Successful leaders should know the business from the foundations up. Churchill Retirement Living’s co-founders Spencer and Clinton McCarthy have grown the company from humble beginnings and the two brothers remain very hands-on in their approach to running a successful business whilst understanding their customers’ needs.
The pair grew up in the New Forest town of Lymington, both leaving school at the age of 16 with few qualifications. Spencer recalls:“The head of year told my dad ‘Your sons, academically, won’t come too much. Send them off to become apprentice bricklayers.’ But my father was a carpenter so we followed in his footsteps and went to Southampton Tech to learn carpentry."
From the ground up
They went to work on construction sites, building their skills from the ground up. Despite being the sons of a successful businessman, there was never any question of an easy ride. Clinton adds:
Our father had come up through the ranks and wasn’t about to allow his sons to swan their way through the business.
Spencer and Clinton each spent around a decade doing this important groundwork and gaining further technical qualifications, and then in 1994 – aged 27 and 28 respectively – they set up on their own. Based in a room above Clinton’s garage in New Milton, they started out building stone and thatched cottages in and around Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire. They originally called the business Emlor Homes, naming it after Clinton’s daughters Emma and Laura.
A shrewd move
After successfully concentrating on cottages and barn conversions for their first few years, Spencer recalls how in 1999 their focus shifted:
I came across a site in Romsey, Hampshire and we got planning consent for a retirement development of about 35 units. We sold them all within eight months. So in 2000 we decided to sell off any sites not suited to the retirement market and properly focus on one and two bedroom retirement apartments.
It proved to be a shrewd move. Despite the ever-growing demand for more housing options for older people, even today there remain very few large operators who focus on this specialist sector, where the needs of the customer are often very different. By using their years of experience and understanding of these customer needs, Spencer and Clinton saw the opportunity to grow the business into a leading player in the market.
Strength to strength
In 2003 they renamed the company Churchill Retirement Living, and since then it has continued to go from strength to strength. From Penzance in the south to Penrith in the north, there are now well over 120 Churchill developments all over the country, with around 20 new sites launching this year alone.
With a smart, riverside Head Office in Ringwood, five more regional offices across the UK, and a total of nearly 600 employees, the brothers have come a long way from Clinton’s garage. Their ambitious company mission statement is “to be the most successful housebuilder in the UK ” and the impressive record of growth and award wins to date show they are well on the way to achieving that.
Despite all their success, the brothers remain very hands-on with the day-to-day running of the business, and in touch with the needs of their customers. Their eye for detail is still sharp, and they are as passionate as ever about delivering more of the specialist retirement housing our older generation needs.