How do they do it? Simon Witney

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 18 Jul 2016

Simon witneySimon Witney graduated from Oxford in geography and completed a masters degree in urban and regional planning at Sheffield University in the early 1980s. He started his planning career at South Glamorgan County Council working in minerals and then strategic and environmental planning. He spent a further nine years in local authority planning before moving into consultancy, which included stint at multidisciplinary practice Arup where he became an environmental planner. After three years in Australia he returned to the UK and took up a post at Mouchel from 2013 to 2015 before joining Parkwood Consultancy Services where he is managing director.

What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?

I'm involved in all aspects of running a business that includes design and engineering as well as planning. It's hard to keep my hands off the nuts and bolts of planning and I enjoy it when my experience is drawn upon by colleagues. I report directly to the owner, our executive chairman. Being a managing director I set my own parameters for performance, but group finance and the owner of the business do need to know how we are travelling. 

What key lessons have you learned in your career that helped you fulfill those objectives? 

A. Understand people. This is a people business staffed by skilled professionals, so you need to be flexible enough to realise that sometimes a lighter touch is better than imposing restrictions on people's capabilities at achieving a given objective.

Remember your early days. When you become a manager it helps to remember you were a junior member of staff once, which will give you a greater sense of perspective on the needs of others in terms of support and understanding.

Expect surprises. They can be unsettling because you can never prepare for surprises, but they keep you vitalised and energised and improve your ability to meet objectives.