'I wanted to run my own business before I was 40 ... I'm a year ahead'
Clyde Shanks has had a long-standing desire to run his own business - an ambition he fulfilled in September last year.
"It was something I always wanted to do," he says. "My father set up his own business. I wanted to do the same before I was 40 - and I am a year ahead!"
Shanks was already well known as a planning consultant as a director of the UK-wide Turley Associates firm.
"It is a 10-office, 200-employee, fairly big, business," he explains. Last year seemed the right time to leave and start his own practice.
"I wanted to do it at a time right for me, when I had a high profile and I had confidence in myself," continues Clyde.
Initially, the Clyde Shanks business was only Clyde. Since then, he has recruited two senior consultants who he has worked with previously, plus a fourth member of the team.
There is now what Clyde calls "significant expertise" in the firm.
"We have premises in Oxford Street in Belfast, overlooking the river," says Clyde. "It was important to do it right, to give the right image, to present to the market the fact that there was ability and capability there."
Another element of this was to have a website - www.clydeshanks.com - that presented a strongly professional image.
"Very quickly, people became aware that there were resources [in the practice]," says Clyde. "Now we are one of the bigger [planning] consultancies in Northern Ireland."
For such a young firm, Clyde Shanks has already built up an impressive portfolio of projects. Many of these are in the renewable energy sector, with the practice advising both wind farms and single wind turbine developments.
Another scheme he is working with is a major anaerobic digestion energy project.
One of the largest projects is in support of the move of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society to the site of the former Maze prison. As well as this, the firm is providing advice in support of several new residential sites.
So what is the role of a planning consultant? "A planning consultant has to understand what his client wants to achieve and then provide the best and most appropriate route to obtain that and to add value to the process," explains Clyde.
"We have to understand the process and have the right contacts to make things happen."
And making things happen seems to be Clyde Shanks' forte. He is leading a young firm, where he is already making things happen very quickly.