InSite | Swapping the Managing Director hat for a hard hat

Swapping the Managing Director hat for a hard hat

After a member of his team left for a new role, Premier Guarantee’s Managing Director, Liam Devaney, cleared his diary, dug out his hi-vis jacket and got ready to return to site. For Liam, it was a great opportunity to roll up his sleeves and get back into the day-to-day work of site inspections – to find out what challenges his surveying team faced, what improvements could be made, whether targets were fair and achievable, and much more.


We caught up with Liam to find out about his week ‘back on the shop floor’.


What are the biggest changes since you were working in this type of role?


Liam Devaney, Premier GuaranteeIt’s been eight years since I have been out on site in a full-time role.


There are so many new materials and methods of construction in the industry, but the basis is the same.


The major change for the role of a risk management surveyor is the use of the handheld for inputting our reports while on site. Previously, our colleagues and I would triplicate information while on site in a notebook, back in the site record book and finally when we got home into our IT system. Now, we add our inspection record while on site. It reduces the admin burden and allows us to capture images of the good, the bad and the ugly to supplement our inspection notes.


It was good to see that a number of improvements around the handheld that I had noted were already captured from our handheld clinics and prioritised for deployment across the rest of the year, making the lives of our staff easier and ensuring they are equipped to give the best service possible to our partners.


Was there anything you realised you had missed about being on site?


The freedom of being out and about. Being closer to nature and meeting a wide variety of people.


My role sees me confined to my office for the majority of the week, month and year. It was brilliant to be back out on the road, driving through the spectacular backdrops of North Wales, Wirral and Cheshire.


It was exciting to pull up in my car, introduce myself to a site manager and hear their story; getting to know the project and what pressures they faced in their role.


What are some of the key takeaways from this experience?


That planning, communication and managing expectations are key to succeeding in the role.


A number of inspection requests had been taken by our regional manager and deputy manager. I arranged visits to sites around, or on the way to these sites based off our departed surveyor’s job sheet, targeting those sites that hadn’t been visited for over three weeks.


Once I had planned my week and filled my diary, I phoned each site manager and told them I was coming, giving them a basic timeframe of when the visit will happen and what I would be looking for.


At the end of each inspection, the site manager and I would talk about the next inspection required. It is only natural for the site manager to want you there as much as possible, to be that extra pair of eyes to drive quality and standards, however, from our point of view, that isn’t sustainable.


Managing expectations is imperative when dealing with an active site workload. I found having an honest, upfront conversation about what risks the project had, which would need to be inspected, worked well.


What was the most surprising thing about your week?


That I could still do the job.


After eight years off site, I was extremely nervous that I didn’t have what it would take to manage risk, spot defects, be able to explain what we required to the site manager and use the handheld to input the reports as per our operations and guidance manual.


Thankfully it was like riding a bike. The handheld was also a brilliant aid in the fact that I could use our technical hub for all good inspection guides, knowledge management articles, our Technical Manual, approved documents and to have specific design information for each project emailed to me in real time to use on site.


The latter was required during a completion inspection, whereby external ground levels breached the DPC of an apartment block. The site manager was adamant that these were the approved details. After a quick phone call to our customer services department, I had the construction details on my handheld, which showed that the workmanship on site was, in fact, incorrect and that the agreed details hadn’t been followed.


I was able to raise a defect with photos to support it, linked to our Technical Manual for the relevant apartment block and then set it as a risk to the other three apartment blocks that were in differing stages of external landscaping works.


What have you learnt from our customers?


That they want consistency. They see changing of risk management surveyors as a bad thing, as they aren’t confident that the goalposts won’t be shifted.


That gives myself and the senior leadership team the task to ensure we are creating a target operating model that allows for a consistent risk management and customer service approach, driven by claims data, to ensure we are reducing the risk of a claim to our insurers and the risk of a dispute for our developers, as well as ensuring that our policyholders are living in good-quality homes.


What are the pain points of staff?


I can’t speak on behalf of all of our staff, as we have such a wide and varied workforce with differing roles, however the hot topic in leadership and employee engagement these days seems to be work-life balance and I believe it’s something we should focus on to attract and retain the best that the industry has to offer as part of our team.


We need to give our staff the right training and support so that they can do their job and not feel they have to do excess hours on a regular basis. We have committed to growing our L&D team, with four new starters added to that department in the past month, to support our regional managers with their new starters and in developing current staff.


We have pivoted our L&D offering away from traditional classroom-style teaching and have implemented a new, market-leading learning management system. This will reduce the amount of time our staff spend away from home on courses and during their on-boarding and induction process.


What do we do well at Premier Guarantee?


We work in partnership with our developers to help build good-quality homes for the policyholders.


We are proactive in offering plot-specific guidance for forthcoming stages of construction, reducing the risk of a defect arising.


We use our technical expertise to help our developers overcome issues on site, to ensure that their project meets the functional requirements of our Technical Manual and the minimum statutory requirements as set out in the approved documents, so that their project is compliant.

What qualities make a good surveyor?


A good communicator. Someone who is personable and professional in their manner. A good time manager, who is able to plan their week effectively and understand what stages of work or inspections really matter. Someone who has the confidence to manage expectations and explain things clearly to clients.


How did you get into your career initially?


I changed courses while at university, from PE Teaching to Building Surveying. I believed it would give me more opportunities in the future, as the construction industry has and always will be at the centre of our economy, driving growth.


I joined the company 14 years ago after graduating as an SAP and Code for Sustainable Homes Assessor, which led to becoming an Inspector, Risk Surveyor, Risk Management Surveyor and Deputy Regional Manager before I embarked on a career in management and leadership. 


What do you find most rewarding about your job?


The people I work with; how I can have a positive effect on their lives with the decisions and actions that myself and my senior leadership team can take.


Be that improving the work-life balance of our staff or in helping create good-quality homes and communities for people to live in.


As Liam says, our technical expertise and proactive approach enables us to support our developers in building good-quality homes. If you’re ready to have a conversation about your next project, get in touch with our sales team today.

Read more articles on our Resource Hub