#TakeFive – An interview with Tadhg McGuiness, Assistant Cost Manager, Duke McCaffrey

Can you tell us a little bit more about your work and study life?

“I’m at the Technological University Dublin on a five-year part-time course. It’s one day a week at college, then four days a week working with Duke McCaffrey. In between semesters I have been working full-time.

It’s a privilege really because it’s more of an authentic way to study and learn. When you’re in college the conversation is very different with your lecturers, it’s more of a discussion rather than just sitting there being taught. It’s a really great way to learn and I wouldn’t change it for the world, I think the practical and academic approach is the best way to excel in any field.

How has it been with Duke McCaffrey?

The team are excellent to work with, I think Duke McCaffrey are probably one of the best and fastest growing firms at the minute. The support they give me in terms of work, college and on any other level is just fantastic, out of this world, I really enjoy working with them. I’m going into my third year in college now and I’ve been with Duke McCaffrey for just over two years.

Which department do you work in at the moment?

I work in the quantity surveying department and my job title is Assistant Cost Manager. I’ve particularly liked the last couple of months as I had been acting in supporting roles, but lately I’ve taken a bit of a shine to it and I’ve been awarded some lead roles and projects. The team are happy with me and I’m happy with them so it’s going good at the minute, very full on.

Had you been working from home as well?

Yeah, I’ve been working from home for a good part of the pandemic. Over the last two or three months I’ve been in and out of the office so on a face-to-face basis, maintaining social distance and following all the protocols and advice. But, you know, we’re starting to get back into a certain sense of normality. The return is slow, but it is happening and it’s a much better environment in the office because I can bounce questions off people. Back at home everything took a long time, but we got through it.

Were you studying from home as well, or going into classes?

Yes, I was studying from home, it was a completely online academic term. There were no in-person classes, no theory or practical, everything was done remotely. There were exams, which meant that the lectures were pre-recorded, so it was a YouTube video for some lectures, others were just on Teams. It probably wasn’t the best way and I certainly would have preferred to be in college. It’s hard to learn new subjects in a non-educational environment but, that being said, if you put your mind to it you can do anything.

Are you the only one in the team doing this sort of course at the moment?

Yes, I’m the first person Duke McCaffrey hired to do the part-time course. They have had some students in on placement, which is the more common approach when you’re on the full-time course. When you’re in year three or four, you do six-month placements. There have been some students on that basis temporarily, but I’m the first they hired straight out of secondary school with no construction experience. They took a big of a leap of faith with me, but I like to think it paid off.

So will you be there for the full five years?

I will be with Duke McCaffrey for the full five years and then post-graduation I will stay with them as well, they have invested in me, so I feel it is important that I give something back.  But more than that I really like it here!

Would you recommend the path you’ve taken to others like you?

I would, wholeheartedly. It’s full on and some days there are long hours and late nights but it is most definitely worth it. Overall, the experience I’m gaining with the team, particularly at Duke McCaffrey, is phenomenal. When I go to meetings, I get talking to professionals from other companies and they are always a bit taken aback when I tell them I’m 20.

It’s all down to the structure of the course and how you learn at college and then at work. You practice certain tasks in work and then learn about it in college. You learn certain things in college, and when you see it at work and apply it in real life, that’s how you progress and excel, then it’s just copy, paste, repeat.

#TakeFive – An interview with Ronan McGee, Director, Duke McCaffrey

Ronan, what have been the main challenges for you as a director of one of the fastest growing cost and project management consultancy’s in Ireland?

It is going to be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that one of the main challenges was simply adapting to a completely new way of working and collaborating. Back in March 2020, who would have thought that the pandemic would take the best part of 18 months to get back to what we are now calling the new normal.

Until the pandemic hit, our staff had spent their careers working between the office and construction site but, for what was an unknown period of time, we would be doing everything from home!

Pre-covid, mentoring and briefing teams could be difficult due to workload and project meetings but at least we were able to discuss sensitive issues face to face. For us, our number one priority was to find a way of mentoring and supporting our people via virtual means. We invested significantly in upgrading our IT and software to allow us to adapt quickly to the remote setup, while also future-proofing the business.

Weekly meetings were an absolute must for the team. Like many businesses, every Monday we would plan out the weekly tasks over Teams but within a couple of weeks we found the meetings became more and more invaluable in just catching up and chewing the cud. This was great for the graduates and young professionals, as not only were they contending with a new career and working on their own at home, but they also needed to have a platform where they could listen to challenges and how they were being resolved – teamwork makes the dream work as the say!

