Jeremy is the charismatic CFO of Homesbyhoney – a housebuilder launched in October 2022 with significant investment from Alchemy. To the end of March 2023, they have already successfully secured 15 sites which accommodate 2,000 homes with an embedded revenue of £500m +; and expanded to having 50 team members on the payroll with many more in the pipeline. This success led to the opening of their second office at Thorpe Park, Leeds in June of this year to complement their impressive first office on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.

Before setting up Homesbyhoney, both Jeremy and CEO Mark Mitchell worked at Avant Homes in Chesterfield – another housebuilder backed by Alchemy which was sold for over £500m, yielding a 344% return.

Prior to his nine years in the housebuilding sector, Jeremy forged a successful career with KPMG in Leeds – rising to Associate Partner.

Our team has known Jeremy for almost eight years – we have seen the team that he built up at Avant and are enjoying watching him build up a first-class team at Homesbyhoney. The fact that so many of his former team have joined him is testament to his leadership style, and the investment he puts into his people strategy.

We went out to see Jeremy in February 2023 at the start of the Homesbyhoney journey. It was great to go back and meet with him in March 2024 and see the progress that has been made in the business and the people strategy.

What has the first year of Homesbyhoney been like?

It’s been a very involved and productive first year.  Gaining financial backing from Alchemy was the start of the journey and gave Mark and I the confidence that we could make this happen! To actually make it happen has involved a lot of hard work from the full team.

I started at the business in January 2023, at which point we had 4 employees, no IT, no office, and not even a stationary supplier. As such the first few months involved real start-up activity and allowed no room for anything other than an extremely hands-on role to put in place all the infrastructure that a new business needs. This was no surprise but a sharp contrast from my role at a £500m turnover business. I quickly learned that in a start-up business the CFO needs to wear many hats and have no sense of royalty.

During that time, it was refreshing for Mark and I to work both of our networks to gain advice and support – sometimes on the simple things like “Hey, who do you buy mobile phones from?”  I was hugely gratified by the support that lots of contacts and people showed us – a great example being the time Pratap Partnership gave to share what a great Employer Value Proposition looks like and how we could position honey’s offering to be an attractor of teammates to the business – which is key to support our growth.

Alongside that we had to deliver on the business strategy which is to deliver great homes that have added value as standard in desirable locations. We determined that in our first year that involved several things:

Firstly, to design and procure the product.

Secondly, recognising that Housebuilding is a very capital-intensive business, to sit alongside the equity backing we needed supportive bankers – Mark and I feel like we’ve pitched on Dragons Den every week this past year and have been delighted to have secured funding from 3 banks for up to £90m with many more opportunities still open.

Thirdly, you can’t build and sell houses without land and as such we needed to secure sites - which again involves bidding, in some cases pitching and demonstrating your credentials. Supported by a fantastic team, not least Luke Herring our Land Director, we secured 15 sites and 2,000 plots in 14 months – of which we are hugely proud. We are also building on these wins month by month. I have thrown myself into this area and found the opportunity that a new business provides to take on an operational as well as financial role rewarding.

Fundamental to building the business and the fourth imperative we recognised – albeit the first in importance – was to recruit some real industry talent who wanted to be with us on honey’s journey. This is the part both Mark and I enjoy the most – attracting, motivating, and allowing great people to develop.

Every employer has had to adapt their people strategy and their Employer Value Proposition over the recent years. You have had to start one from scratch. Has that been an advantage?

We recognised that if we were to attract, motivate, and develop great people we needed a culture, people strategy, and EVP that delivered this. We found that starting all of this from scratch was an advantage as we weren’t having to claim reinvention, which can be greeted with huge reticence.

We stood back with the first initial teammates, and all asked ‘What do we want honey to be known for?’ Was it to be a workplace that you come to, to pay your mortgage or should it deliver more? In those stark terms the conclusion is clearly ‘more’ – we then asked what more?

That led to some interesting discussions with a clear recognition that the business had to pay market rate for salaries and benefits, but that today's employees are much more conscious than say those of 10 years ago about the broader offering such as ‘What’s the dress code, and why is that?’ (suit and tie) ; ‘What’s the office environment?’, flexibility in working hours, holiday provision; and as such we sought input from others, including Pratap Partnership, around what good looked like, and then implemented it.  

