Having jumped out of a plane, snowboarded down a mountain and tried his hand at tobogganing, Karl Hick has an appetite for pushing himself to the extreme. As CEO of Larkfleet Group, he uses the same philosophy to run the companies under his umbrella.
Enjoying a bit of competition, Karl has always been a sporty person and runs competitively. After graduating from university with a degree in chemistry before obtaining a qualification as a chartered accountant, he was unsure what he wanted to do in life – until he saw the perfect job advertised.
“I saw an advert in The Sunday Times that said a construction company wanted an international athlete who was also a qualified chartered accountant. I applied and became the FD.
This feature interview was first published in issue 90 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at www.lincsbusiness.co. Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.
“The chairman was particularly interested in athletics, so I had three days where I was Finance Director of the property division and I had two days off to train and race.”
When Karl was injured he worked full time at the office, but he became so indispensable that it wasn’t long before he was unable to go back to training. He moved on to a new company in the London Docklands, which acquired Spalding-based Allison Homes shortly after he joined.
“They asked me to go up to Spalding from London to integrate this house building company into their group ethos. At that time, no one had any computers, it was just manual typewriters. I had to computerise it all and try to get everyone into the modern way of life.”
When he was asked to stay on full-time in Spalding, he moved his life to Lincolnshire, but it wasn’t more than a few years before Allison Homes got into financial difficulty. “I did an MBO of the company and myself and three other guys bought it out with the help of HSBC. I then became the owner, at quite a young age, of a company that was in quite a bit of debt.”
Nothing broke Karl’s determination to make the company into a success, even when the recession hit in the early ‘90s.
“At that time, I survived on my wit, without the knowledge base I have now. I didn’t really know what I was doing because I was new to owning a business. Surviving a recession is hard enough anyway, but clearly, it’s difficult when you haven’t got the experience and you don’t know whether you’re making the right decisions or not.
“Somehow I managed to get through that process. I was in debt to the bank by a lot of money so it was quite difficult and everything was on the line because I’d put everything into it.”
Karl managed to build the company up, paying off the debt and gained a stable footing. He continued to build the company up around the Lincolnshire area until September 11th, 2001, when he sold the company on.
Unable to trade in the property market for a year, Karl looked for new income. With an interest in science, he ventured into the waste technology industry, building another company up and selling it on in that time.
“I learned a lot in one year and got into a completely different industry. I became an expert on that within a year. But I always had a love for the property market and it’s what I have naturally done well in, so I went back and set up Larkfleet Homes.”
Karl grew the business by buying land as well as a construction company. He then started to diversify into sustainability.
Continue reading the full cover interview with Karl Hick in issue 90.
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