In a sector traditionally dominated by men, the construction industry has been a difficult area to promote diversity at senior management levels. However, Business Connect were very pleased to catch up with Adele Reid, Managing Director of ABC+ Warranty, who offers a vital service to the construction sector:
Adele – please tell us about your journey to become MD of a successful business operating in such a male-dominated sector?
“There was no magic wand or set of processes to follow. It was simply down to hard work – and social media influences just wasn’t a thing then. I am a determined individual from a working-class background. My ‘driver’ was to have more than my parents had. They worked a lot of unsociable hours, could never afford a holiday abroad and we didn’t eat out. My parents worked in factories and had no experience of the building industry, so I didn’t really have any role models that worked in construction. From the age of 13, I had 3 paper-rounds (that’s delivering the morning, evening and weekend newspapers for those ‘Y and Z Generations’ that look puzzled).
“I have a competitive nature, and so at school I enjoyed competing in many activities. I was naturally sporty, enjoying the ability to achieve and win at many different disciplines. Then whilst studying for my A-Levels, I worked a lot of hours at Deep Pan Pizza as one of the youngest supervisors. When finishing school, my first full-time job was an Insurance Administrator. I enjoyed the buzz of a busy office. I remember the 30 or so senior Managers and Directors who were all male except for one, that was in the 1990s. I knew that if I wanted to progress to a Management position, I’d have to work above and beyond the parameters of my job spec to be noticed. This need for winning and achievement helped me purchase my first house after saving for a deposit when I was 18, I simply wanted to be independent and successful. After a couple of years, I’d qualified for an Insurance Compliance Officer’s position, and at the weekends I’d be wallpapering, tiling my bathroom, painting or digging in the garden. I’d found my passion – houses!
“Before I knew it, I was 23, married, and had a baby, and also with my first barn conversion firmly under my belt! And then moving swiftly on then to a house renovation which I’d bought as an investment whilst working my full-time job. My parents live in Yorkshire, so child care was tough, especially in the school holidays. Our local nursery and Primary school didn’t have any aftercare or school holiday clubs, so whilst expecting our second baby, I took professional qualifications in childcare and set up the much-needed after-school and holiday club for the local working families that needed it at the school of High Legh. 12 months later I’d finished building our next new build eco house – with just enough time to spot the next opportunity! With my qualifications in the insurance industry and my experience of property developing, ABC+ Warranty was born!
“After recruiting a team of Chartered Building Surveyors providing inspection services Nationally, our strong office team of property specialists was formed. ABC+ has since won several awards for its amazing customer services, and has thousands of satisfied customers each year. Yes, construction is a male-dominated environment, but I wouldn’t say I have had major challenges in the industry because I’m a woman. The challenges I’ve had have been business challenges, moving into new offices, growing a trusted team organically, ever-changing FCA regulations, building regulations that constantly change and competitors who try to copy our ideas, oh and then there was COVID!
“We were amongst the first offices in the UK to be COVID secure so that our client services were not compromised, I wrote the guidance for COVID Safe Office working, a guide for employers which was used by the UK Government. I also created the COVID Safe Site Inspection procedure so that critical site inspections of our client’s projects were not jeopardised so that our clients could carry on building worry free. Of course, there will always be someone who assumes that because I’m a woman I know nothing about construction, but that’s water off a duck’s back. I wait for the moment that they ask first if I work and then what business I’m in…”
Is the sector changing to become more inclusive for women, or is there a long road ahead?
“The last 10 years has seen a big shift to equality being taught in schools. The new generation of young workers don’t stereotype, they have no hidden agendas, and they don’t discriminate or prejudice. So yes, the construction sector like all sectors is changing for the better. We can already see more women in construction, with young women choosing building surveying and/or property development as a successful career. To be successful in business, you must be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone and learn something new, put yourself forward. For me, that was public speaking. I have been speaking and presenting at various construction events around the UK such as the Grand Designs Live shows, the Home Building & Renovating shows and at UK Construction Week for many years.
“With no public speaking experience, it wasn’t a walk in the park, but it was important to share my construction knowledge whilst providing critical updates within the Structural Warranty industry, so it was important to get this right. I have provided advice and insight to the New Homes Quality Board, which will oversee the New Homes Ombudsman service. There are lots of industry changes on the way such as the Building Safety Act and major changes to UK building regulations.”
What services do ABC+ Warranty offer, and to whom?
“ABC+ provides; road and sewer bonds, insurance-backed guarantees, building control, site insurance, Professional Consultant Certificates and of course, a 10 Year Structural Warranty. Our typical clients are property developers and self-builders. If you are building a new property or carrying out major structural works or converting a building to residential accommodation then you will need to appoint someone like us for our services before you start the building works. We provide a Quick Quote service in minutes, which offers a great indication of important costs for any project.”
I believe you are a finalist for two categories hosted by Design and Build UK for Women in Construction – can you tell us more please?
“I have been nominated by our RICS Principal Surveyor, Jason Burns for Female Business Owner Of The Year and also for Inclusive Company Of The Year awards. There were hundreds of nominations from across the UK for other successful women in construction, and so I was speechless when I received confirmation that I had been shortlisted in both categories to the top 3 women nominated.”
Have you future plans for your business – particularly involving inclusivity?
“I have a great team around me. My hardworking office staff are rewarded for their loyalty and contribution to the business. In fact, one member of staff reached her 10th work anniversary last year with us and others are close behind. When recruiting, I look for potential ability, not the finished product. Everyone deserves an opportunity and I believe there is a job out there for everyone. I’ve always invested in upskilling staff, and I have a diverse all-inclusive team who enjoys what they do.
“I don’t think anyone is ever a finished product – as an example, I’m starting my insurance degree in a month! I’m not avoiding the question, yes we do have plans for growth and development of the business which I can’t divulge at this time (in case our competitors are reading)…”