Chris Galloway-15

In 2018 Chris Galloway, Mark Banham and the recently retired Jonathan Dart became the new co-owners of BECK Interiors.  Here Chris discusses his long history with the company, his tenure as Group Managing Director and his aspirations for the future of BECK as he moves into the role of Group CEO.


You have been at BECK a long time.  Can you give us a summary of your time at the company?

“I first entered the business around 26 years ago when it was back in Guildford.  I started off in the Design Development department and was the first CAD operator and draftsman to join the team.  Everyone else was on the drawing boards back then.

“I had originally trained as a carpenter and joiner in the army.  When coming out of the army I studied interior design with a specific focus on furniture, so I was able to merge the two skillsets.

“BECK was much smaller back then.  I worked across all sectors, including museums.  Just last year we fitted out the award-winning Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum for the second time.  I worked on the galleries first time round, creating the build drawings for that project.

“After that, we secured two Design & Build contracts, so I took on a dual role of Design Coordination with Project Management.  That lead me into Project Management, Estimating and QS work.  In those days the jobs were smaller, so you would run the entire job and run the books yourself.

“It gave me a great understanding and insight into every aspect of the business.  I became Associate Director, joined the board as Operations Director.  Gradually I began to absorb more of the MD role, which was good preparation for when we took over the company.”


What aspirations did you have for BECK when you took over as Group Managing Director?

“When we took over it was very much about reinvesting into staff in the company.  We also wanted to focus on our reputation, elevate the quality of our work even further and improve the company culture.”


Can you elaborate on what you have done so far?

“There was a definite period of high level of investment.  That includes staff, training, development, team building, mentoring, spending money on the offices and in our joinery workshop.  Courses on presentation skills and negotiation skills.  Putting back in, so we could grow the business in the marketplace for the future.

“We focussed on our reputation.  We wanted BECK to be known for being collaborative, approachable plus client and contractor friendly.  How we present ourselves, conduct ourselves, turn up to meetings, collaborate with clients, deal with issues on projects; is what really reveals the mindset and work ethic of the team.

“We brought new people into the business and reset the culture.  We put the staff, our clients and the quality of our work at the top of the list.  Our staff are key.  If you take care of your staff, your staff will look after your clients.

“BECK has always been known for delivering high quality works and we wanted to go even further with this.  We are not necessarily the cheapest in the market, but the quality of our team and our work is superb.  I believe that’s why our clients come back to us time and again.

“It has taken a few years and there has been a lot of positive change.  We knew it would a long-term burner.  We wanted to create more structure and put the right foundations in place, for all departments across the business.”

“This is an exciting time for BECK. We have strong new team members, both on the board and within the wider company.”

“It doesn’t matter if you have the top people but they are not working together or communicating effectively.  It doesn’t have to be the best people; it needs to be the best team.”

What is BECK’s biggest strength?

“It’s the people.  The people and our company culture.  Our staff have that drive and commitment to do the right thing when no-one is looking and excel at what they do.  I think that shows.  At times, this industry can demand early mornings and late nights.  It’s not just a job, it’s a career and a lifestyle.  You need to be passionate and love what you do.

“We also give our staff the opportunity to move departments.  It’s about spotting something in the individual and asking yourself where the right slot is for them.”


What is your philosophy for steering a company?

“The first thing is to create a strong Board.  Internal growth is important but it’s essential to keep bringing fresh faces and ideas into the business.

“Trust throughout. Then creating the strongest team by being open to everyone, regardless of experience or qualifications.  It’s like the Avengers.  Assemble the best team you can pull together, one that communicates and collaborates, and good things will come.   It doesn’t matter if you have the top people but they are not working together or communicating effectively.  It doesn’t have to be the best people; it needs to be the best team.

“Having a hybrid of skill sets is important.  I don’t believe everyone needs to be degree qualified or a highly experienced joiner.  It’s more about attitude and drive.  Even if someone isn’t qualified, give them the training, develop them, and nurture them.  Several years down the line you have someone motivated and experienced, adding value to the business.”


What two or three words would you hope clients would use to describe BECK?

“The first one is ‘evolving.’  Evolving as a business, with our work, what we stand for and our approach to projects.  That we are unafraid to bring new people into the business and do things differently.

“Next is ‘trustworthy’.  I believe trust has been built up over the last six years, since Mark and I took over.  Michael Walsh has just joined us from the client side.  I think it says a lot about BECK, that someone of his standing is now in the business.  It gives transparency to our clients.  We can look at their cost plans and deliver on them.  Clients and consultants can call on us to provide assistance, as we’re the ones who are going to deliver the job.  That’s what we can offer.  Certainly, if I were a client, that’s what I’d be looking at.

“Finally, ‘sustainable’.  In the first instance, sustainable as a business with over 27 years’ experience. I have seen many companies come and go.  We are a safe and solid choice for our clients.  But we will continue to evolve and keep reinventing ourselves.  If you stand still, people will overtake you.

“Also sustainable in our working practices, building sustainable projects.  We are always looking for ways we can reduce our impact on the environment, as well as actively give back.  Such as the tree planting event in November, where the team planted over 300 trees in just one day.”


How do you think the fit-out industry will evolve in 2023 and beyond?

“I believe the industry is in a state of change at the moment.  Ten years ago, we still saw a lot of traditional, two-stage tendering.  Then maybe three years ago, many more Design and Build projects came about.  I believe around 90% of our work is now Design and Build.

“One problem with Design and Build contracts is the issue of ‘design responsibility’.  The design responsibility for luxury projects should not fall on the contractor, it must remain with the design team.  We’ve had clients who are expecting to see X but their design team have drawn Y.  Of course, we have then quoted for Y, which is not what the client originally wanted or was aware of.

“I believe in the future we may see a transition where, potentially, more traditional projects come back.  Properly measured, properly priced and properly tendered.  I genuinely believe we approach our projects a little differently to our competition.  We are unique in what we do, in terms of the level of detail we go to during the estimating and tender process.

“For a luxury hotel, the design period could be more than a year before the contractor comes on board.  The client may have a design team saying they can go to site in two or three months, however when the design is not fully clarified, the design part of a Design and Build contract is going to take at least six months before we can even begin works on site.  I believe clients will begin to realise this and rediscover the benefit of the traditional contracts, which see much less toing and froing and therefore less stress on the client and other parties.


How is BECK evolving?

“Red tape within the industry is increasing, so we’re making sure we are always on top of the latest regulations of fire, building control, health and safety, compliance, insurances and certification.

“We’re also keeping up with industry trends and changes in what clients are looking for.”

“We want to make sure we are employing and coaching the best people.  We have fantastic, highly experienced staff who have been here for over 20 years.  Also, new team members walking through the door with energy and new ideas.


What are your focuses moving forward as Group CEO?

“Dan Herron has moved into the position of Group Managing Director so one of my key focuses will be supporting Dan and the board, mentoring some of the senior team.  I’ll be heavily involved in our long-term strategy and managing client relationships.  Finally, I’ll be supporting the growth of BECK Scotland and working closely with Lynn Sheach on the financial side of the business.

“This is an exciting time for BECK.  We have strong new team members, both on the board and within the wider company.  Fantastic relationships with our clients, many of whom are working with us for the second or third time.  Finally, we have several prestigious and unique projects secured for 2023.  I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve over the coming year.”