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Author Archive for: mariacoulter

What’s it like to walk in someone else’s shoes?
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What’s it like to walk in someone else’s shoes?

I took this photo at Nottingham Pride in July.  It was the first time I’d been, I went on my own, not part of a group.  I didn’t officially march, but I did jump off the pavement and join in.  The person wearing these killer heels, marched, they meant business.

This year has been a big year for me so far.  I became Chair of the Construction Industry Council (CIC)  Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)  panel and I also undertook the most ambitious project I’ve delivered so far, 1 Hr to Change.

The CIC D&I panel brings together representatives from the professions in our industry including RIBA, RICS, APM, RTPI.  Our purpose is to collaborate and raise awareness about the challenges we are facing in our industry around D&I.  The key thing is, we have a skills shortage and we are not attracting talent from the diverse talent pool that is available to us.  Part of this issue, I believe is that we have created an industry where we can’t be ourselves.  To me, D&I is about everyone being able to bring their whole selves to work, men and women.

I recently vlogged on linked-in about a Client I was working with who told me a story about some advice he was given early on in his career as a Site Manager.  He was struggling to work in the tough, adversarial environment he found himself in.  He was told by his Manager that he had to either put on an act, a mask, or it wasn’t for him.  That attitude definitely still exists today.  Men can’t show emotion and if they do, they are weak.

D&I is about understanding each other and breaking down the barriers but it can be tough if we don’t know how to act, or what to do to create an inclusive environment.  I know of a woman who tried to tell her boss she was gay so she could be open about who she really was.  It was not well received and she felt she had to go back to hiding her personal life and continue to adopt the ‘we’ did this rather than her and her girlfriend.  I worked with a man at the start of my career who is gay but never came out at work, he only talked to people he really trusted, that was 20 years ago and he is still not openly gay.

In June as part of the 1 Hr to Change programme I recorded a podcast and webinar with Sharon Slinger from Constructing Rainbows.  Sharon is an award winning Chartered Quantity Surveyor who worked predominantly with large Contractors prior to setting up her own consultancy advising companies on Diversity and Inclusion.  Sharon has also been involved in setting up a number of LGBT networks in her career and is now co-opted onto the CIC D&I panel.

There is a link below to listen to the podcast and sign up to get access to the webinar for free.  There is some great information in there as to what companies can do to start to generate a more diverse and inclusive culture.  One of the things we can do as individuals is call out bad behaviour.  I did this recently and got a bit of a backlash!  It prompted me to make a video of me ironing….. the link to my Facebook page is HERE to watch the video and hear my story.

If you want to find out more about what you can do, watch the webinar, there are also some great resources available on these websites:

Sustainability Supply Chain School Fairness Inclusion and Respect Toolkit

Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) BAME in Property

Stonewall, a charity who’s mission it is to make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel like they are not alone.  There is a great toolkit here.

Disability Confident a scheme to help employers make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to the workplace.

Sharon talks about the importance of stories bringing to life people’s experiences and helping others to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes.  I don’t know the story of the person wearing the amazing shoes in my photograph but I would love to hear your stories, especially any initiatives you have going on in your workplace to encourage diversity and inclusion.

The CIC are working on an exciting new project we are launching in November 2018.  If you want to find out more about this then click HERE to sign up to my newsletter.

The link to Sharon’s podcast and webinar is below.  Have a great week!

Diversity&Inclusion

 

Are you ‘in joy’ with your Job?
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Are you ‘in joy’ with your Job?

I recently recorded a #1hrtochange webinar with Nigel Risner who is a fantastic motivational speaker, business turnaround specialist and author of a number of books including ‘It’s a zoo around here’. Hence the monkeys in the photo!  More on that later…..

The theme of this webinar was about how to motivate your people.  As an industry we have a massive skills shortage which is only going to get worse when Brexit happens.  Everyone I speak to in the industry is talking about the challenge of recruiting good people but it’s not just about recruiting them, you’ve got to keep them.

Some of the key questions that Nigel asked is, ‘How many of you know the top 5 personal needs of your people’? ‘What drives them to come to work’?  ‘What do they need to perform well’?  ‘What is getting in the way’?  Do you know the answers?  It’s not about the money, that is a short term gain and you won’t build a successful business if it is all about the money.

