The Southampton-supporting, theatre-loving former DJ on his ongoing mission to promote best practice, particularly as chief executive of CE Midlands 

Andrew Carpenter, chief executive of Constructing Excellence Midlands

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I fell into construction by accident. I left school in 1975 and became a DJ for a couple of years before my father told me to get a proper job. I lived in the Mendip Hills, where the choice was typically to go into farming or quarrying. I lived near the large Torr Works quarry and, a couple of years later, I joined building products firm Forticrete, which was based there at the time.

My first few years in my working career were spent in sales and marketing but it was the Rethinking Construction report (the Egan Report) published by the Construction Task Force in 1998 that inspired me to move into a career in construction best practice.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

Since joining Constructing Excellence, one of my proudest moments was setting up the best practice club in Bristol in 1999, which became the biggest in the UK. I was invited onto the board in 2003 to represent all best practice clubs – a position that I held for three years before moving into a full-time position.

Leading the South-west and Midlands have been among my proudest moments, as is the more than a decade spent as chief executive of the Structural Timber Association. My efforts to try to maintain exceptional standards in these organisations is something that I am incredibly proud of.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

It has to be working with people who have not been willing to change. The industry has a lot of fixed attitudes and a reticence to change the way challenges are approached. This has led to a lot of people feeling unhappy with how the industry goes about its business.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I believe the way we typically procure is the root of all evil. We should be striving to always procure on a best-value rather than lowest-price basis, which would bring positive change across all aspects of supply chains.

Procuring on value was a raison d’etre in the Egan Report and closely aligns with my ambitions for collaborative working. Supply chains remain very fragmented,  with adversarial relationships. I see integrated supply as key to industry-wide progress.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

Surround yourself with positive people and remove negativity from your environment. I feel this has contributed to my lifelong energy, enthusiasm, and enjoyment of what I do.

Bristol Hippodrome

Source: Shutterstock

Favourite building: The grade II listed Hippodrome in Bristol opened in December 1912. 

Name your favourite building in the world?

I judge buildings by what goes on in them rather than what they look like. As a lifelong amateur performer, my favourite has to be the Bristol Hippodrome theatre.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

Honestly, I try not to dislike anything and see the merits in all design. That does not mean I like everything though.

St Marys Stadium Southampton

Source: Shutterstock

St Mary’s Stadium has been the home of Southampton FC since 2001. It was used as a venue for the women’s European championship last year 

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

St Mary’s Stadium, home of Southampton, my favourite football team. When they were building the stadium, I was really upset as I missed a potential concrete block order for Forticrete.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

It took me more than 10 years to really understand the construction sector and what it has to offer. My key advice would be to learn and network as quickly as possible and across the whole of the supply chain. Construction has a nasty habit of working in silos, understanding own needs but not those of the rest of the chain.

Our best practice club at Constructing Excellence called G4C is an opportunity for young professionals to come together from across the industry to better understand how and why certain decisions are made.

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

I tend to admire very specific personalities. One person that inspired me in my early days was Zara Lamont, who was seconded from Carillion to become chief executive of the Construction Best Practice programme. I was inspired by her passion for construction, which led to me joining Constructing Excellence.

I also strongly admire Nicky Gavron, the ex-deputy mayor of the Greater London Authority, for the infinite energy that she brought to her time in office.

Nicky Gavron

Much admired: Nicky Gavron, former deputy mayor of the GLA

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

I love being me and have loved every minute of my life. I have a number of significantly distinct chapters from a young man to working in the construction industry and leading on best practice organisations across the country. I looked forward to becoming a pensioner on Christmas Eve last month.

Do you have a life philosophy?

In work I believe you should say what you do and do what you say.

I also believe that the opportunity of a lifetime must always be grasped in the lifetime of the opportunity.

What do you think your best quality is?

My ability to get people to do things – I can be rather persuasive. Particularly in the South-west and Midlands I have been able to bring people together and get things done.

I am a fairly unique personality and not a traditional construction person but I have always taken my personality into the field. Years ago, I kept my interest in the theatre quiet due to the perceptions of the time. I now realise that it has been key to my communication skills – which are vital if one is to succeed in the industry nowadays.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

I get frustrated when people fail to meet deadlines. When I joined 20-odd years ago, I discovered an industry with too many liars, cheats, bullies and hypocrites. I don’t like any of those traits. I wanted to help make the change, and did so first with CE Midlands.

Name three things that you like

Passion, good communications skills and good teamwork skills.

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have

I don’t really have any secret skills because I am open, honest and wear my heart on my sleeve.

Everyone I have met knows this but, in my time, I have spent 51 years in amateur theatre – 47 as a DJ and 40 years as a football referee. I have quite a range of passions.

What is your most prized possession?

I dearly value my gold medal for 50 years of service to the theatre, awarded by the National Operatic and Dramatic Association.

Early bird or night owl?

People are often told to not to burn the candle at both ends but in all honesty I am both – construction by day and entertainer by night. 

I go out to work early and regularly find myself staying out late, whether for social occasions or networking or corporate events as part of my job at Constructing Excellence.

What is your favourite food?

I love food of all types – from Indian curries to a Chinese, fish and chips or a traditional roast – and am open to trying new things. If I’m going into a new town I tend to veer towards an Italian restaurant.

What would your superpower be?

The power to help my beloved Southampton FC win the Premier League.