Q&A: Five for….James O’Donnell

James O’Donnell spends his time as an Account Director focused on delivering the best-possible partnership with the London Borough of Waltham Forest. But outside work his mind is on France and Ferraris – he tells us why
1. Q. How did you first start working in the housing sector? What was the appeal?
A. I got into the housing sector many years ago when working for repairs contractor Linbrook. We were one of the fore-runner businesses carrying out responsive and planned works for local authorities before that service was widely out-sourced. The appeal for me was the longevity of contracts. The chance to build good, long-term relationships creates a more satisfying way to work. It also provided certainty in an uncertain world – particularly when a lot of the big national construction companies were going bust in the recession of the 1990s.

2.  Q. So, four months in as Account Director, what has been your biggest challenge so far?
A. The biggest challenge also presents our biggest opportunity: to learn about and learn from all the work that has been carried out during the first five years of the contract. There have been some significant successes, including upper quartile performance, a fall in complaints by one third and savings of £1.75 million a year.

There have also been some learning opportunities. This learning has helped us to develop the partnership with the London Borough of Waltham Forest and we are now in a position to take it to the next stage of its development. We are working closely with Councillor Limbajee, the cabinet member for housing, to improve housing services throughout the borough while also improving opportunities for residents.

3. Q. Sounds like a good basis to work from. So, now you’re up to speed, what are your aims for the future?
A. I want to build on the excellent relationship we have with Waltham Forest and make sure we continue to meet and exceed their expectations. I’m looking forward to meeting customers and carrying out ‘customer journey mapping’ during March and April. This will help to inform how we can further improve the service and identify areas where we could work more efficiently. I hope to secure an extension to the contract which will allow us to work in the borough longer-term. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to say we have left a legacy in the area which reflects all of the hard work carried out by the partnership.

4. Q. Pretty busy then! What do you have time for outside of work?
A. I’m a big petrol-head and I’m off to the ‘Laon Historique’ in northern France soon to show a classic Ferrari. A like-minded group of us try and attend regular classic car events which are a great way to relax and unwind at weekends!

5. Q. What are you most proud of?
A. I know it’s I bit of a cliché, but I have to mention my three kids. My eldest daughter has just returned from trekking around the world for the last two years and my son is off to do the same this month.  And my youngest has just left University with a first class honours degree in contemporary dance.