The official line is that we are a multidisciplinary management consultancy serving the construction, engineering and infrastructure industries. We actually provide our clients with high-calibre quantity surveyors, project managers, programme and risk managers, claims consultants and IT consultants. I like to think we are unique, and we certainly try to look after both our clients and our staff – we have more than 200 professional fee earners.
What do you do in a typical day?
I don’t have a typical day. Our business philosophy requires all staff to earn fees, therefore my time is split between clients, business development and internal management. Last week, I was in an appeal in the House of Lords and sitting as an expert in an arbitration case.
What do you most like about the job?
It has to be the variety and the travel. I’ve worked in places as varied as Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Florida, Thailand and New York. Each country offers new challenges and opportunities. While not many countries have quantity surveyors, there is always a need for high-calibre commercial management.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve been involved with?
The exciting projects tend to be those for the insurance loss adjusters. They are relatively short in duration and you visit the projects after their biggest disaster. It’s a real challenge to get things put right for the minimum cost. I’ve worked on a storm damage claim in Algeria and a dam burst in Angola. We do a lot of work on hurricane damage in the Caribbean – can you get a more tempting location for staff?
Is IT a big part of your work?
The sexy side of our business is the virtual reality modelling. I recently used a model in the Technology and Construction Court to show the sequence of construction. It’s true that a picture tells a thousand words. We’ve used virtual reality to identify pipework clashes, for presentation of schemes to clients, for showing how a new rail system of track-laying works and for the reconstruction of an accident for the Metropolitan Police. The possibilities are endless.
What does the future hold for your business?
The future is bright. In the UK, contractors are generally keen to improve their management and commercial efficiency and they will always need an independent view. Our dispute resolution side is expanding with adjudication, document management and paralegal services. There will almost certainly be an increase in outsourcing, which suits our business. Outsourcing reduces contractors’ direct overheads, improves resource utilisation, margins and effectiveness, and reduces overall costs.
What’s your wish?
It would be for the City to value construction as much as it valued dot-com companies earlier this year. The industry needs more investment to achieve its goals. It’s difficult to understand how a construction company with more than 100 years’ track record, turnover in excess of £1bn and profits in the millions can be valued at less than a new dot-com company turning over less than £1m and making heavy losses. My tip would be to buy shares in construction companies.
What do you do to relax?
Relax – what does that mean? I’m a black belt in Chinese kickboxing, which keeps me fit.