The firm’s lead director on building his business, the importance of a can-do attitude and why the best buildings are in the North-east  

Richard Farrey Silverstone BC - Richard 2

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I did some work experience in an estate agent when I was at school and saw them carrying out valuations of residential properties, which I enjoyed. That led on to more industry experience at an organisation called Project North East, based in Newcastle.

They were refurbishing their own properties and their head of projects, Bill Hudspeth, took me under his wing. That guy’s job was fascinating to me.

He put me in touch with a building surveyor they used – David Rogers. I spent a week or so learning from him and the spark was truly ignited, so I headed off to university on a building surveying degree course.

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

Establishing the business we have got, seeing it continue to grow and providing interesting, quality employment and opportunities for the excellent people in our team.

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

The people management aspects are the toughest and it is not something that gets taught at university. Keeping everyone in a team happy and maximising the value of every single professional relationship is what takes up the most headspace for me.

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

Let’s just say that I would make it less litigious and more “can-do”.

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

Life’s good, but it’s not fair. The delusion that life is supposed to be fair is the source of much unhappiness.

Durham Cathedral low res

Source: Shutterstock

Awe-inspiring: The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham dates from 1093 although the relics of St Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne from 685, were contained in a shrine on the site before that 

Name your favourite building in the world?

Durham Cathedral. It’s a monumental, awe-inspiring structure and a Unesco World Heritage Site for very good reason. If you have never seen this building up close, I urge you to take a visit – you won’t be disappointed.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

The Burj Khalifa.

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

The Sage Gateshead (recently renamed The Glasshouse), definitely. The design is beautiful and it has quickly become a North-east landmark that is recognised outside of the region. To be part of that journey, no matter the part you played, must make you proud.

Sage Gateshead low res

Source: Shutterstock

A North-east landmark: Sage Gateshead, now called The Glasshouse. opened in December 2004. The contractor was Laing O’Rourke

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

Ask as many questions as you can. And never be afraid to ask a question. Soak up all the knowledge you can get from the people who have been there and done it. Never stop doing that.

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

Anyone who has taken their role – whatever that might be – and really carved out a place that they own and grow in to.

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

I know it’s a cliché, but you really don’t get two days the same. I love the variety of the projects we get involved with and the ever-changing role.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Work hard and be persistent and good results will come from that.

What do you think your best quality is?

My tenacity. I’m not one to give up easily. I’ll persist and persevere. Hopefully not to the point of flogging a dead horse but I like to see things through to the end and that is a good thing.

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

I dislike my ability to be flexible. Some people might read that as my inability to say no.

My pet hate in other people is rudeness.

Name three things that you like

Free time, family time and doing creative things (usually involving power tools and DIY).

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

I can sail a yacht reasonably competently.

What is your most prized possession?

Can I have two? My wedding ring and an old watch my grandfather gave me many years ago.

Early bird or night owl?

I can be both, but not on the same day!

What is your favourite food?

A simple, classic chicken Caesar salad.

What would your superpower be?

A photographic memory would be useful in a casino.

Silverstone Building Consultancy is a national firm of chartered building surveyors and project managers with offices in Newcastle, Leeds and London.