Graham Black

Q: What got you into the Construction / Property industry?

A: At school I wanted to be an accountant. Whilst on a work experience in a contracting organisation, however, I quickly realised it was construction and not accounting that would inspire my career. Having then studied Civil Engineering at University, I started out in contracting as an engineer and planner, before progressing through design coordination and construction management. In the years leading up to establishing Tandem, I also had the benefit of working for two larger consultancy practices, leading their regional project management teams.

Q: Is being qualified important?

A: Academic and professional qualifications provide you (and importantly others) with confidence of ability and technical understanding. In my opinion this is however a little superfluous, as it is more the learning process itself and innovation brought about by continuously developing and updating your qualifications which, combined with experience, brings real tangible advantage. My HND was swiftly followed by an Honours degree in Construction Management and, later, a Masters degree in Law. Similarly my continuous development professionally is guided through involvement in a number of chartered institutions.

Q: Is your experience best measured in years or number of projects?

A: Looking back its hard to believe that already over 15 years of professional experience have flown by. However, I am proud of the variety of projects I have had the fortune, pleasure and excitement to help deliver and this in turn has increased my confidence and knowledge. From projects such as water treatment works, roads and bridges, a rugby stadium, scientific laboratories, manufacturing facilities to workplaces and community centres, there has been no two projects the same. Consultants are all too often selected on whether they have previously delivered a carbon copy project…I believe this belief of a ‘safe pair of hands’ is unfounded and unfortunately an opportunity to drive greater value into the project’s execution is lost. Controversial maybe, but specialised, one-trick pony consultants, will only ever keep delivering the next project much the same as the last. Shoot me if I ever do this!

Q: Is managing projects successfully a generic or industry specific skill?

A: The term ‘Project Manager’ has become so common across all industries that often, unless it is added into a title or job description, people are cynical as to whether the role has purpose! Whilst many of the attributes and skills of a project manager can be indeed found in general management, the two should not be confused. Managing projects is different; to do it well takes a special set of skills and the experience and confidence to deal with the tricky things, which others often turn away from. Deadlines, objectives and targets are real; they are not merely internal political yardsticks. Good project managers can work outside their core industry and still deliver, indeed both myself and others at Tandem have helped our clients deliver projects completely unrelated to construction.

Q: In projects, where do you add the greatest value?

A: Tricky one to answer – please ask our clients to obtain a better opinion! I certainly enjoy the challenge of coming up with a plan and strategy. When there is a lot to be done, a plan is essential. To keep everyone happy, engaged and on track for success – a clearly communicated plan is a pretty good start.

Q: What is the most exciting bit of delivering projects?

A: As a project manager, and certainly in construction, you get to know a little bit about a lot of things. You never stop learning. Some would say it is therefore difficult for me not to have an opinion on something!

Q: What does ‘together we can…’ mean to you?

A: When coming up with the name of the business “Tandem Projects’, it did not take long. It was clear to us all that it was about working together, whether that is internally at Tandem, with other consultant teams, contractors & supply chains. However, most importantly, it is about working with our clients. Delivering projects successfully is a team game – the way for this to work best, is for everyone to roll up their sleeves and work together.

Q: When not working where would you be found?

A: Working on refurbishing part of our family home or, if time permits (and I am given a pass!) swimming, cycling or running.

Q: What was your worst mistake?

A: Thinking that somehow I would simply just pass my A Levels by turning up for the exams – I failed the lot! It was a tough lesson at the time, but probably been the best thing that’s ever happened for my career.

Q: If you could improve technology in one simple way what would it be?

A: All email programs ought to be able to scan the text of your message for the word ‘attached’ or ‘attachment’ and if nothing is actually attached, a prompt or pop-up should remind you to do so before the message is actually sent!

Q: What’s your most played music track?

A: Iggy Pop – Lust for Life – a brilliant track to run to!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone?

A: Always play a straight bat.