I totally get that and it made me reflect on the recession which first hit 10 years ago this week.  I remember how training and development fell away, how it was all about the money, people were fighting for survival but not in the right way.  Those that were beaten up badly in the recession, as soon as things got better, they left.  Their personal needs weren’t being met, it was bleak and there were lots of redundancy sticks about.  As an industry we cannot afford to make that mistake again.

One of the questions I asked is, how do people motivate themselves?  If you’re a business owner or leader you have to motivate yourself first.  Nigel talked about the importance of passion.  If you’re passionate about what you do, you will have passionate people working for you.  Hence the question, ‘Are you in joy with your job’?

If you don’t love what you do, you will never be successful and if you’re not happy where you are, move was the key message, Nigel doesn’t mince words!

Another key takeaway, is, Inspire or Fire!  If you’re not willing to inspire them, then why?  Are there negative people in your organisation who are disrupting others?  A lot of business owners are in fear of getting rid of people precisely because there is a skills shortage but, and I’ve seen this happen, if people are allowed to get away with disruptive behaviour, you will lose your best people.

Now we come to the zoo bit.  I mentioned at the beginning about the importance of knowing your people’s personal needs.  Everyone is different but there are key character traits and Nigel describes these as, Monkeys, Lions, Elephants and Dolphins.  They are motivated by different things and as a business owner or Manager, it’s your job to be the ‘Chief Zoo Keeper’ and know what their needs are.  Not only will it increase their motivation, it will increase your bottom line.

So, this week, have a think about whether or not you are ‘In Joy’ with your job or business and about how well you know your people.  It will make a massive difference.

You can listen to the podcast I recorded with Nigel and watch the webinar replay HERE, it will definitely give you food for thought.  Oh, and different animals like different food!

Have a great week!

 

If you gave yourself time to think you could be a millionaire
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If you gave yourself time to think you could be a millionaire

I took this photograph on Sunday en route to Sardinia.  Technically I’m on holiday right now but I’m taking some time out to write this in probably the most beautiful surroundings I’ve ever written a blog in!

So my question today is, when did you last give yourself time to think?  When I was studying to be a coach, one of the most memorable training sessions we did was based on a book by Nancy Kline called ‘Time to Think’.  It basically involved the coach asking the coachee, ‘what would you like to think about today‘?  Sounds so simple but it is so powerful.

I’ve read a few articles recently about how technology is chipping away at our ability to be able to think and focus.  Our brain loves shiny new things, we can’t not look when the phone pings with an e mail or a call.  I recently tried to do a coaching session with a Client and it was really challenging as he felt he couldn’t switch off his phone or even put it on silent.  He definitely didn’t get what he needed from the session which was a wasted opportunity.  Nigel Risner, 1hr to Change week 4 trainer has a great quote, ‘if you’re in the room, be in the room’.  My Client definitely wasn’t in the room that day.

When  you’re in business, ‘big picture’ thinking is so important.  Do you have a vision for yourself and your business?  Do you know where you want to be in 3, 5 or 10 years time?

Reflecting back on week 3 of the #1hrtochange programme, this was my session on strategy and vision.  This was the lynchpin of the series as it gave you the opportunity to have time to think about where you wanted to be and where you needed to focus your energies to get there.  You could then pick and choose the webinars that would be most useful for where you’re at right now.

When I’m working with a Client the first question I ask them is about their vision for themselves and their business, you can’t separate one from the other because if you’re not happy personally and your vision isn’t driving you forward, you will never achieve what you want.  Also, I often find that my Clients aren’t thinking big enough.  I recently did a session with a new Client and asked the usual question.  He said, in 10 years time he’d be happy earning 150k / year.  This really didn’t seem a lot for 10 years work.  I then asked him some more questions and he had a lightbulb moment.  He realised that if he built up his business in the next 10 years he could sell it for around 12 Million.  At that stage he’d be 50, he’d be a millionaire and have financial freedom to travel with his family, start a new company, the possibilities were endless.

So, if you can find ‘1hr to Change’ this week it could make a massive difference to you and your business.  The link to my webinar is below and I will take you through a process to help you think about your business and also identify the areas you need support in.

All you need is a pen and paper and Time to Think.  It could change your life.

