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SPOTLIGHT: Grahame Kelly – New Director | Tate Consulting, Manchester

SPOTLIGHT: GRAHAME KELLY – NEW DIRECTOR OF TATE CONSULTING MANCHESTER

Age: 56

Lives: Was born in Newcastle, growing up in in Hebburn, London, and Cippenham in Berkshire where he went to the same school as Chief Executive of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, before returning to Jarrow in the North East. He now lives with his wife, daughter(17) and son(15) in Ponteland.

Hobbies: My main passion is travel. Before kids we used to explore the far-flung places and I love the Far East, South Pacific and all the islands in that area. I’ve had ideas of cruising across from Chile to Australia but I think you’d have to do that in two trips. But I’d like to see all the islands in that area. We’ve got a motorhome and we’ve really enjoyed some interesting trips through Europe including Croatia, Elba, the Italian Lakes, Sorrento, Portugal and central Spain.

Sports: I’m an avid Newcastle United fan where my son and I have season tickets and where I’m regularly reminded of the irony of my linkages to Mike Ashley.

Dream Job: Airline pilot if I couldn’t be a consulting engineer

Northumbria University: Building Services Engineering

Previous Roles: Director at Sweco UK, National Design Consultancy, WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff and White Young Green, now WYG.

Career Highs

My highs are being able to make a difference. If I look at my career history there have been a couple of common themes to my roles, the main ones involving opening and launching new offices, or resurrecting and rescuing failing offices. In terms of what I’ve recently done, building a new team for Sweco in the North East was quite satisfying, but equally going in to other organisations and reinvigorating teams where morale was low and staff churn was high has been very rewarding. In such cases, team restructuring has sometimes been required but I have found that treating people in the way you expect to be treated yourself combined with open communication, keeping teams informed of company activities and making them feel valued have been the key ingredients to reversing a negative situation. The internal effort also needs to be supported by a significant amount of external networking activity and involvement with institutes and other associations to strengthen the profile and reputation of the business.

Dealing with troubled offices has its moments of tension and pressure, but I’ve made these sorts of changes in a number of organisations and have derived quite a lot of satisfaction from that. Building something from new is also exciting and when you see the rewards it’s really satisfying, so the opportunity to build this new office for Tate Consulting in Manchester is really motivating.

In terms of projects, I’ve worked on large and small schemes. In the North, Bridgewater Place, which I think is still the tallest building in Leeds was one of the most memorable and one which I worked on from the initial concept design. I also worked on the Jubilee Line extension for London Underground. On a smaller scale I’ve enjoyed the aviation projects at Newcastle Airport and Leeds and Bradford Airport.

I’ve also been quite successful in terms of leading bids for major frameworks and strategic appointments, such as Crown Commercial Services Framework, Procure 21/22 and the North East Procurement Organisation. After securing such appointments I’ve enjoyed overseeing their delivery and also undertaking key account management functions roles for major clients.

 

Career Lows

I think for me the biggest lows have come from the impact of recession and other political issues such as the disastrous Brexit situation. One of the biggest challenges to the construction industry is that it’s the barometer of the economic climate and every time there is a recession or political uncertainty investors lack confidence and construction output falls, usually leading to redundancies or businesses to collapse. It’s not always the case, some businesses happen to be working in the right sectors and for the right organisations at these times, but generally speaking it’s a time of contraction for the industry and it has affected my career in the past.

 

What made you want to join Tate Consulting?

I’ve known Shane Tate for many years and of the success he has had with his businesses so when I heard that he was looking for someone to launch the Manchester office I was very interested to hear his plans. Needless to say, I was impressed with what he had to say about the business and where he wanted to take it. I was also really impressed by the depth of capability of the business in terms of general building services capability, but also the leading-edge specialisms in the residential and logistic sectors that we have, both of which are very active sectors in construction at the moment. It’s a business with a clear plan and it felt like an ideal time for me to join.

Also, the size of the business is appealing, I’ve been involved with the large PLC multi-national organisations where remote decision making and internal politics can be frustrating.

 

What would you like to achieve in your new role as Director of the Manchester office? What are your first priorities?

We have a lot of existing clients who are based in the North West and I quickly need to establish business relationships with them as they’re very important to us. I need to make sure that we’re looking after their needs as a priority. In addition to this I need to focus on us getting our name established in the region, there are many who will know of us, but may not know we have a presence in Manchester now. Equally there’ll be others who don’t know us, and I need to change that. So initially there is going to be a lot of marketing and business development to establish and develop our presence.

I look forward to building a new team and moulded in a way in the way I’d like to see the team built, and I know from discussions with Shane we’re like-minded on this.

Fundamentally though I simply want to see the business grow in line with the business plan of the organisation I’ve put together with Shane for Manchester.

 

Day in the life of..

It changes in time depending on the maturity of your office. Initially when you’re setting up a new office you’re going to be virtually one hundred per cent focussed on business development and marketing with new and existing clients. But as a business we always maintain director involvement with projects, so as projects are secured less time will be spent doing business development and more of that time will be shifted to overseeing projects being delivered. In time I would see that shift to fifty per cent of my time being focussed on business development, maybe even slightly less, with the rest of my time being spent in project involvement and general management of the teams and business.

 

How do you see the industry landscape changing in the future?

I think it’s fascinating when you start to think about it because everything is changing so fast and peoples’ requirements are changing as well. I’m excited by the advances that the UK is making in generating electricity from renewable energies, for example, the capacity of wind generated electricity now exceeds what we can generate through carbon fuels and I feel that this may cause the biggest change in our industry. The wind generated capacity isn’t there all the time because it’s dependent on the wind blowing of course, but if we can store the energy generated when the wind is blowing, which we now can with the advances in battery technology, then it should change the way buildings are designed. In the past we’ve always avoided heating buildings with electricity because it’s been harmful to the environment and an inefficient way of providing heating, but if it’s all being generated through green sources it has to be better and safer than burning gas to heat buildings. The installation of electrical installations is also a lot easier, cheaper and more spatially efficient than other alternatives. In the future everything might be electrically driven and we’re already seeing that shift with car technology. The advances in battery technology for the motor industry can also be relevant to construction where a small domestic battery can now store enough electrical power to supply a home for a week or longer. So with all of these advances and improved energy performance of buildings you can see how the way we design buildings could change. Our work has a positive impact on the environment and this is one of the best things about being a consulting engineer.

I’m often intrigued by developments in the industry as everything seems to go full circle. Take residential as an example, a sector that is a particular strength of Tate Consulting. We’re currently building a lot of tall buildings, yet only recently we were demolishing high-rise buildings in various cities because they didn’t work for people. This was more to do with the inadequate design of the buildings and them not working for families. However, there is now a clear demand for PRS accommodation and I’m excited to be part of that.

District heating is another example. During the course of my career I have worked on a lot of projects which decentralised heating installations, replacing central boiler-house installations that supplied hot water to district heating systems with local smaller boilers in the buildings served by these systems. The decentralised approach was considered to be more energy efficient but at present we are seeing many new district heating systems being constructed in various cities across the UK. The difference is that these systems are often served by a renewable heat source or as part of an energy from waste system but it does seem a little ironic.

Peoples’ needs are also changing and that has ramifications for the construction sector. For instance, the fact that we are living longer has created a strong demand for care homes. Linked to this, dementia is a subject that I can’t remember being mentioned when I was young but I think most people now have close relatives who have been affected by it and this is adding to the need for care facilities. Tate Consulting has a lot of experience in the care/assisted living sector and I think it will continue to be a strong market or us.