JUST a few years ago Mike Banton slept in a works van and has been known to kip on Victoria Station floor because he refused to pay for a hotel.
Today he can probably afford a five-star hotel, but Mike, who runs the successful company Artez, which has an order book which is full until 2018, still has his feet firmly on the ground.
And that work might be building a house for a film director, or tackling the massive Littlewoods building in Liverpool.
Or nearer to home transforming part of Bolton’s Market Place vaults and creating the new Light cinema — his first job in his home town.
For an astute businessman who started with no money in the bank and who sold his BMW for a pickup truck when he started Artez, Mike comes across as one incredibly relaxed guy.
Chatting at his office on an industrial estate at Lostock — he is looking to move to bigger premises — he is casually dressed, he ditched the suit a while ago, and says: “Life is good.”
And life is good because Mike, aged 38, has worked hard on his way up the ladder.
Admittedly he had an excellent apprenticeship, with the late Carol Ainscow, cutting his teeth with her company Artisan.
Carol from Bolton, was the pioneer who transformed Manchester’s Gay Village.
It was the time of loft apartments in the late 90s and at 27 he was thrown in at the deep end, finding himself lunching with Sir Howard Bernstein, becoming involved with Peel
Holdings and building 1,000 apartments. He moved on to Urban Splash and then came the crash.
A chance call from a pal in the fish business proved a turning point. He wanted an eco zero carbon building for his frozen fish in Yorkshire.
Mike offered to find the land, sort out the red tape, build it and hand over the keys.
He designed the £1.5 million building and got the £500,000 grants. He started trading in 2013 as confidence in the market started to grow.
And today his contracts usually come with several noughts on the end, he expects to turned over £12 million this year and he employs 27 ‘of the best people’.
He describes his company as a boutique contractor. “We do anything quirky, We don’t do public sector. We now have a structure, we have grown organically and people come to us and I always make sure contractors are paid on time.”
Business is booming in the North West and rather than expand nationwide he is concentrating on a 40 mile radius — so he can sleep in his own bed and not on site floors anymore.
The business has expanded into several arms including shop fitting, but he says: “People don’t come to us for glass partitions, we do the complicated things.”
His philosophy is simple: “I am trusted and I do a good job. I don’t take the mickey.”
And that is said with honesty and not arrogance. He loves regeneration rather than shiny new buildings: “It’s all about creating a place.”
He has awards to prove his excellence — for the £2.2 million Bunker building at the former Littlewoods building in Liverpool. And he still gets a kick driving his three boys around Manchester where you will see his work throughout the city.
“I always like saying to them ‘I built that’”. He is passionate about design and perfection, be it a ventilation pipe on a gold clad roof which had to be gold and blend in, to The Vaults in Bolton. Checking out his website, he says he is known as ‘the boss’.
If he ever built his own house it would be whatever his wife Keeley — who Mike says is the driving force — wants.
His favourite building in the world is his Heaton home which he is restoring to its former Edwardian glory with original stained glass windows with an eco touch.
He admits he is no good at building: “But I can point and tell others what to do.” He was brought up in Egerton, his parents still live in same house – one that one of his three sons wants to live in. He is now finding time to relax with his family, but even on holiday his eye is on the job.
In Rome, as the family were swooning over the Colosseum, Mike’s eyes lit up when he spotted some Strongboys — a type of building prop. But what about the name Artez?
Mike took to Google and found it means highly skilled in Latin. And if your business starts with an A and you go to a dinner, A is always at the top of the table plan. And the future? He is planning an office in West Yorkshire and more ‘challenging stuff ’.
And the job he is most proud of ? “It’s always the next one!”