How’s life at Currie & Brown?
I’m actually trained as a chartered surveyor, although it’s not that different from before. I’m used to managing QSs, and have often managed teams including QSs, project managers, engineers and architects. I’m used to working for and with these people.
I think I know what makes QSs tick: they like to get paid at the end of the day. But more seriously, they stop clients’ money from running away, which keeps me happy.
Why did you move from LDA to Currie & Brown?
I did not think I would be here six months ago. I was doing a lot of interim work, which included the LDA. They needed help with capital projects.
I found I enjoy helping businesses and perhaps liked that more than purely using my professional skills. I’m more of a business manager.
I was only there for four months. My work there was on-going and now, thankfully, they have become a client of Currie & Brown. We are helping them extract value from their asset base. They want to make sure that they get the best value so more can be put back [into public funds]
Do you think it’s easy for make the transition from surveyor to a broader business role?
I do not think as a profession that we train people well to move up through the ranks. Their ability to grow depends on the mentoring they have managed to get through their careers. Because I’ve worked in lots of different businesses, I’ve managed to pick up these skills a long the way. Now I’d like to try and pass on those skills to surveyors to help them become business leaders.
If you look at what QSs do, such as managing budgets, marketing themselves and so on, many of these skills are needed in business. But a QS may not have realised how to pull them together in that way.
What’s your claim to fame?
I spent quite a lot of time working with the military and that gave me a few unusual experiences. During this time I think I was responsible for the world’s most southerly 10-pin bowling alley, built on the Falkland Islands.
I also worked on the first retail convenience stores on aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Arch Royal.
How did you start your career?
When I left school I became a trainee officer in the Royal Navy. Although I did not stay long, I picked up the language of the military, which is very useful when working with them. It was helpful when I started my career with the Navy Army and Air Force Institute, the trading arm of the forces.
How is the industry coping with the credit crunch?
It will be different to the 1992 market crash. I first set up business on my own in that period, when my wife was pregnant with our first child – so it was perhaps not the best of times. But business managed to grow and grow.
In terms of where we’re at now, it is very different. In 1992, everyone was speculating. When the market fell away, developers were very exposed. Now, there is much more caution, more properties are pre-let and so on. There is far less greed. We are in for some turbulent times, but we are better placed to weather them.
Have we learned the lessons from the last property crash?
Not universally. The banking sector has been guilty of not learning lessons – the younger guys were not around. I think the property sector has enough grey haired people around to put a correcting hand on the tiller.
If I ruled the world?
I’d ban email. It is great for distributing information, but not a great tool for communication.
How has the building sector changed in your time?
The industry has become more specialised and more complex. This is mainly due to legislation, some coming from the EU.
One thing you find with that is that ‘professionalism standards’ have become a dirty word, akin to elitism. It now more about checks and balances for people to cover their backs, instead of using professionalism and commons sense to find ways to run projects better. But there is also a trend for people to become more rounded: foundations courses can cover all disciplines so there is a common language.
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Note to Editors:
Currie & Brown is a consultant in international construction and related matters, including risk and property management. It has four operating service divisions: Project Management, Cost Management, Consulting and Business Consultancy.
The company employs over 1000 people worldwide: 500 in the UK (50/50 split Scotland and England) and a further 500 in more than 50 overseas territories.
It is one of the world’s top 10 consultancies whose clients include Marks & Spencer, Royal Bank of Scotland, BBC, BAA, BP, Land Securities Trillium, and Shell Exploration.
The business is headquartered in London with 13 regional offices across the UK. It also has offices throughout Europe, Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Americas and associated offices in Africa.