It takes a certain type of woman to follow in her father's footsteps, particularly if his job involves working 100-hour weeks on a building site or being paid to dress up in a wig. Emily Wright meets an architect, a lawyer, a small contractor and two very similar looking facilities managers who have decided to follow their dads into construction, and finds out the answer to one father's question: ‘Why would they want to do that then?'
Tony and Billie
Building columnist Tony Bingham joined construction firm HC James as a surveyor and rose to become the boss before training to be an arbitrator. By 1992, he had been called to the bar and is now a top construction barrister. He has been writing his column in Building since 1987. His daughter, Billie, 27, studied politics at Leeds University before landing a training contract with solicitor Cameron McKenna. She qualified last year and is working in their construction department.
"I have a vivid memory of Billie as a child. I accused her of doing something and she replied, ‘prove it'. That's when I knew she would make a brilliant lawyer."
According to Tony, his daughter showed no interest in his career until she was at university and decided construction law might be for her after all. But the determination she displayed from that moment on is a trait he is all too familiar with. The pair share extraordinarily driven personalities, which Tony admits is not an entirely good thing. Both father and daughter find their grit and focus can eclipse other aspects of their lives. "We can both be a damn nuisance when we are trying to achieve something, particularly when it's career-related. Those around us, like my wife and Billie's great boyfriend, can become rather forgotten, which is dreadfully wrong."
Billie has never been keen to use her father as a helpline when she has work-related problems, despite his experience in the field. Indeed, Tony would be shocked and horrified if she ever asked him for help or advice on a particular case and would consider it highly unprofessional. But he has warned her of the pitfalls to watch out for in the industry. "The main thing I've told her is that you have to get used to feeling like you've lost and realise that you haven't actually. It's just that the judge finds the other side more convincing."
Tony doesn't doubt his daughter will be a success but has just one niggling concern - for which he has nobody to blame but himself. "When she told me she wanted to be a lawyer I thought, ‘My god, her name …' It's the sort of name you have on stage.
The name Billie Bingham just isn't quite suited to being lord chief justice of England and Wales!"
Billie admits that she didn't take any real interest in her father's legal training until she saw the wig. "Dad came in with ‘the wig tin', this black box, and I was suddenly fascinated. I asked how much it had cost and was told it was none of my business. Then I spent the next few years trying to borrow it for fancy dress parties," she giggles.
After spending most of her childhood dreaming of becoming a ballerina, Bingham junior began to consider going into law when she was at university. "I think dad was quietly pleased when I told him. Probably more so behind my back, though."
Billie wanted to keep her options open and took her time deciding what type of law to specialise in. But with construction at the back of her mind, she made sure she applied to a law firm with a good construction department. "In two years I tried insurance, pensions and real estate. But I enjoyed construction the most and decided to stick with it."
Despite having a father in the same industry, Billie is determined to carve her own path. "I'm aware of my father's views but I haven't been influenced by them. Also, Dad finds his job fundamentally pleasurable. He reads light case summaries to relax. I'm not like that. I need to separate my work and home lives.
I do a lot of sport and go to the gym every morning as a way of letting off steam. That's what makes my life more pleasurable."
Billie says that her relationship with Tony has not changed one bit as a result of her career choice. "We still joke around together and I still don't have as much respect for him as I probably should," she laughs.
Mike and Emma
Mike Schooling, 56, set up Schooling Building Contractors in 1980. The contractor now has a turnover of just under £1m and works mainly for local authorities and schools in Devon. His 35-year-old daughter Emma Favas has been working for him for nearly two years learning how to run the business. She will take over the business when he eventually retires.
Mike didn't exactly encourage Emma or her sister to follow in his footsteps when they were growing up. "The 1980s was a boom-and-bust period in the building industry and I wouldn't have recommended anyone to get involved with running their own business," he says. During this time, he was working on site, leaving late and then coming back to the office to finish off the paperwork. "I was sending out messages not to get involved."
There were times, however, when Emma's career choices worried him. When she worked for a fruit machine maker, the company used to send her out to collect money in an unsecured car. "Usually they go in proper security vans. But Emma just went out in her little car. She was visiting some rough areas with no security and, like any father, I wasn't too happy about that.
I was just about ready to go to her boss and make a scene when she decided to leave. I was incredibly relieved."
When she decided to try a career change, Mike thought her management experience would be invaluable to the family firm.
"I was so happy when she accepted," he says.
