Does he have a body double? What’s the obsession with junction details? Did he really put the “fit” into “office fit out companies?” It’s time to meet the man with the plan, David.
Things are pretty good at CCWS Interiors these days: we have an amazing team, Disco Fridays (not really but maybe one day), a portfolio full of happy clients, and a constantly ringing phone. It didn’t start out this way this way, however – just three years ago we were a nappy-headed startup in the hyper-competitive office interiors London scene.
To understand how we got to this point, you have to understand David Keane, our MD and the guy who makes it all work. Somehow.
Hello David. Your job title is the super-important sounding “managing director.” Can you tell us what you actually do at CCWS?
Is it cheating to say everything? For every single office refurbishment in London, I’ll meet clients, take a brief, bounce design ideas around with Amy, sort out planning, figure out if the design works from a technical perspective, create a works program, deal with the logistics, organise specialist subcontractors, order materials and furniture, liaise with utilities and keep a pace to match the program. Oh, and keep a tight hold of the purse strings! If I had to sum it up, I’d say that my job is making sure everything’s on plan and everyone’s happy. The buck stops with me.
That sounds…involved. How do you manage all the moving parts?
I have a secret twin. Or a time machine. Or a body double. It’s an ongoing debate.
You mean you use spreadsheets.
Lots and lots of spreadsheets! Spreadsheets for costs, spreadsheets for the works program, spreadsheets for design details, spreadsheets for pee breaks. I’m only half joking about that last one! I’m an Excel junkie and a cautious planner. When you order products, they never arrive when you want. So if I think something will take four weeks to arrive, I’ll order it with six weeks to spare so the product is definitely on site when we need it. You can’t be spontaneous in construction.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
It’s always the client’s reaction when they see the finished scheme. That thirty seconds, one minute when they walk through the door and their jaws just drop. They’re like little kids at Christmas – they can’t open their presents quickly enough! All those “oh wows!” make the stress of the past six of seven weeks completely worth it. It’s lovely to watch.
Do you have any standout moments?
When we handed over Movember. So many companies let us down at the last minute on this project, we had to pull out all the stops to get it handed over on time, which was 3 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. The client was working in a pretty awful, ramshackle corner of the building while we refreshed their office so we felt a lot of pressure to bring them back home. We were 18 minutes late in the end but no one noticed except for us! The clients were too busy reacting to the space. We had a lot of “oh wows!” that day!
Is there anything you don’t look forward to when you get up in the morning?
Sales. It’s the one thing I don’t do naturally. We lead with design at CCWS – Amy heads that up – and I try to hire the best people I possibly can who I think are great human beings.
I put them all out there in front of clients and let their enthusiasm for design and great service shine through. That personal touch is why people partner with us, not because we do the hard sell thing. The idea of selling someone doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
I think it’s called selling your personalities.
We sell through our personalities. We love meeting people and I only hire folks who are authentic, who love the clients and really represent our brand values. I suppose it’s risky, not having a sales team that does all the tactical office design services spiel. The one part I can’t control is where the next client is coming from. Like most businesses, it’s the part that keeps me up at night.
Did you really put the “fit” into “office fit out companies?”
You’re being ridiculous.
Moving on. Tell us about your life before CCWS.
I took a design course in college – graphic design, interior design, print design, everything design. As a student, you’re out and about in clubs and bars, testing out life, and that’s when I got a flavour for how the physical and built environment could capture someone so overwhelmingly. I got into licensed retail design soon afterwards, bars, clubs and restaurants. The experience you have to give a customer from the point of entrance to the bar and back again is so incredibly detailed, you wouldn’t believe it. The big corporates like O’ Neills and Scruffy Murphy employ whole teams to look at a tiny part of the design, whether that’s point of sale, beverage display, counter display. It all comes together in subtle ways so the customer just feels the experience, without seeing all the minutiae detail that we went through to get to that point.
Do you miss the design side?
It never leaves you. I can be in a shop and my wife is looking at the clothes, the shoes, the beautiful things that they’re selling. I’m looking at the ceilings to see the junction detail!
What’s next for CCWS?
Coming from a background of running slightly larger businesses, the most important thing for me is to keep putting people first. Whatever my brilliant people need, whether that’s remuneration, office design services experience, career progression or learning, that’s what propels the business. We’ve always embraced the possibility of staff owning shares in the business – when someone invests so strongly in CCWS, I think it’s only right that we give them ownership. They don’t have to write a cheque. For me, it makes us a more rounded business, and a far more focused and positive business, when the people who work every day in it have ownership of it.
So you’re structured like the John Lewis model?
We’re probably more Co-op than John Lewis but I’ll take it!
And when you’re not working? What do you like to do?
I’m a homebody and I’m head over heels in love with my wife. We do everything together; eat, enjoy whatever life throws at us, travel whenever we possibly can. We’ve been to 60 countries already. We really like each other’s company and we’re so, so blessed in that respect. It’s all spontaneous, we never plan anything. If we get up one morning and want to go to France, we go to France. I couldn’t stand the thought of spreadsheeting the weekend!
What would you do if you were Prime Minister for the day?
I’d focus on peace. There’s too much politics, too many things going wrong with the planet, too much deception, too much greed for me to think about anything else. I’d focus on solving the world’s conflict. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Whatever stage you’re at with your office refurbishment in London, David and his team can help. Take a peek at our #refurbdiaries on Facebook, or click here for a distinctly non-salesy chat about what we can do for your office.