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Author Archive for: mariacoulter

Does the construction industry need the luck of the Irish?

Does the construction industry need the luck of the Irish?

I’m sure you’re aware that Friday was St Patrick’s day and you may have had a Guinness or two to celebrate?  Were you also aware that today is the International Day of Happiness? (have included the link in case you thought I was making it up!)

So it’s Monday, the weekend is over, there are daily stories in the construction industry press about skills shortages, impact of Brexit on the industry, consistently low profit margins etc, what is there to be happy about?

I just thought I would share what made my Client happy on Friday.  He identified that he could potentially be losing 21k / year in his business and I helped him come up with a plan to get that back.  All I did was ask the right questions and as a result of this I left our session to get the train back from London feeling very happy too.

My Client is an SME in the construction industry wanting to grow his business and I’m working with him to look at what changes including systems and processes he needs to make to achieve his vision and I reckon we have a few more pots of gold to find yet.

Every day in our industry resources are wasted in all sorts of ways, you may have the right people doing the wrong roles therefore they are not being as productive as they should.  You might have the wrong people in the right roles upsetting the apple cart by not being able to effectively manage their teams and causing discord and lack of productivity.

There could be all sorts of pots of gold in your business waiting to be found right now.  SME’s and micro-businesses are the back bone of the industry and freeing up capital in their business and maximising profit margins could make a huge impact on their ability to grow and increase the industry’s productivity.

So, what would make you happy today?  If you do need any help finding your pots of gold then give me a shout and I will bring my metal detector!




Brexit – Sliding Doors the alternative, Gwyneth Paltrow gets stuck at the station!

It’s a long one, bear with me!

For those of you who don’t know the movie, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character prises open the door, gets on the train, gets home early and finds her boyfriend with someone else. The alternative story running in parallel is she misses the train and her life turns out very differently….

So, one week on, regardless of whether or not you voted to get on the train heading out of Europe or stay on the platform, we are on it, only we’re stuck at the station with no driver and the map has changed!

I spent a lot of time this week talking to leaders and business owners in the region, some of whom are my Clients to get an idea of what the feeling was and if there had been any impact so far.

Amongst the people I spoke to were an SME Project Management Consultancy, A Roofing Contractor, Commercial Property Consultant, Public Sector Procurement organisation, Architects, Contractor, large Construction Consultant, Low Carbon Building Technology SME and a PR Consultant. I’ve broken it down into the key areas of the conversations.


The majority of the people I spoke to had voted to remain and the consensus was no one was really prepared for it and it was too soon to tell. The roofing contractor, as well as being cautious was excited in a roundabout way about what the future holds. The one who had voted to leave didn’t do so because of immigration but because of the EU’s unwillingness to recognise and address key issues affecting our country and to release our powerlessness at being able to influence their decisions, to, ‘paddle our own canoe’ in the direction we want to go.

Immediate impact

The Commercial Property Consultant had seen 2 commercial projects put on hold following Friday’s decision which is being funded by mainstream banks who are getting nervous. The Project Management Consultancy also expressed concern around commercial developments. There was a difference of opinion on housing, with concern around share prices falling in the market although the PM Consultancy was not as concerned with the house building market.

There is a concern around big developers relying on investment funds slowing down due to a lack of decision making and there is also the hope that government will learn lessons form the previous recession and continue to invest in infrastructure.

Short term impact

Most reported Business as Usual, and the need to not have a knee-jerk reaction. There has, however been a short-term impact on supply chain. A specialist supplier procuring a stainless steel swimming pool from a European supplier had been hit by a 5% hike in cost due to the falling pound. I’m sure there are lots of examples of this throughout the region.

There had also been concern around whether projects with European funding would proceed, however, following a conversation with a consultant around ESIF and ERDF funding there is assurance that these funds are running until 2020 the allocation of which is being controlled by the Government.

Markets are the key driver, if markets go down there is less investment and income but it’s too early to know if people will not invest and delay decisions but the more scare mongering there is, the worse it gets.

Long term impact

From a public procurement perspective, it won’t impact immediately on European funding but will in 2-3 years. There will also be an impact on supply chain as 60% of materials are procured in Europe. One of the Architect firms I spoke to said that they generally had around 12% non-UK EU Internationals who were concerned about what the future would be for them, one of which has applied for citizenship.

The general consensus was, whilst we have an idea of potential areas of risk, until we are out of the current state of limbo, we just don’t know.

So, what can we do now?

These are just a sample of what we are all experiencing regionally but the overall message from everyone I spoke to is carry on with business as usual. Carry on investing in staff as much as you can for as long as you can. There is a challenge with materials from the continent but there is still an apatite to trade. Look at risk, keep things moving, engage with the financial community, what we need now more that ever is clarity.

Flexibility of skills is required in the workforce, particularly if companies need to branch into other sectors.

Supply chain should look at contingency planning and companies need to have a long term plan but here and now it’s about strengthening the position.

Keep spending and be confident, learn from the previous recession.

One consultant made the point about the differences between privately owned businesses being able to make their own decisions which isn’t the case for a PLC with pressure from their shareholders which is linked to the stock market. Shareholders may want to reform to protect profits. A sensible well planned response is needed. We also don’t want to add to the skills shortage and strategic thinking is definitely required. The consultant also went on to say, deal with facts, don’t panic.

