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Herald Entrepreneur: ‘We aim to change the mentality on self-build’

One thing all successful entrepreneurs have in common is the ability to identify a problem and fix it. And that’s exactly what Graham Taylor is doing in the housebuilding sector.

Mr Taylor is co-owner of Custom Build Homes, which offers homebuyers an accessible route into self-build.

The Edinburgh-based firm works with landowners and planning authorities to open sites and plots for self-build, making it easy for homebuyers to take the next steps.

“There are two routes,” explains 32-year-old Mr Taylor. “A developer can work on a site to put in facilities like drainage, then plots are sold on and the buyer works with an architect or homebuilder to build a design of their choice.

“The other option is a customisable home. The exterior will already be agreed and the customer works with an architect to create a layout and floor plan that works for their needs. Either option offers room for the buyer to do as much of the work themselves as they are able, thus potentially keeping costs down.”

As anyone who has spent time in the US or mainland Europe will know, self-build is the norm overseas, which is why you rarely see the sort of identical new-build developments you see in the UK.

“We want to change the mentality that leads people to think there is no alternative but to buy a new-build home that doesn’t necessarily suit their needs,” adds Mr Taylor, who lives in the capital.

Awareness of self-build is growing thanks to a raft of TV shows and recent UK government legislation.

“We’re educating homebuyers and working in their best interests. If you ask people whether they would like to build a house that is individually tailored to their family’s needs, the vast majority say ‘yes’. Then the ‘but’ comes – they don’t know where to start. We can fill that gap. There is a viable alternative.

“We have a pipeline of developments ready to go, including in Scotland, and we’re looking to create regional hubs around the UK to facilitate demand. In five years’ time we aim to be delivering 7,000 homes a year.”

Such ambition requires growth and since a reconfiguration of the business in early 2019 Mr Taylor and his partners have already doubled their workforce, with plans to scale in the coming months.

Coming from a marketing and design background, the businessman recognises the power of communication – both internally and externally.

“Running your own business means you have to be driven and well-organised, not only as an individual but also as a team.

“When you’re a small team, core belief in the business is key. That belief has to resonate through your team and company and as whole.”

Like most entrepreneurs, Mr Taylor relishes the chance to disrupt markets and be in control of his own destiny.

“I love the challenge,” he explains. “That’s why people set up their own business rather than just continuing to work for someone else. You get the opportunity to make the decisions that fix things. That mental push is always there.”

Being part of the RBS accelerator programme in Edinburgh has helped Mr Taylor make the right decisions.

“When I joined the programme I was looking for guidance,” he says. “We knew where we wanted to be but not how to get there. The Hub has connected us with experts on things like HR, business transactions, contracts and with the hub team there is always someone on hand to help.”

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