Mark Grandfield, the new chief executive of Leeds Jewish Housing Association (LJHA) is in the JLife hot seat.
Name: Mark Grandfield
Born: Nelson, Lancashire
Education: Edge End High School – same school as Liz Bradbury of LJWB!
Sheffield Hallam University – BSc Building Surveying (1997)
Leeds Beckett University – MBA (2008)
Previous positions: Head of strategy and investment for Leeds City Council (2013 – 2018)
Director of regeneration for Aire Valley Homes (2010 – 2013)
Head of asset management for City of York Council (2005 – 2010)
Plus time at York NHS Trust, Leeds Federated Housing Association and Manchester City Council.
Tell us about yourself, Mark!
Well I’m a family man, married with three kids (eight, 10 and 13) and live in a little village on the outskirts of York. I’m not from the Jewish faith, as a family we attend our village church, a beautiful small church dating back to the mid-13th century that was reputedly built by the same stonemasons that built York Minster.
Some people will always ask which football team I support and strangely it’s Blackpool. My father was from Blackpool and started taking me to games when I was four or five years old. So to keep the family tradition I’ve done the same with mine who seem to enjoy a day out on the Fylde Coast, it’s quite a drive so we only do it a couple of times a year but I do have to combine a trip with either a night at the famous illuminations or a stick of Blackpool rock and a visit to the Pleasure Beach as bribery.
How did you get into social housing?
I did not set out to follow a career in social housing. My first real job was as an assistant site manager for a housebuilder in Salford, after six months a bank loan for their next project didn’t materialise and I was made redundant. I walked into the nearest recruitment agency office and asked for a job. This turned into a job as a repairs surveyor looking after council housing stock for Manchester City Council and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been hooked on the sector ever since. There is such a wide diversity of challenges and genuinely no two days are ever the same.
How will your previous jobs help in your new role at LJHA?
My early days in social housing were on the front line visiting residents every day. I spent many years as a surveyor delivering repairs or improvement works with residents and working with good old fashioned values of making sure contractors did what was expected of them and tenants got a good service. I then moved into management, managing all the wide range of property functions including at times managing the in-house contractor functions for both York and Leeds City councils.
My last role involved managing upwards of £80 million of services to tenants of 54,000 homes for Leeds City Council along with setting the asset management and investment strategies this entails.
I will bring a benefit of a wide experience of delivering technical services within social housing but also 13 years as a leader of large and complex organisations that have seen significant change over their lifespans. Having spent the past eight years working in Leeds I am aware of some of the local stakeholders and housing associations in the city which will help a speedy induction in this new role.
Sometimes you’ve got to be brave enough to say “I need a new challenge” and I did that. I’ve moved within the same sector but into a new function, and as this is my first chief executive position, it’s fair to say I am excited about the future.
What drew me to LJHA? Well I believe that in work you have to make a difference, develop yourself and your organisation to achieve new goals and move forward, and I felt LJHA matched that ambition. While it is not the biggest provider in the city, it is well respected and has a confidence to shape their own future and provide real face-to-face local services to residents.
How has your first few weeks gone so far?
I’m in my second week and the sun has been shining so that’s a good omen! In the first few weeks it’s about getting to know the staff and how they work, our residents and how they feel but also our wider community stakeholders and how together we combine to support the whole community. That’s a lot of names to remember but it’s worthwhile.
Then I want to help the organisation set its aspirations for the upcoming years to continually improve and grow but also make sure that we retain that essential local focus and community presence. I am only one of the members of staff at LJHA so my role is to help everyone achieve their potential and help us develop – no one ever achieved anything on their own.
Early thoughts about working with the Jewish community?
I’ve met quite number of differing organisations so far but the sense of community is extremely strong and I’ve had a very, very warm welcome, so thank you. If we haven’t met yet, the door is open!
Tell us about what you like to do in your spare time.
As a family we try to keep active and enjoy the outdoors as much as we can be it walking, cycling or playing sport and try and get to the lake district a couple of times a year. Although unfortunately as my children have grown I’ve noticed more and more of my time now involves taking the kids to their outdoor activities and standing watching rather than having the time to participate myself!
And finally…any secret talents?
I don’t have a tremendously exciting life story to tell I’m afraid so clearly my secret talent is still undiscovered. That’s either quite dull or it means I have something to look forward to?
I do keep chickens though. OK, only four so I’m not exactly a farmer of the year yet. Plus, I am known to sleep with my eyes partially open at times. Very unnerving I’m told.