Most of the team are halfway through their first beers by the time Steve and I arrive at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
Despite this running start, however, they claim this is a rare foray to the pub. And if they do make it to their cosy local, it’s to talk about work.
“It’s not a social thing,” insists Dave. “It’s good for a catch-up about projects.”
Neil and Kevin are working on a development in Exeter, so they often go out there. “Everyone’s away for the night and you can’t have 10 people being Billy-no-mates all sitting on their own,” says Neil.
Steve interjects: “Unless it’s the architect, and then you tell them the wrong pub.” He’s joking, of course – in fact he trained as an architect.
Bonding over a few beers is essential to good project management, the team decide. And to your career, adds Steve. “As you progress, one of the most valuable things you’ve got to offer is your knowledge of suppliers and people you can rely on. When things go pear-shaped, you’re more likely to get out your phonebook than the contract.”
“There’s no point burning your bridges,” agrees Paul. It turns out that everyone round the table is working with the same handful of contractors and consultants. Going to the pub is, Steve decides, a “critical success factor”. “We should have targets,” he says. “Number of nights out, number of pints drunk.”
When you’re working with trades and subcontractors, says Dave, you have to: “These are guys who do go down the pub a lot, so if you want to talk to them …”
He believes clients have less clout these days because there’s so much work. The hardest thing, they all agree, is getting the “A-team” together on every job. “Why can’t we have the A-team every time?” asks Trevor wistfully.
Building pictures Hannibal, BA and the boys rocking up on site, but it turns out they’re talking about an elite group of their favourite suppliers.
Suddenly Dave injects a bit of genuine stardust into the conversation by admitting he’s met Terry Wogan on the refurbishment of BBC’s Broadcasting House.
“Really?” gasps your reporter.
“Oh yes, Terry’ll talk to anyone.
He sits in security while he’s waiting for his car. You just say hello and he’ll greet you. Steve Wright just growls at you. They limit the number of people working on the floor when he’s in.”
Dave watches BBC Breakfast in the morning, he says, “to make sure they’re still on air. If we disrupt the power, you’re going to lose three or four of the UK’s major TV and radio programmes.” Let’s hope it doesn’t happen during Sunday Love Songs.
Chosen watering hole: The Harp, Charing Cross, central London
Ambience: Old-style boozer equally friendly to suits or site boots
Topics: Work, work work, the A-team and the dark side of Steve Wright
Drinks: five pints of Carling, five Diet Cokes, two bottles of Corona, a bottle of Beck’s
Steve McGuckin, director of projects
David Gallagher, senior project engineer
Neil Read, senior project manager
Paul Dacey, project manager
Kevin Camp, retail delivery project manager
Trevor Mitchell, project director, London portfolio
Katie Puckett, Building