Mike plans to train Emma in the production side of the business in the next couple of years. The long-term plan is then for his daughter to take on all of the on-site project management and gain the confidence and skills to run the business without him. At the moment, she's going out on site with the small works supervisor learning to price jobs; Mike says the last thing he'll hand over is the more complicated estimating work on major jobs.
He knows, though, that there will be some changes. "I get in at 7.20am; I like to make sure everyone's doing what they're supposed to. But Emma needs to take her children to school, so we're going to get the foremen to take on more responsibility."
While there is much technical information that Emma must learn, Mike believes that with the pace of change in the industry, and in regulations and health and safety procedures, she'll soon overtake him. "I've been in this game for 40 years. When I started, we were using yards, feet and inches and we didn't have calculators or anything," he says. "I'm just the old-fashioned git now; I'm on the way out!"
Emma never intended to succeed her father as head of the family business but, when he approached her, it came at the right time. She'd returned to her job managing a bowling alley and nightclub after taking maternity leave, but her employers were treating her badly and she was looking to move. "When mum and dad approached me, it was out of the blue, but I thought, ‘sod it, why not?'"
Although she knows she's got a lot to learn, Emma's previous management experience has trained her to deal with most of the hurdles she comes up against. "At the nightclub and bowling alley, I was in the public firing line and took lots of stick for 10 years. There aren't many things that can be thrown at me that I can't deal with."
Contrary to popular belief, Emma says working alongside a family member actually makes her job easier. "Being his daughter, I can tell him what I think. I can just say, ‘No Dad, you're doing that wrong'. He's sometimes too relaxed and I come in and say, ‘Hey, this person is spending your money.'"
She has also banned Mike from answering the phone in the office as he got into a habit of having long chats with whoever happens to be on the other end, wasting company time. "He doesn't mind," she laughs. "He knows I'm right."
Emma is excited, if a little apprehensive, about taking over the business one day. "People may be a little surprised that a woman is running things. But most of our clients know who I am. When Dad introduces me, he says I'll be running the business in a few years. So they've got a chance to get used to it."
Terry, Victoria and Rebecca
Rebecca Bradley, 31, worked for as a British Airways air stewardess before moving into its facilities management department. She is now head of FM at the London stock exchange. Victoria, her identical twin, worked as a co-ordinator in an IT department before deciding to move into FM. She is now the operations manager for fm24, a subsidiary of Mace Macro. Their father Terry, 60, is now retired. He worked for BA as a senior manager and was in charge of the FM team.
Terry admits that this was not the future he expected for his girls. "If you'd told me they'd both go into facilities management when they were kids, I wouldn't have believed it. They were always more interested in the arts - music and drawing." He adds that he never thought they would want to swap their idyllic country lifestyle for the smog, strain and stress of the capital. "We lived in rural Sussex and they both used to love it. When they moved to London to become these career girls I thought to myself, ‘Why would they want to do that then?'"
In fact, he was worried when his daughters followed his footsteps into FM, particularly when Rebecca came to work for him. He was concerned that she was not committed to the profession. He was half right: she was committed to her job, but not to BA. "We trained Rebecca up, spent a lot of money on her and then she upped and left. It was a bolt out of the blue and when she resigned I was the one who received the letter," he laughs. Terry the father was proud that Rebecca had secured a new job but Terry the boss was disappointed by her decision to leave so soon.
He adopts a similarly stoic approach to their competitive outbursts. "I stay out of it," he says. "They often argue, but ever since they were little, even if they are at loggerheads, if you take a side, one will defend the other and put their own disagreement to one side. Before you know it you are fighting two of them - something I try to avoid at all costs."
Victoria and Rebecca
These twins are so identical that they can't even tell each other apart. On a recent holiday, the pair had a photograph taken when they were surfing. "When we saw the photo we both had wet hair and we couldn't tell who was who," says Rebecca. "We had to get a friend to tell us which way round it was."
They also turned up to Building's photoshoot inadvertently wearing very similar outfits and both have followed their father into facilities management, although neither set out with that in mind. They do admit, however, that the importance of managing property to maintain a successful company was drummed into them from a young age.
The girls remember accompanying their father when he was called out, sometimes on emergencies. On one occasion a de-icing rig - that's the machine that hoses snow and ice off the wings of planes - had broken down and Terry needed to get a contractor in to repair it. "I remember that trip so vividly," says Rebecca. "Yeah, because it was freezing cold," says Victoria, shivering at the thought. "But we learned that without a de-icing rig you have no airport. The planes can't take off with all the snow on them, they're too heavy."
