Four Insights Into The Minds Of Regional Chairmen

By Human Capital Group
17th September 2020

Human Capital’s Group latest webinar for the Housebuilder Resilience Hub series is all about how to thrive as an MD in a crisis.


To unpick the topic, our Managing Director, Gerard Ball, was joined by two major industry authorities: John Anderson, Ex Regional Chairman of Berkley Group, and Andy Beasley, Ex Regional Chairman of Bellway Plc.


Entitled “People Management and Productivity – The Regional Chairman’s perspective”, this webinar was certainly not one to miss as these two titans from the housebuilding industry came together to share their thoughts. Having “been there, done that”, their cumulative years of wisdom proved to be both insightful and impactful at a time when much still seems unclear.

The whole webinar can be watched here, but we’ve also compiled a handy summary of what was discussed. Read on to find out:

  1. What is likely to be going on in the minds of regional chairmen across the UK
  2. What they are looking for from their managing directors in this post-COVID-19 environment
  3. How managing directors need to adjust to current circumstances and new issues
  4. What is required from managing directors as the furlough period ends?


In these times of crisis, what is likely to be going on in the minds of regional chairmen?

Andy Beasley, Ex Regional Chairman of Bellway Plc: “Lockdown will have come as a surprise and will have caught many people out in the housebuilding industry. Usually, you can see a recession coming but this was so sudden. The focus now will be to get the division back to operational status. Many people will be prioritising getting show homes and offices back together which of course will bring its own issues and most people still won’t fully understand what the suite of problems are going to be. At the end of the day, it is easy to make money when the market is with you. Managing in a recession is a whole different ball game and this is certainly a unique set of circumstances.”

John Anderson, Ex Regional Chairman of Berkley Group: “The most fundamental thing is to get back up to date with everything. Chairmen’s are traditionally quite controlling but they may not have been able to have their finger on the pulse recently. They will be trying to get an understanding of what is the new normal and what is the way forward.”


What will chairmen be looking for from their managing directors in this post-COVID-19 environment?


John: “I think that honesty is the most important thing for managing directors to have. After all, they are the eyes and ears of what is going on. Chairmen need to be assisting MDs in any way they can and asking the right questions. Most people are still preoccupied with current problems, but chairmen and MDs still need to have one eye on the future and not lose sight of those mid-to-long-term goals that have been put in place over the past few years. They need to strike the right balance between firefighting and strategically thinking about their business plans over the next 5/10 years.”

Andy: “I think that communication is currently the highest priority. They need to understand and formulate where the business is at currently and how it is moving forward. It is very important to communicate the plans to remote workers and those on-site and effectively support them. Short term targets need to be clearly shared so that everyone pulls in the same direction.”

John: “The problem is that for the past two years many Chairmen and MDs would have been thinking a lot about potential problems caused by Brexit and the election, whereas now there’s a whole new dynamic to consider as well.”


Even seasoned veterans of the industry have not experienced some of the issues that are coming up at the moment i.e. furlough, mental health issues, en masse remote working. How do Managing Directors need to adjust to current circumstances and new issues?


John: “The problem here is that remote working and virtual meetings mean that it is very difficult to read tell-tale body language. Within a few minutes of visiting a site, an MD or chairman can usually tell if there is a problem or any issues and that ability has been taken away. This means that there are very few opportunities to be able to quickly tackle these issues head-on. They need to assimilate to the new order of things while recognising that this new type of workplace has never been experienced before. There has been a lot of work within the industry in regard to mental health in recent years. Everyone needs to be more careful and thoughtful, especially in these present times.”

Andy: “Unfortunately, many people are feeling increased stresses and strains from everyday life and then they’re having to go back to completely changed workplaces. MDs, Chairmen and HR Departments are really going to have to step up to try and look out for people and support them. The playing field has changed significantly, and MDs need to stay flexible and adapt to the new mood in the sector.”


With the furloughing program coming to an end, What would you want from your directors in regard to this potentially very difficult part of the job:


Andy: “Sadly, redundancies will be inevitable over the next few months. Managing Directors need to find a way to ‘tinker’ around the edges while making sure that there is enough resource for the business to carry on operating effectively. They need to remember to treat people with respect as they deliver this difficult news. Keeping your upcoming ‘bright stars’ is essential and making sure that those retained people are supported, as the likelihood is that they will be expected to take on more work. My experience is that most teams in this situation are more than willing to pull together, get their heads down and get the job done. There is an opportunity here for many people to experience broader and more varied work.”

John: “Honesty is very important again here. Managing Directors need to have a good overview of the wider strategic business plan and what assets are required to make it happen. Furlough and redundancy decisions have to be made in a rational way that demonstrates that they still have one eye on the future. Unfortunately, difficult decisions will be required, it is never pleasant, and it needs to be managed carefully.”


The entire webinar – People Management and Productivity: The Regional Chairman’s Perspective is available to watch here.

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