Following the lifting of the final restrictions, construction businesses across the UK are preparing for a future beyond covid. Leeds-based C80 Group is one of those companies, with ambitious targets for post-pandemic growth in its sights. We spoke to Group Business Development Manager, Caroline Ryde, about the challenges of the past 18 months and the opportunities ahead.
Changing jobs and starting at another company often involves an initial period of acclimatisation. Caroline Ryde, Group Business Development Manager at C80 Group, had to navigate that period in the most testing of circumstances, having joined building consultancy business, C80 Group, on the cusp of the first national lockdown in March 2020. Getting up to speed at the height of a worldwide health crisis was certainly not what Caroline envisaged when she applied to take up a role at C80 Group, but she reflects on that time as a challenge which has brought the best out of people in the industry.
“C80 Group has very ambitious goals for expansion, but we had to reassess and reset our immediate plans when most of the country shut down. However, during that period we all pulled together as construction, unlike some other sectors, was able to keep going during 2020. I admire the way my colleagues stepped up to help keep the Group on a very strong footing as we emerge from the pandemic with more positive times ahead. I’m sure that similar stories have unfolded throughout the industry, which has once again proved its resilience.”
Over the past 18 months, numerous companies in construction have been surprised at how much they can achieve through remote working. That’s certainly the case at C80 Group, which has expanded its team with extensive remote recruitment and the acquisition of Stewarts, a Midlands-based specialist in building services engineering.
“What C80 Group has achieved in 2020 and 2021, particularly with the acquisition of Stewarts last year, shows that it’s possible to keep your business moving forward in the most extreme circumstances. I think that building consultancies that can offer multiple specialisms will have a huge advantage in the coming years. For C80 Group, Stewarts’ expertise in engineering solutions can now be harnessed in collaboration with our other consultancy services, including Building Regulations and environmental performance, energy assessment, BREEAM, air tightness, sound testing, environmental noise and thermal modelling. It means that we can tender for projects as a multi-disciplinary service, offering enhanced value and efficiency.
“The feedback we’ve been getting from prospective clients is extremely encouraging. I recently spoke to one company which was amazed to find a consultancy able to provide expertise across Building Compliance, surveying and M&E. He told us that he’s used to having to make three different calls to three different companies to source all of those services.”
Caroline is one of an increasing number of women making an impact in a construction sector that has often been perceived as male-dominated. She brings superb credentials to C80 Group, including a very successful six years working at specialists in energy assessment and Building Regulations. Caroline’s experience in construction has led her to conclude that there is ample space for women to join and succeed in the industry.
“When I started out in construction nine years ago, I was the only woman in a sales team of eight. By the time I left that company, seven out of the eight were female. I used to visit construction sites and men would be surprised at the amount of technical knowledge I had. That’s no longer the case and I’m also seeing a lot more females providing trades such as plumbing and joinery. Women are slowly taking over the sector!
“It has become an industry where women have more opportunities to thrive. C80 Group is evidence of that – we have many women at all levels of the organisation driving our success, from marketing to operations and technical.”
As construction emerges from the shadow of the pandemic, Caroline is encouraged by the industry’s health while recognising that certain challenges will need to be overcome in the immediate term.
“From a business development perspective, the brakes are now off. In June 2021, UK construction activity expanded at its fastest pace since June 1997, according to latest PMI data. The main issue is keeping up with demand for new building work, with stress on the supply chain caused by covid and Brexit. If we can overcome that hurdle, the industry can really flourish in the years ahead.”
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