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Widow stepped in to MD job three days after fatal accident; RESTORATION.

Byline: By Alun Thorne Head of Business

The widow of a Cannock company MD has moved from the backroom to the boardroom to protect her dead husband's legacy and take the company to new levels of success.

Stuart Davies established Croft Building and Conservation Ltd in 2002, a company involved in historic restoration work, but was killed in a skiing accident last December during a trip to the Austrian resort of Hintertux.

Marian, his wife of more than 20 years, said: "He started skiing after starting his own business and completely fell in love with it. He couldn't wait for the snow to start and this was our first trip of the year. The accident happened at the end of the day after I'd taken a ski lift down to the bottom. He decided to ski down the mountain with two others and he fell and got caught in a mini avalanche and was suffocated."

Following the accident Marian was left with the unenviable decision as to whether to sell the business or try and take it on herself.

"In many ways there was no decision to make at all," she said. "The accident happened on the Saturday and with the help of my daughter we were in the office by Tuesday. Christmas was around the corner and there were 100 guys relying on us for their wages.

"I never had a plan to take over the business, I was just the only person who could. This was the company my husband had worked so hard to build up and I felt I owed it to him if nothing else to take the company on.

"The situation we were suddenly in was not the team's fault and I felt I just couldn't sell up so I decided I would take over. I did have some knowledge of the business, but it was all from behind the scenes. I realised that we needed to restructure because our MD was no longer here and so new systems and processes had to be introduced to move forward."

The firm, which turns over pounds 5m, approached Business Link for funding to set up a website (www.croftbc.co.uk) that goes live in the Autumn. As part of this process the company received a full business review, which identified other issues that could be addressed with the support of a Leadership and Management Business Adviser.

Croft was one of the first in the region to sign up to the Leadership and Management (L&M) Scheme, which is funded by Advantage West Midlands and delivered by Business Link in the West Midlands. The project will work with more than 1,000 senior managers over the next three years to boost skills and expertise.

Specialist business adviser Ian Russell said: "Marian and I drew up a list of five areas to work on. These included setting out the MD's role and employer responsibilities, evaluating and upgrading the workers' job descriptions and putting in place induction schemes for new starters.

"The transformation in Marian has been extraordinary.

"She has come on leaps and bounds, has gained tremendous confidence and is now fulfilling the role of an MD.

"There is now a fully defined set of processes in place, and management is more involved in the financial aspects of the business. Everything is now linked to Key Performance Indicators that will help the company continue to thrive under Marian's leadership."

Already with a host of successful restoration projects under its belt, Croft's latest contract is restoring the Choir South Clerestory at Lichfield Cathedral as part of the 'once-in-acentury' Inspires Project ' which will ensure that the Cathedral and its treasures are properly cared for and that they become alive and meaningful to this and future generations.

Due for completion in December, the company's skilled tradesmen are working on the south side, repairing and replacing the eroded stones on the pinnacles, buttresses, tracery windows and parapet as well as stone cleaning.

Marian concluded: "When we were awarded this pounds 385k contract I was delighted - it was recognition for all the work and effort put in by the team here at Croft."

CAPTION(S):

Marian Davies with Ian Russell, Business Link, West Midlands; Stuart Davies
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 19, 2008
Words:704
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