Have a great week.

http://1hrtochange.com/members/strategyvision

 

Do you know what Burnout really is?  It’s worse than you think…
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Do you know what Burnout really is? It’s worse than you think…

We are coming towards the end of the holidays and I’ve already seen some of the ‘first day at school’ photos on Facebook.  Before you went on holiday, did you feel ‘burnt out’ as you would call it?

In my blog this week I’m reflecting back on the 1hr to Change webinar I hosted recently with Anna Pinkerton from Kindness Incorporated about the 5 signs of burnout, and how to avoid it.  Anna is a Psychotherapist who works with business leaders and entrepreneurs who have broken down or are close to it.  She is also passionate about raising awareness to make sure they don’t get to that stage in the first place.

When I was a Project Manager I remember working on a really stressful project that required me to do a lot of travelling around the country.  I recall sitting at my kitchen table at 6am on a Saturday on the day I was going on holiday trying to clear e mails and I hadn’t event packed.  For the first time I took my laptop away with me.  In my mind I felt ‘burnt out’ but I wasn’t in the truest sense, although if I’d continued at that pace, I could have been.

Burnout isn’t about getting tired and needing a holiday,  it’s a traumatic event, when all of your senses and defence mechanisms are overwhelmed in 1 moment.  Prevention is simple as Anna talks about in the webinar but recovery is difficult.  Burnout can take up to 2 years to recover from.

So, how do you get to that stage?  Only the most hardworking, strong and dedicated people burnout.  They are the ones that can extend themselves beyond their limits, regularly, until they can’t.  They are phenomenal in their ability to put their work and other people above themselves.  They are the people that rarely say, ‘what do I need’?

Before the webinar, Anna told me a story about one of her Clients who was a Project Manager in construction.  He was responsible for delivering a complicated project and he made the decision to do it a certain way.  He was so constantly stressed throughout the project he literally felt like he was carrying the weight of the building on his shoulders and when the project was finished he broke down and had that ‘sliding down the back of the door’ moment.  Has this ever happened to you?  Can you see it happening to someone you are working with?

One of the standout quotes for me on this webinar is:

“An industry that is all about constructing stuff that is great, solid and robust is requiring its people to deconstruct themselves”.

Anna also talks about the macho culture in our industry, as if we say that rest, sleep, reducing adrenalin, being looked after, basic needs,  “that’s all good for other humans but not us, we are the Construction Industry”!  “Does the Construction Industry have special powers to avoid burn out?”

The answer is no!

So, what can be done to prevent it?  There are some great tips in the webinar but the key message is, you have to look after yourself which starts with, not skipping lunch, getting away from your desk at lunchtime, taking regular breaks to have a cuppa.   Simple things that collectively make a massive difference.

A ‘top down’ approach is also needed from business owners and managers.  It’s all well and good saying that you care about the wellbeing of your employees but it’s about what you do, not what you say.  If you are brutalising yourself as Anna calls it, not taking breaks, continually working late, e mailing at midnight then what message is that giving to your employees?

I asked the question, what should an employee do if their bosses aren’t looking after themselves and expect the same from them?  You have to be companionable to your yourself and set your own boundaries.  Going back to the Project Manager earlier who had the breakdown.  He’s back at work and is setting boundaries for himself.  He was recently asked to attend a lunchtime meeting and said no, that he doesn’t attend meetings at lunchtimes because he needs to take a break to recharge and eat his lunch.  Sounds fair enough, right?  His boss accepted it.

I could go on and on about the golden nuggets that came out of this webinar but it’s probably easier if you just watch it yourself, access is free when you sign up to the 1hr to Change website.  If you don’t want to do that, then at least listen to the podcast Anna recorded with a Director from the industry to get his perspective including the role Clients could play in burnout prevention..

One final thing, something great has come out of this webinar.  One of the attendees is implementing a new initiative in their organisation and myself and Anna are going to help promote this in our industry.  It’s being launched at an industry Wellbeing in Construction Summit, so watch this space!

Click HERE to access Anna’s page on 1hr to Change.

 

Is Construction bad for your Mental Health
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Is Construction bad for your Mental Health

I’m very conscious that I’ve been very sporadic on the blogging front but I’m dusting off my page and starting again with my latest journey…..

I’ve just finished the biggest project I’ve done so far, 1 Hr to Change .

