Non-Executive Director: Ryan Russell

Construction companies are focused on survival: United Capital companies are focused on the future

Since the first day of the initial lockdown in March 2020 – which feels simultaneously like yesterday and also like years ago – my phone has never stopped ringing. In my day job as Head of Employment Law at a legal firm, I was constantly fielding questions from business owners and leaders who were grappling with the sudden halt, or severe changes, in their working practices. And in my role as Non-Executive Director with United Capital, I was also helping to smoothly manage the closing down of construction sites and making sure people were furloughed in the right way, and with the dignity they deserved.

Since then, there have been numerous changes in governmental guidance and legislation, each of which requires employers to act on them almost immediately. Some are simple, such as the swearing masks in common areas of workplace building. Some require more thought: how do employees maintain social distance from each other, when their essential work requires them to, for example, fix an alarm in the home of a vulnerable resident?

If leaders get this wrong, the stakes are high: miss a step in the legislation, or misunderstand something that’s going to be required by the time the doors open on Monday, and there are legal consequences. Companies which have already had an incredibly hard year can be fined or shut down.

The consequences though, are not just legal.

Staying focused on survival

Leaders of companies at the smaller end of the scale are inevitably going to find understanding and implementing these changes much harder. For example, they are unlikely to have in-house legal advice – and really, these changes are happening so fast that it does need a lawyer to unravel it and assess the implications for each individual business. It’ll also take any leader without a legal, health and safety, or HR background huge amounts of time to deal with government grants, setting up furlough schemes, keeping customers informed, staying in touch with furloughed staff, and so on.

All of that is time not spent on doing what the leader usually does best – lead.

Leaders set the tone for a company from the top down, and they’re often laser-focused on the strategy of the business. They understand what infrastructure will need to be put into place over the next few years; they nurture their network and use their relationships to win new contracts; they spend time with investors trying to secure the future of the company. And when the pandemic came along, it took up all of a leaders’ time, such that all of their usual business-critical work, which ensures the long-term success of the company, was swept away overnight.

Members of the United Capital Group

The benefit of a group

This has left many companies in a hugely precarious position, and when you consider that the construction industry saw a jaw-dropping 35% decline in output during Quarter 2 of 2020, it’s far from certain that all, or even most companies can recover.

What I see at United Capital is that our group companies are recovering and more; they’re actually motoring along, winning contracts and picking up paused projects again, as well as continuing with all of the essential work they have been doing since last March. This isn’t to boast: it is simply recognition that being part of a group is one of the critical factors in a strong recovery.

Our group companies have access to our support services – legal advice, HR expertise, group procurement, financial support, and a dedicated construction marketing agency at their disposal. So, in March 2020 our group company leaders didn’t get bogged down in furlough schemes or government support packages: we did that for them, while they focused on being there for their staff and customers, getting their communications right and rolling out business improvements that were only possible because of lockdown itself, such as infrastructure and IT projects.

This is the benefit of being part of a group: as a leader you still have your daily independence, and we encourage you to lead in your own way, just as you’ve always done. To support business growth, United Capital will provide financial investment, help you implement changes to Coronavirus legislation, and deliver marketing campaigns that will bring you as much work as you can take on. You’re still in charge of your business, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself any longer. As we look ahead into another bumpy year, I know there are dozens of companies in our industry whose fortunes could be reversed by joining a group.