Rebecca started her BA career working as a flight attendant, but she began to tire of the constant travel and the hotels she had to stay in most nights. "Just when I'd had enough, the job in FM came up and I thought I'd give it a go as it would allow me to stick with BA." For Victoria, the move into FM began to seem inevitable. "Rebecca has always been a big influence on me. She was the biggest factor in my decision. And the fact that Rebecca and my dad always discussed FM around the table also contributed to it. I wanted to be able to at least join in."
Where the twins don't agree, however, is in their approach to work. Victoria admits that sparks can fly: "There have been times when we have had to go into separate rooms to calm down after work-related arguments." She says the usual sore point is that Rebecca's role requires her to put the customer first but her own job focuses more on company profit. "I've told Rebecca in the past that she is naive to think it's not in a business' best interests to make money. It's not just about keeping the customer happy."
But the twins agree on one thing: that their father is who they will go to if they ever need support or advice. "It's definitely brought us closer, being able to discuss things with Dad," says Rebecca. "If we have a work-related conundrum, we can phone him and say ‘this is the situation' and he'll just say ‘this is the answer,'" says Victoria. "He warned us about the sort of wheeling and dealing that goes on and told us to keep away from that - like you never discuss a contract with someone on the tenders list. Dad has educated us about the things you just don't do."
Demetrios and Joanna
Cyprus-born Demetrios Loizou, 63, left school at 16 to be an apprentice draftsman with Mott Hay & Anderson, now better known as Mott MacDonald. He has worked as a land surveyor and a site engineer, and has spent the past 20 years freelancing as a senior site engineer through his own company, DGL Site Services. His daughter, Joanna, 29, has been working as an architect for Bptw since July 2004.
After Demetrios moved to the UK with his parents at the age of seven, he was forbidden to leave the family home without a chaperone until he was 17. His strict Greek Cypriot upbringing meant that he was never allowed to question his parents' authority. "Our roots were very much still in Cyprus. When I was growing up, if you tried to say your piece you got a clout round the ear,"
he says. Demetrios was determined to give his daughter a different childhood. "Me and the wife wanted to be as open and honest with our kids as possible. They were told the facts of life early on, whether it be sex or drugs or rock 'n' roll."
Joanna grew up well aware of how tough her father's work could be - Demetrios sometimes had to work 100-hour weeks as a site engineer to comfortably support the family. "We had holidays. The kids got their paragliding and their water-skiing but they knew how hard I worked to afford that kind of lifestyle. Joanna knew that you don't get something for nothing."
When Joanna decided she wanted to follow her father into the construction industry, he wasn't surprised. "I'm a bit of a Middle Eastern man and like to brag so Joanna used to hear all about my day when I got home. She always seemed interested." And it was Demetrios who steered his daughter towards architecture. "She was artistic. I thought architecture would give her financial stability and would suit her down to the ground." Sure enough, after just one day of work experience at an architectural firm, Joanna was inspired.
It has been emotional for Demetrios to watch his daughter complete her degree, diploma and finally her RIBA qualification. "I've cried at every stage of her success. Like any father watching his little girl following in his footsteps, of course I'm so proud."
Memories of dropping her father off at the train station for work trips abroad are still clear in Joanna's mind. "Back then, there was no email and Dad had no phone on site. So we both had Polaroid cameras and we used to take pictures and write messages on the back. Dad sent us pictures of himself in the middle of the desert where he would be working on an oil pipeline or something."
She also remembers visiting sites in this country, something she says has stood her in good stead since becoming an architect. "Dad used to take me onto site a lot when I was growing up. So I know how people are going to react to me. And I know how to present myself - you don't go down there in a short skirt and a vest top! You have to be firm and not give the guys any sort of ammunition. But at the same time, these are men with 30 years' experience and I need their respect. Dad's taught me all that."
Both father and daughter say they enjoy talking about each other's projects when they meet up. "We know how things are built. That's our common ground," says Joanna. But she admits that although they work in the same industry, their approaches are totally different. "He hates curves, from a setting out point of view, and would prefer everything to be straight lines. But from a design point of view, I'm a fan of curves. We've never had disagreements, just differences of opinion."
In fact, Joanna thinks their different career paths have been mutually beneficial. Understanding her father's point of view has shown Joanna that when you are working in construction, you have to balance standing your ground with compromising. "We have a great respect for what each other does. We have learned that although everyone is working to build something, people on the same project will always have conflicting ideas."