The firm was expanding quickly, how did these new challenges affect your ability to recruit?

This was a challenge. The business was growing fast, and we needed experienced and talented professionals. Looking for senior people during a pandemic was not easy. We went through recruitment consultants and our own networks. We found two fantastic team members through our own contacts.  But even then, the challenge was in trying to understand each other’s commitment through a virtual environment!

I know many a business leader will tell you, recruiting people through Teams/Zoom is terribly difficult. The non-verbal clues are just not there. Your potential new recruit also has to trust what you were saying to take that leap of faith. For example, ‘why would they leave their existing global practice to join a smaller firm?’. I really think our reputation and our commitment to our brand culture played a significant role in helping them make a decision.

During the pandemic lockdown, how did your team cope with the increased strain to mental health and wellbeing?

We were very conscious that this was a particularly hard time, especially for graduates who rely on senior staff to guide them. One of the main things we did was to ensure every member of staff had a part to play on our Teams calls and that they had a director they could call on any time of day. We also held some online social events for staff to communicate in a non-working environment as well as recently completing a Giggle Fund event for Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin where we all took on completing 100km walk, run or cycle.

Helping our professionals feel part of the family and part of the team – made a big difference.

Throughout this challenging period, was there anything you learnt that you will take forward?

Back in March 2020, there were a lot of nervous conversations around the board table – after all there was so much uncertainty. Will we make it? Will what we have built as a business, fail?

What we actually found is that humans have great resolve and when tested can make things happen. Duke McCaffrey experienced significant growth and the wonderful thing was that this was mainly based on our past relationships – our hands-on hard work over the years really did prove its worth. During Covid, we have won a lot of repeat business as our clients really appreciated the time and effort we put into their projects and the service we gave them when times were uncertain and tough.

For example, working through the pandemic in the early days where nobody knew what was going on, we were regularly responding to calls where clients were asking ‘What does site closure mean for me?’, ‘What happens to my contract and my obligations?’, ‘How much are the site delays going to cost us?’. Frightening times for many developers, contractors and suppliers. I think by working through a pandemic in a collaborative way, it has resulted in stronger relationships with our clients and now we are all coming out the other side (hopefully!)

How would your team describe your style of leadership?

I’d really like to think that my team and my clients say that I’m always available and accessible. From a personal perspective, I believe I am fairly easy to get on with, not confrontational and try to see the positive in things! I don’t like the aggressive approach to business – there’s always a way to solve a problem by being constructive rather than destructive and maintaining relationships with fellow professionals and clients is key to success.

#TakeFive – An interview with Joe McCaffrey

We asked Joe McCaffrey, co-founder and Managing Director of Duke McCaffrey, what it’s like to run a business during one of the most disruptive times we’ve had since the global financial crash and Irish recession, and what’s next for Duke McCaffrey?

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Ireland’s construction industry is teetering on the precipice of an economic crisis after finding itself at the blunt end of an unprecedented global hike in the cost of building materials and Brexit, a senior figure from the sector has warned.

Ireland’s construction industry is teetering on the precipice of an economic crisis after finding itself at the blunt end of an unprecedented global hike in the cost of building materials and Brexit, a senior figure from the sector has warned.

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A surge in the cost of building materials is not a media myth – our direct experience evidences an increase of at least 12%

June has seen a continued hike in the cost of construction materials, with an average increase of 12% to date. This two-digit climb is significant – and worrying in itself – but the detail is even more dramatic. Steel-related products, for example, have soared by up to 44%. 

There has already been plentiful press coverage of these rapid rises and the prospect of a new home jumping in cost by between €12,000 and €15,000 by the end of the year is rightly headline grabbing. 

However, unless there is a strategy for change, the consequences are likely to be far more severe. Left unchecked, prices will continue to rise, fuelling the potential for price wars within the construction sector that could lead to a proliferation in use of sub-standard building materials and business insolvencies. 

Key to addressing the affordability of current and planned projects is ensuring the availability of resources and steadying the supply chain, according to Joe McCaffrey, Managing Director of Duke McCaffrey.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, fallout of Brexit and new port regulations are driving the inflation and construction is having to deal with a major supply and demand issue,” he said. “Investing in Ireland’s own production and talent is an urgent requirement and will help to stop the spiralling of costs.”

New Appointment – Iomair Treacey

Iomair Treacey has joined Duke McCaffrey as the Senior Cost Manager to work across the diverse industry sectors including housing, nursing care, schools, data centres and hotels. Iomair is a talented Quantity Surveyor with over 15 years’ experience in construction and has a higher certificate in Construction Technology.

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