How construction prowess combines with style and charm in award-winner Anthony Joubert

Taking in the news that he has been awarded the title of CIOB Construction Manager of the Year 2008, Anthony Joubert tells CM that he has “been travelling to another planet, and just landed back on earth. It’s shocking!” To make matters worse, the French national has landed in the Red Bar at the awards venue of the Grosvenor House Hotel, where he’s being asked to pose under the photographer’s lights, have his bow tie adjusted, and exude the confidence and charisma of construction’s James Bond.

But fortunately, the ability to rise to the occasion that Joubert demonstrated at Jersey’s £10.5m Liberation Place and Liberation Station project is soon in evidence. Joubert commands the scene in the same way as he commanded respect at project meetings: other onlookers make room, and a young woman ordering drinks at the bar is plainly intrigued. “Would you like to cast me as his Bond girl?” she asks.

Joubert explains the project, and his winning role in it, in fluent, French-accented English. Building a new visitor information centre and public transport facility was the first time the 33 year-old employee of Jersey contractor Camerons had taken charge of a project. But he overcame a range of geographical, political and technical difficulties: a historic site next to an electricity sub-station, interfaces with the States of Jersey Government, and the limited capacity of the local construction market.

The gold-award winner brought the bi-cultural experience he had gained in eight years working as a design manager at Camerons, following a 7-year stint working on major projects for Spie Batignolles. “There is good in both industries, the French and the British,” he told awards host Fiona Bruce during the presentation ceremony. “So for 8 years, I have tried to mix the best of both.”

That meant combining labour, contractors and technical systems from both countries to engineer value and mitigate risk. He had the steel frame redesigned to save time later in the programme, and opted to use lightweight French reconstituted stone cladding that was significantly cheaper than a conventional system. And in these times of enhanced awareness of financial risk, it’s noteworthy that Joubert hedged currency fluctuations by forward-buying Euros.

You get more from people when they are motivated, so you need to thank them, to get them into the party spirit.

“How many construction managers go out and buy Euros?” asks Chris Richards, a member of the judging panel. “There was no doubt in our minds that he was outstanding. He had a clear idea of what he wanted, and how he wanted to achieve it. We felt he’d be comfortable running a project ten times the size.”

Joubert himself explains that the secret of successful construction management lies in the early phases. “I believe quality and programme can be saved at the design stage, so we spent a lot of time and effort with the design team. It’s easy enough to procure a job well, but harder to draw it right in the first place.”

But hospitality appears to be another key to his success. Joubert hosted a fund-raising event for the local Rotary Club, where, in true Gallic fashion, he laid on a menu of Muscadet and oysters, as well as a Christmas barbecue where every firm involved brought food or drink. “I believe that you get more from people when they are motivated, so you need to thank them, to get them into the team spirit.”

Finally, he approached the project with a dedication and emotional attachment that his British counterparts might find harder to acknowledge. “All my life, I have given everything for my job. And small projects, sometimes they are the hardest. They are babies, so you have to give the best of you to them.”

But babies and celebrations are on his mind – just six weeks ago, Joubert became father to baby Olivia. CM would like to offer double congratultions to our Bond and his baby Bond girl.