I set a goal for myself at the start of the year that I wanted to have a membership site.  Little did I know how quickly that goal would happen.  Some funding became available from the D2N2 LEP to spend on SME’s and Micro-Businesses in the Construction sector as part of the Skills Support for the Workforce project in partnership with Learn Direct.

I knew what the challenges were with these businesses through working with my Clients.  Lack of headspace, fire fighting, cashflow, being pulled in lots of different directions, don’t have the right processes and procedures in place and are wasting time, money and resources.

I wanted to extend the reach of the funding to as many businesses as possible so I suggested building a membership site hosting a series of webinars, podcasts and films from local and national industry experts to help businesses to grow and be more profitable.  1hr to Change was born!

Between 8 May and 31 July 2018 I hosted 13 webinars and podcasts over 13 weeks with 13 different trainers plus bonus content.  It was a complete whirlwind and I didn’t get time to reflect on any of the amazing content as it was a case of, ‘done, done and onto the next one’ (name that tune?!).

At the time access to the webinars was just for businesses in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire but am delighted to say it’ s now available nationally for the next 12 months, AND IT’S FREE!!

Week 1 was all about Mental Health and Mental Wellbeing.  In a recent Construction News’s 2017 mental health survey it was found that 1 in 4 workers had considered suicide.  This statistic was still the same in 2018.

One of the main differences between men and women is that women talk and men don’t.  I know this first hand because I had depression a few years ago and boy, did I talk to my best friend about it, a lot.  How many of you reading this right now are suffering but have never said anything to anyone for fear of being weak?

Andy Dean, Managing Director of Building Site to Boardroom delivered the webinar.  BS2B are a not-for-profit organisation specialising in creating e-learning and face-to-face courses around wellbeing in the industry.  Andy has experience in the industry but is also a trained Counsellor, a perfect combination to get the industry’s attention.

“We have tools for everything in the industry but not for developing who you are on the inside”, was one of my favourite quotes and in this webinar there are some great tools to help in the moment but also to prevent getting to that moment in the first place.

Here’s the link to Andy’s page on the website where you can listen to a podcast I recorded with him.  You can also sign up to the site to get access to the webinar replay.  I hope it helps you and your teams in the future and it raises awareness to get people talking and bring this horrible suicide statistic down.

Mental Wellbeing

The link between Great British Bake Off, Ironing and Construction
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The link between Great British Bake Off, Ironing and Construction

It’s Thursday, it’s 10.30am and it’s definitely time for cake.  In fact, I’ve just had a bit at the lovely 200 Degrees coffee shop in Nottingham (other 200 Degrees are available).  They even had a joke on the board outside, ‘I had a joke about construction, but I’m still working on it’!  How rude?!

How many people watched the new GBBO this week?  If you’d seen the publicity photos leading up to it you would have noticed they were all holding a piece of rainbow cake.  So, what’s that got to do with Construction?  I recently wrote a course for the Chartered Institute of Building Academy on Ethics and Compliance in Construction.  It’s a free five week course on the FutureLearn platform and we’ve already had two cohorts go through it with some great feedback.

When I was writing the content I had to think really hard about how to describe ethics.  I’m a Chartered Surveyor, have been since 2001 but apart from a ‘knowing’ of what is right and wrong and adhering to codes of conduct,  I hadn’t really delved deeply into the subject of ethics.  One evening, I had a flash of inspiration (or maybe I was just hungry!) and a picture of a rainbow cake came into my head.

When you look at a rainbow cake from the outside it looks plain, but when you cut into it you see all of the different layers, similar to ethics.  Everyone is unique and the layers that influence your ethical decisions are:

  • Childhood upbringing
  • Beliefs, including religious beliefs
  • Culture
  • Values
  • Later life experiences
  • Discussion with others

Writing this course has got me thinking about behaviours and culture in our industry and the concept of being able to be yourself in the workplace or, bringing your whole self to work.  Having to suppress who you are can have such a negative impact on your mental wellbeing but first of all you have to know who you are in the first place.  From the feedback the CIOB have received so far, this course has definitely helped with that and started some great conversations.

The next run of the course starts on the 25 September 2017 and there is a link here to book your place.

