I discovered the Construction Manager of the Year Awards (CMYA) back when I was a student and decided then that one day I would apply, and one day I would win. Throughout my career the award has been at the back of mind but I wanted to wait to find that moment where I felt worthy of it.
But it’s difficult to get out of a site manager when they feel they’ve done something special. If I do something well, I just believe I’ve done my job right. It’s hard to see the difference between doing your job and providing excellence and going beyond that role. I think it’s even harder to notice when you work for a smaller company. You have to work hard on both your and your company’s reputation, knowing that the success of your current job is what will bring the next one as that repeat business and relationship with your client is so important for getting your next job.
I choose to work for a small company. I love it – the work that I do and the company I work for. It’s definitely where I feel I belong. But when you’re part of a smaller company, it can put you off applying for these awards. The first year I got to the final I didn’t win and I felt so disappointed. It was such a rollercoaster of emotions that night. I knew that just being there was a big achievement but I still wanted to win and, after the disappointment hit, I thought I wouldn’t enter again. I started to doubt the scale of my projects, believing they weren’t prestigious enough to be recognised, and that winners would always be from multi-million pound projects and have a large team behind them.
The more I thought about my work though, the more I questioned it; why shouldn’t I win? I work hard across multiple roles, I have great clients and I get great projects. I decided that the next worthy project that came along, I would enter and try again. Not long after, I worked on a project which, when I stepped back from it, I knew I had produced something special and I wondered if it could be ‘the one’.
Turns out my client believed it was and they nominated me for CMYA 2017. It was through this nomination that I realised, this time, it wasn’t just about me. I got to the final again but this time I had my director, the client and my wife all with me and supporting me. I realised, as badly as I wanted to win, the most important people already recognised what an achievement this was and the fact that they were all there for the evening meant the world to me. When I heard my name called out, I remember jumping up as I was so excited. I recall coming back to the table for hugs and celebrations, but the rest, for all of us, was just a blur of emotion and elation. I’d gone from being a bricklayer at the start of my career to being recognised by my peers as a leader in construction. It felt amazing!
There is still a misconception in our industry that we’re all loud builders who leave problems and mess behind us. That’s why it’s important to have awards like the CMYA that celebrates how we change to meet the needs of a client, the lessons we learn, how we creatively try to prepare for and prevent problems, and how we’re approachable and personable professionals.
I know that there’s another cracking site manager in a small company who is like me, who is proud to work with their employer, who does everything right and who their clients love but won’t put themselves forward for CMYA because they don’t see it as applying to them, or feel they won’t have the support of their company if they do. Sometimes smaller companies can worry that if they draw attention to their staff then they’ll get poached. But I see my award as being as much for my employer as it is for me. I may have done the work but I couldn’t have had not been for the culture of a great company and employer behind me. All companies should see it as an investment in their staff and recognition for the hard work that they do.
Now I know that I can win Silver, I still have my eye on Gold. As soon as I have that right project at the right time, I’m going to be back. In fact, I would love to be the first from a smaller company to take that top prize, so perhaps I should hold off encouraging smaller companies to enter until I’ve taken the title…