Another consultant went on to say that we need to look for the opportunities. Due to EU rules the government couldn’t invest in the steel industry but they could in the future and in other core industries.

The MD who voted to leave said that Brexit places a greater emphasis for us to explore and build closer relationships with European and global partners outside of the command and control environment and structure to which the current member states subscribe, supply more, sell more. We have a lot to learn and a lot to gain, think business not building and take off the blinkers, build an international capability and exploit our vision.

As for me, I say, whilst you can’t control what is happening whilst we are stuck at the station, you can control what happens in your business. Use this time to think strategically, review your business, look at potential areas where changes could be made to maximise profits without losing people and putting on hold any plans for growth or training. When you panic, it shuts down the area of your brain that thinks creatively. Ironic that when I think of the words, ‘don’t panic’ I think of Dad’s Army!!

Speaking of Dads, when I spoke to him last Friday he said it will work itself out, so I’m sure we’re all going to be fine!

One last word, I also heard today that businesses who are prepared to take advice are twice as likely to succeed as those who don’t so LET’S HELP EACH OTHER.

What I’ve learnt from Ronan Keating, Pipes and Ferrero Rocher

What I’ve learnt from Ronan Keating, Pipes and Ferrero Rocher

Now there’s two words you never expected to see in a construction related blog?!

It’s been a while since my last blog but whilst I’m a bit dusty, I’ve not been idle. Since then I have started my own business and spent the last 18 months out in the field working with construction companies, growing their businesses and supporting their people.

I’ve been voted in as Chair of the East Midlands Construction Industry Council and appointed as the Construction Ambassador for the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership covering the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area.

Anyway enough trumpet blowing!

One of the things I enjoy most about what I do now, is that it gives me a lot of “on the ground” intelligence of what is really happening in our industry both regionally and nationally and more importantly what companies are doing to make a difference. And the good news is I am going to share what’s working and what isn’t over the coming months.

Right… back to Ronan Keating. 20 years ago the lovely Ronan, wrote the song, ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ and never before has a song described our industry better.

When recession hits and we go down the dip the redundancies start and the training and development stops. We are now coming out of recession and whilst some companies have gone into headless chicken mode and are recruiting and expanding, some are still cautious and wary of taking the risk. Which is where the pipes come in……..!

One of the biggest barriers to growth is lack of visible pipeline, if you don’t know what is coming up, how can you plan let alone pitch for it? This was a hot topic for the Construction 2025 strategy and Greater Manchester have led the way in publishing regular pipeline data which has now been extended to cover the North West. The information produced in a pipeline report looks ahead at the next 5 years, what skills are needed to deliver and where the gaps are.

And finally…. does anyone remember the Ferrero Rocher Ambassador’s party advert?

As part of my post as Construction Ambassador for the D2N2 LEP I am co-ordinating the delivery of a D2N2 construction pipeline analysis which we are launching at an event on 10 May in Derby. Whilst I can’t promise I will be handing out a mountain of gold wrapped little pieces of heaven (they are my favourite chocolates), there will be bacon sandwiches.

If you’re in the construction industry in the East Midlands and interested in growth and finding out what support is available and what is happening regionally, you really need to be there. For an in-depth view of what will be covered in the event click here.

To book this event click here.

I hope to see you there on the 10th, I promise I won’t be singing Ronan Keating (unless of course there is Forrero Rocher on offer)!

Panel Of Experts

Panel Of Experts

What emergent trend do you think has had the largest impact on the project management space in the last year?…

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The Recovery: it’s all about the journeys

The Recovery: it’s all about the journeys

Having spent the past five years in a recession shaped tunnel – complete with double dip roller coaster – we are now starting to see cracks of light coming through, says Construction Coach Maria Willis…

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Mentoring – Time to get your pom poms out!

Mentoring – Time to get your pom poms out!

Maria Willis is a Chartered Surveyor, Project and Risk Manager and qualified Coach. As well as coaching and mentoring within the industry, she is author of the ‘Construction Coach’ blog which is focused on sharing experiences, learning and application of coaching and leadership related topics.

Click here to read more.

APC – Avoiding The Stress Factor

APC – Avoiding The Stress Factor

Maria Willis, a Chartered Quantity Surveyor through qualification, works for Gleeds in Nottingham. She has extended her specialism beyond her current role as a Project & Risk Manager by pursuing her interest in the field of personal development.

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Bricks and the City – Stressed? Time For A Group Hug!

Bricks and the City – Stressed? Time For A Group Hug!

Where is Alanis Morissette when you need her? I’m going to add an extra line in………….’ isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?’ It’s that ti ee ime, when you write a blog about stress and you lose it all, and you feel incredibly stressed, and rather than summarising the amazing TED talk you’ve discovered today and want to share with the world, you post the link and go downstairs and have a glass of wine.

Who would have thought, it figures!

The other thing I read today was some words of wisdom from the actress Drew Barrymore, apart from saying how it’s fine to touch an Extra Terrestrial’s finger and get them to phone home, she also makes sure that if she makes a mistake, she doesn’t do it again! The next irony is, this has happened to me before, but it definitely won’t happen again!

I hope you watch the TED because it is a great one and it will certainly change how you think about stress.

Here it is:

Have a great week everyone, mine’s a Chianti!