help them, but we do. We had the foresight to invest in this particular application so that we could offer as much clarity as possible to our clients for their project.”

And that’s the thinking behind the company’s name as well. “We decided to rebrand the A Mann Building and as a result we tried to come up with ideas for names. We talked about what we do which is trying to clear things up – hence the Clarity name. Basically we want to be the opposite of unreliable builders who might do a runner or They let the budget get out of hand.We are committed to delivering projects on time and within budget, with extreme attention to detail.

“It’s about transparency and bringing construction into the future. We set our sights higher, as I can see what can be achieved with good planning and smart investment in technology. We will never leave customers in limbo. We will always do our best to get the job done – and I take personal responsibility for that “.

Staff Support

Clearly, “Clarity” also refers to the relationships Andrew has with his clients and with his team.

“A year before Covid, I started working with some business experts who were able to instruct me on running a business and investing in employees. I learned that this is not a cost, it is actually an investment.”

This expert guidance led Andrew to hire a full-time administrative assistant and they quickly moved from working in his small garden office to two rented offices, before securing their own headquarters in Crowborough.

Andrew now has seven full-time employees working on all Clarity projects as well as a variety of part-time quantity surveyors and a team of freelance workers and employees.

“I love seeing what others in the business community have done, and then trying to make things better for our teams. I didn’t realize how useful I was with employees until we talked about it. They told me I had a flexible attitude towards them, but the truth is that if you work hard you can definitely take time out if you have to take child to the doctor.

“This kind of communication in the construction world is like a new era in itself where people don’t traditionally talk – it has always been a male-dominated and male-dominated industry. I really believe things have to change in terms of the way people treat each other – and are treated – especially when Businesses get so big, you’re just a number.

“We recently discovered that if you work in construction, there is a higher chance of suicide than in any other sector. I think 98 people in the industry have lost out last year. I grew up in construction and saw a lot of things happen and I personally dealt with anxiety in the past, but I I got help for that thanks to West Kent Mind.”

Andrew says that is the main reason he works with the mental health charity, as it gives his employees the opportunity to speak to professionals if they need to. It is also running a virtual marathon on October 2 – the same day as the London Marathon – in order to raise vital funds for West Kent Mind, which since the shutdown has seen increased demand for its services.

“With West Kent Mind, we are giving everyone a chance to chat. If we can help anyone it is worth it.”

West Kent Mind says of the collaboration: “We are delighted and excited to partner with Clarity Homes and Commerical. The team will be raising funds for West Kent Mind in a variety of ways and we look forward to supporting them every step of the way! This starts with Andrew participating in the Virtual London Marathon on October 2nd – literally going the extra mile! The money raised through this partnership will make a real difference in the local community, helping people with mental ill health recover, stay fit and thrive.”

But Andrew’s pioneering approach to doing business doesn’t just stop there. He says he also wants to hire as many people as possible to achieve as much stability as possible.

“As a result, we have had a very low turnover in plasterers, tilers, electricians, earth workers, etc., so there is always consistency in the jobs. They know they are getting paid, so we know the jobs are going to do well.”

Cooperation is the key

Clarity currently has three commercial projects in the pipeline: the aforementioned Dutch barn development, a complete home renovation in Rochester, and a cladding job in London.

In terms of housing, the company has five on its books at the moment, ranging from a complete restructuring to implementing extensions.

Andrew tells me that he is keen to further develop the business side of the business where he and his staff can make really good use of these types of projects.

“We usually do a lot of work with architects and developers because we manage everything on the project and therefore we can save them money with our experience and working knowledge. We can suggest alternatives that they might not have thought of. Everything is very collaborative – which doesn’t happen often in our field.”

“Kent Design Studio often refers us to other jobs. They know we are trustworthy and will never let anyone down.”

As our conversation comes to a close, Andrew adds that he was once asked at a business networking event what he thought of the “Big Reason” in life.

“I answered that she is my wife and children. I want to show them that anything is possible. This is my biggest driver in life.”

Needless to say, Andrew’s kids had a wonderful mentor in their dad – but now so does the construction world…

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