With the ‘bringing your whole self to work’ concept, I recently posted a video of me ironing on my Facebook page.  The video wasn’t made because me ironing is such a rare occasion (although my husband would beg to differ), it was in response to a post I read on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.  If you do watch it, I would be interested in your thoughts.  My husband was also very confused when he came home to see the ironing board had been used, but at least he had a shirt ironed that day!

Now, how many people will eat cake after reading this blog……

Why Concrete and Coaching Don’t Mix
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Why Concrete and Coaching Don’t Mix

Following on from a coaching session with one of my Clients yesterday it got me thinking about the concept that concrete and coaching don’t mix.

My Client is a Civil Engineering Contractor and is wanting to take his business to the next level so we’ve been having regular coaching sessions to look at what actions he needs to do to grow his business and maximise profits.  When he first contacted me he didn’t have any headspace at all, it was full of all of the things he knew he needed to do and deal with but didn’t know where to start and he was very stressed.  We use the word stress a lot, it’s a feeling that we have but what does it mean?  It’s basically when perceived pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope.

Fast forward a few sessions later and he’s getting clearer but a couple of weeks ago I went to site to do the session as planned and he was having a disastrous day, the concrete pour was not going well and the water had managed to disconnect itself somehow.  That day we cut the session short so he could deal with the issue but that prompted me to share with you a couple of tools you can use to help you get more headspace.

The first one is to breathe.  Sounds a bit daft to say that as we need to breathe BUT, this is called the 7/11 breath.  It’s a technique I was taught on my coaching course and used many times as a Project Manager when I felt stressed and pulled in lots of different directions.  I used to take myself off to the ladies and practice breathing in for 7 counts and breathing out for 11.  Do that a few times and it really does calm you down.  When you get stressed it shuts off the  part of your brain that thinks creatively which is just what you don’t need in that situation.  Next time you feel yourself getting stressed, try it and let me know if it works.

The second tool is simple, when you’re mind is full, write it down.  The short term memory part of your brain acts like the RAM of a computer.  It keeps storing things that keep going round and around your head like an unclosed loop.  If you don’t find a way to close the loop you can literally go loopy!  Every time you tell yourself ‘I need to do this, I must sort that’ but then you don’t do anything with it, your short term memory stores it, and the more things you tell yourself, the fuller it gets until you may feel like your head could explode.

So, get a piece of paper and have a massive dump, a brain dump I’m referring to, just to be clear!  When you write things down that signals to your brain that you’ve closed the loop and it empties it from your short term memory.

Both tools are simple but effective and I hope you find them useful.  Enjoy the rest of your week and I’d love to know how you get on if you use them.

If you haven’t already signed up to my blog and you’d like to, the link is here.

Time to share the industry’s great examples of good
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Time to share the industry’s great examples of good

I’d like to say I’m writing this on a sunny day in August but unfortunately the Mediterranean has kidnapped the sun and is holding it to ransom!  Despite the weather I thought I’d share with you a positive industry message for a damp summer’s day.

I recently hijacked Ann Bentley, Global Chair of Rider Levett Bucknall (which I say incorrectly in the video, a bit of a red lorry, yellow lorry moment, apologies Ann!) and member of the Construction Leadership Council chairing the Supply Chain and Business Models work stream.

Myself and Ann sit on the Construction Industry Council main board and Ann acts as our link to the Construction Leadership Council. I remember when the CLC was formed at the same time that the Construction 2025 strategy came out, it has been massively paired down since then but it seems to have focus and direction to bring much needed change and act as an interface between Government and Industry.

Given that the majority of our industry is made up of SME’s and Micro-Businesses I don’t think enough people know who the leaders are and what work is being done on their behalf so I took the opportunity to do an off-the-cuff interview following a recent board meeting. It definitely is off-the-cuff, no flashy lights or flattering camera angles (not for me anyway!) I do, however have some proper microphones and shall most definitely be hijacking more industry leaders for future interviews, so watch out!

There is some great insights into what the CLC are doing in this video but the thing that really stuck in my mind was that they are looking for ‘great examples of good’. Ann’s viewpoint is that we know enough about what is going wrong in our industry but we can learn more about what is going right.

We build amazing buildings so let’s definitely share these great examples of collaboration, productivity and what we do best. Please feel free to post your great examples of good below with links.

Does the construction industry need the luck of the Irish?
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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!

 

 

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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.

Mood

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.