We found it easy to implement these tangible items - the more challenging piece we feel is around the intangibles that can only come with behaviours - which the senior people in the business have to buy into and lead. We have set values, a rule that everyone can bring their full selves to work, a culture of trust and support, and we do invest our time in one another – it is these that we find we get the most positive feedback on.

What are the younger generations looking for from their employer now?

The world of work has changed vastly from when I left university and joined the employed, as has what all employees look for from their employer. The younger members of our team have brought a refreshing openness and clarity to what they are looking for. In my opinion they want an employer-employee bargain – gone are the days of a salary being the sole return. We have asked ‘So what do we need to provide?’ and what came across loud and clear was a great working environment – we have a bar, pool table, and darts board! We have an open culture and one where all can be heard rather than having a singular view dictated. What they also seek is support in their roles and clear routes to pursue their ambitions. We have sought to embrace what we think teammates are looking for, but I am sure we will have to keep adapting and learning along the way.

What I have found interesting is the approach to hybrid working. As a housebuilder it is clear that some of our roles need to be 100% on-site – you can’t oversee the building of a house from your kitchen table - but equally many don’t. As such we offer flexibility for all our office team but that does include a very good deal of in-office collaboration and teamwork time.  I feel that without that team members lose some effectiveness, don’t have that first-hand learning and development experience, and lose social contact. I have often wondered how I would feel to work in a team where I don’t have an allocated desk or indeed no office – personally, I would feel somewhat unloved – not everyone will agree I am sure but so far it is working for us, including our younger teammates.

Having bumped into you and Mark at the Business Beats Cancer Dinner, and reading about the company contribution to the Archer Project in Sheffield, it is clear that making a positive contribution to charity is important to the business – tell us more.

Yes, it is. This links back to what we have discussed around EVP and what our team want from their employer. As a full team we believe in giving something back and supporting the communities we work in. The Archer Project is a charity that supports homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield – we support them via event sponsorship and volunteering. The volunteering part has seen most staff members support by serving breakfasts or lunches to those in true need. What we have found is that this not only aligns with honey as a business but equally with many of our teammates – the feedback we have had from them post-volunteering has been inspiring. Teammates have welcomed being able to give back and also the time out in a very different environment provokes different perspectives. It is something we fully plan to continue.

We recently posted an article on the merits of staying in practice after qualifying (click here). Having stayed at KPMG until you reached Associate Partner, and for 17 years after qualifying, you are a great example of this. Please tell us about your experience, why you stayed in practice after qualifying, and the advantages it has given you.

Everyone’s career journey is different. I found working in practice a fantastic bedrock, providing a huge variety of exposure to different businesses and different situations – which you simply would not get from being in a company finance role.  

I am a firm believer in “you need to enjoy what you do” and found I enjoyed the huge variety, the continuous learning, the opportunity to work with many businesses in different sectors, and probably unfairly in my mind used to compare that to posting the same journals every month in the same business which I felt wouldn’t offer the same challenge and enjoyment.  As such, leaving practice a few years after qualifying didn’t appeal to me.

In time my desire to have occupied more than one role in my working career was what drove me to leave practice and I have now had two very rewarding roles since that decision.  So my observation would be that it’s never one size fits all and that a desire to jump from practice quickly post-qualifying isn’t the route that was for me, nor all.

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

Be yourself – it’s probably good enough!

I recognise it’s not a great or inspiring quote. It was actually given to me early during my career in practice by a client. I do think back then there was a perception of how people should be in certain roles – there still is now – many new contacts say to me - as a compliment I think – “You’re not like a typical CFO”. Hopefully implying that I am involved in more, and take on a wider role…or maybe they mean something else far less complimentary!

I find myself thinking back to the simple Yorkshire advice above which I have always valued. Indeed, it is behind some of the cultural traits at honey – being yourself to work, not someone else – it’s easier.

Thank you to Jeremy for speaking to us. We love to hear the stories behind CFOs and bring them to our network. If you'd like to be involved please don't hesitate to get in touch here. For more information on our Employer Value Proposition audit service, click here.

Nik Pratap
Lorraine Pratap
Elise Walsh
Gillian McBride
Nicola Worrow
Amanda O’Neill
Karen Caswell
Dale Spink
Charlotte Morgan-Smith
Gemma Hutchinson
Jess Lister
Alex Mostyn-Jones
Alex Mostyn-Jones
Claire Screeton
Claire Screeton
Euan Begbie
Euan Begbie
Marie Carroll
Marie Carroll
Lucy Miles
Nicola Beach
Leighton Thomas

Other articles