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14th Day of Christmas

Paul Simpson

Job Title

Business Stream Manager – North and Scotland

What specific skills have you learned through this job?

Since I’m in a different role compared to my previous engagements, in which I was in a more operational role, I’ve had a greater focus on my business development skills – I’ve focused on that more than I ever have. So I suppose if anything I’ve gained more knowledge of how that works. And also an insight into marketing, since working closely together.

How do you explain what you do to your family and friends?

I would explain, that I’ve always  worked in the pile industry, I came up from the tools, worked in contracts management and I’m now in the position that I am because I’ve established good relationships in the industry. I’m now working with Aarsleff to make the most out of expanding the North-East region – winning back the region in an operational sense. I don’t just say I’m doing business development – I don’t believe that’s what I’m solely doing. It’s an aspect of what I do.

How did you get into this career route?

I started working on the tools, working as part of a piling crew. I really wanted to progress. I had a short spell out of the industry because of the recession and then came back into the industry as soon as things started to pick up again, this time in an office. I spent a couple of years estimating, but I always wanted to get back to doing the operational side of the job, which is why I pushed into contracts management. And then it just went on from there.

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about becoming an engineer?

If you want to become an engineer I think the best route is to always have a good insight into what actually goes on on site – have a good understanding of the operational side of things, even if it’s just a year of working in operations. It makes it a hell of a lot easier to understand what you’re actually being asked to design.

So it’s not just about studying the topic?

No. You can’t learn everything about engineering from a book. You need relevant experience, which is what makes better engineers, because you can design things differently when you understand the buildability of something; you understand how things go together. You can make savings when you know what you’re doing.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t chosen the career path that you chose? Is there anything else you wanted to be when you were younger?

Honestly, I originally was going to join the army or the RAF to become a pilot or a helicopter pilot. I still think about what it would be like to have a career in the army, thinking that I would have been quite successful with it.

What stands out as the most interesting project you’ve worked on and why?

I’d say the Stephenson Quarter project in Newcastle. Reason being because there were a lot of different phases to it.

How do you want to further develop and progress in the North-East region?

I obviously want to push the new and original techniques that we offer – get the word out. I want to offer more competition in the market, because there is very little at the moment. I feel like we offer a better quality service than the existing competition – hence, why I joined. I also want to explore new avenues I haven’t really gone down yet; new piling techniques, so that we can offer a wider range for our package deals. I don’t want to miss out on anything. I want us to cover all bases. In addition to this I want us to have an operational basis in the North and Scotland and establish more local relationships.

How much of business, do you think, is about the people?

A huge amount, regardless of the specific business. A mixture of client relations and how you perform on site is how you establish and maintain good relationships. The construction industry has always been about how well you get on as companies. You don’t want to leave a sour taste in someones mouth, because they’ll start to think about using someone new. You want to make sure you walk off a job and they’re saying: “Right. Make sure they’re back next time.”

What have you found has stood out the most with your experience at Aarsleff so far?

I think the culture. Obviously a big part of Aarsleff is embracing it’s culture from it’s roots over in Denmark. They really want to instill that on everyone. I think it’s a really good thing to do, because obviously I have been elsewhere and you just don’t get that everywhere. It’s good to come into such a good environment. An environment where everyone is looking the same way, trying to achieve a collective goal. Making sure in doing so that you maintain a good relationship with clients.

That’s the thing. You continue to grow but you have to keep the ethos the same.

You’ve got to not just grow but maintain quality. You need to grow at a rate, that matches what the company is geared up to do, because the last thing you want to do is to grow it too fast thus compromising quality.

Do you believe that the North-East and Scotland are a thriving environment for work; offering new opportunities?

Massive opportunities! A lot of the big contracts in Newcastle are multi-discipline works, which is something that we are really going to be pressing hard with. There’s a huge amount of work in the North and Scotland in terms of housing. Across all aspects really, industrial, infrastructure, commercial and residential. 9 times out of 10 we are going to have the answer in terms of what technique to offer. And the fact that really there are only one or two competitors that can be compared to us up here makes it a massive opportunity that we need to cease on.

If you had to choose, what would be your favorite driven piling rig and why?

Junttans are common in the driven market, but you can’t deny that they’re brilliants rigs. The PMX22 is a great addition,
obviously a very hefty and capable machine. I’d suppose the Banut is the most interesting to me, because it’s something different, something totally bespoke, that we have had a hand in designing. It’s something that we’ve developed to target the residential market, which is really going to make a difference to clients and it’s going to be a brilliant selling point – it’s an exciting rig.

Are the clients that you speak to quite receptive when you explain about driven piling as opposed to in-situ?

It all comes down to scheme, because any main contractor would prefer to have a driven pile, because 9 times out of 10
it will be cheaper. Not just for bringing us in, but also for the work they don’t have to do i.e. getting rid of all the
spoil that you get when using an in-situ pile which would increase their cost. If they can get away with driven – no problem.
But if planning restrictions don’t allow it or if the pile is not capable of the load they’re talking about, then they really don’t have a choice. It comes down
to that. It’s not a case of whether they prefer driven or in-situ. It’s dictated by the planners, the council, the engineers.
Either way they want the best and most cost effective solution given the circumstances. (To read more about the benefits of precast piling download our technical paper here)

And finally Paul Simpson, what are you interest/hobbies?

I like keeping fit, going to the gym. I like music. Socialising.

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