Head of Water – Utility Contractor

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A national Utility Contractor who Collingwood has been partnering for six years. During this time, they have increased revenues by 30%, having recently been invested in by a global name within the industry.

Since their inception in 2004, they have mainly concentrated on growing their ICP offering (Independent Connection Provider), along with developing their iDNO business; both within the electrical utility arena. 

These have established them as a network owner. Although the business has, for many years, managed construction projects within water, the company was yet to gain New Appointment and Variations (NAV) accreditation, hence their investment into this newly created role.



Along with owning their own assets on the iDNO side, establishing the business as a NAV was central to the investors plans to more than double turnover in the short term.

There was no one internally to set the contractor up as a fully-fledged NAV operator.  Sitting within the Senior Leadership Team, this newly created Head of Water role would be responsible for the compliance of the company’s water distribution in line with the water distribution licence for Great Britain and other statutory, regulatory, and legislative requirements.  In the setting up of this licence it was imperative that the business secured an individual with credibility and gravitas in front of the likes of OFWAT.



Clearly, this was going to be an extremely niche, precise headhunt.  Mark Goldsmith – Collingwood’s Head of Construction & Building Products – was briefed to only approach those individuals who have a mix of regulatory responsibility / high level contacts, along with the experience of managing the service delivery performance.  These were purely going to come from the large water authorities, or from fellow NAV’s in the market.

The challenge to approaching these markets were that those working for the large authorities were largely long serving, with strong fringe benefits (pension etc).  They were risk adverse –moving from a safe environment to, essentially, what would be a start up within a commercial business could be perceived as a risk.  Furthermore, NAV businesses had only been in operation in earnest over the past five years.  At the point of starting this assignment there were only five in operation, with many only housing senior and / or owners of the business. 

For six months the client had been working with a senior leadership interim who had started researching the space and developed the specification for this position.  Upon taking the brief, Mark outlined to both the CEO and this interim that collaboration throughout the research and approach phases was going to be key.  Pleasingly, having worked on numerous positions with the CEO previously, this agreement was upheld.



Through a detailed research approach and contact with his existing network, Mark was able to share the current “landscape” of required talent from the two aforementioned company backgrounds.  This led to 47 potential candidates to approach, Mark then engaged with them directly.

Towards the business end of the approach work, Mark shared Collingwood’s online client portal with both the interim and CEO.  This provided an overview of each stage throughout the process, allowing both the search and expectations to stay on track. This was invaluable as it allowed both parties to form a realistic view of market conditions, barriers and any refinements needed to the specification as well as CVs and notes from all interview stages.



In summary, the following process took place:

Potential candidates identified following initial research undertaken


Number of candidates engaged with


Targeted candidates interested & CV’s received


Candidates interviewed by Mark Goldsmith

6 with 4 recommended to client

Candidates interviewed by client

4 with 2 progressed to second interviews

Candidate offered



This assignment was a prime example of best practice between both Collingwood and the client’s stakeholders.  Key take outs from this collaboration included:

  • The stakeholders not fully understanding what the NAV landscape was. Mark was able to communicate the limitations to solely focusing in on this area
  • The stakeholders only suspecting that they knew a salary banding for this position. Mark fed back in terms of the market conditions.  Additionally, he was able to provide examples of the differing levels of ability based on low to high salary demands from within both the water authorities and NAV contractors
  • The limitations to the difference functions from within both target companies. This allowed the client stakeholders to further refine what was essential from the investment into this role.  Unfortunately, utopia rarely exists, and certainly within such a narrow search.  Pleasingly, the stakeholders worked with Mark, in terms of the intelligence that he gained, and further shaped what was essential in this person’s experience and knowledge


The client wrote the following testimonial about his experience of working with Mark and Collingwood:

"In a crowded marketplace, it’s not often that a recruitment specialist really stands out from the crowd. He is thorough, collaborative and very thoughtful in working alongside you in helping to specify the requirements for senior roles and producing excellent candidates. Always happy to take on board further comments and adapt his approach as needed to ensure the right hires are found and properly reviewed. High emotional intelligence and also an all-round nice guy and a pleasure to work with. I would have no reservations at all recommending Mark."

About the author
Mark Goldsmith
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With 23 years of recruitment experience under his belt, Mark has spent the last 19 focused on Building Products & Construction

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Mark Goldsmith

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