Three Considerations When Making a Housebuilding Team Work as One
By Human Capital Group
19th March 2021
Building a winning housebuilding team requires just as much planning and organisation as any construction project – the foundations need to be sound, the structure needs to be supported and the overall vision needs to be kept in-sight at all times.
To look into this subject in more detail, our Managing Director Gerard Ball has recently hosted three webinars with two incredibly knowledgeable industry giants: Andy Beasley (ex-regional Chairman of Bellway PLC for 10 years) and Darren Jones (ex-regional Chairman of Persimmon and exec-board member for 8 years at Miller Homes).
The second of these webinars focused on ‘company structure, checks and balances’, and found that much like the structure of a building, the structure of a company has to be meticulously designed and well-maintained.
Andy and Darren discussed their thoughts with Gerard, covering three key topics:
- The best team structure for your housebuilding business
- How to align the different Discipline Directors’ goals
- The impact COVID-19 has had on housebuilding teams
Watch Part 2 of this series of webinars here or keep reading to learn from their key points!
1. The best team structure for a housebuilding business
Gerard: “If you were opening up a brand-new regional housebuilding company, what roles would you be looking to fulfil at the beginning?”
Andy: “You’d need a Regional Director to start with and then probably a Senior Land Manager or Buyer, Finance Manager, Surveying and Technical Manager and Sales Managers – they all need to be senior but not necessarily directors. I’d usually expect to see an initial set-up of 7 or 8 people in a regional operational office with a view to very quickly recruit other people as need as the company grows.”
Darren: “When you’re opening a new office, you’re usually doing it for one of two reasons: You’ve got the right people, so you want to capitalise on their skills, or you’ve got strategic land opportunities in that area.
“Whenever I’ve started a new business it’s usually because I’ve expanded a current office until it’s at the point of over-capacity so then opportunities can be redistributed to a new team and taken forwards in a new area. Using existing operational processes and overheads works well until the point where you can entice talent to a new area.”
Gerard: “As a recruiter, I’ve experienced a few times when a new division has been looking for the Technical and Commercial roles to be combined – what are your thoughts on this?”
Andy: “In the early days you can certainly get away with combined roles, or even use a head office resource rather than recruiting a new person outright. Down the line though, the technical and commercial roles will definitely be split. There is so much pressure on technical personnel especially in terms of getting approvals through and sites up and running.”
Darren: “It really comes down to the individual and their ability – if they are able to be a very skilled technical planner and commercial thinker at the same time then it may work, but these people are few and far between.
“Combining the roles is a risky strategy because if you’ve invested a lot of money into good land and then your combined discipline director decides to go elsewhere then you’re losing not one but two main segments of knowledge.
“Unless you hit the jackpot with someone who can juggle both roles seamlessly then realistically, combining these two roles will result in problems and could even cost you more money as you may end up increasingly relying on external consultants.”
2. How to align the different Discipline Directors’ goals
Gerard: “Different disciplines have different objectives and targets. How do we bring the teams together and how do we deal with conflict?”
Darren: “It’s not a bad thing to have conflict, but it’s about how you manage it. Sometimes it’s a case of using a systematic tracker to coordinate everything and I’ve used ones in the past which have helped whole teams come together and walk that tightrope between conflict and coordination.
“Good tracking systems can help to identify where the weak spots and hot spots in a team are and makes everything much more efficient. It’s about keeping it simple in a sector that can be full of unnecessary complications!
Andy: “I totally agree that housebuilding has to be very disciplined in order to take a site from start to finish. When you’re in a situation where the discipline is not there then you can see things falling apart before they have even started!”
Gerard: “What are you hoping to see from your discipline directors in your management meetings?”
Andy: “Ultimately, you need timely information. You don’t expect to have all the detail when you are first starting out, but it will all be required later on. You don’t want for people to be constantly going back and forth for information as that’s a sure-fire way of haemorrhaging costs.
Darren: “The best businesses have a degree of friction but an understanding between the teams. The measure of a good business is often how the different disciplines interact with one another when the tough times come.
“Realistically all the discipline directors you’ve got in a management team meeting are dedicated and very skilled individuals and need to be trusted to measure their own success. If the team is constantly repairing rather than preparing, then you know something has gone wrong. The aim needs to be that every day is a day to prepare.
“The ‘conveyor belt’ between different departments has to be smooth so each one supports the other.”
3. The impact COVID-19 has had on housebuilding teams
Gerard: “Has COVID-19 had much of an impact on housebuilding teams working together?”
Andy: “As we’ve said before, housebuilding is not rocket science but there are a lot of moving parts that need to be coordinated. Everyone working remotely has made things more difficult and has exacerbated many of the problems that the industry faces naturally.
“New flexibilities for the workforce are great but it has also uncovered new challenges and I do think people need human interaction to thrive.”
Darren: “I think as an industry, we’ve historically been pretty draconian when it comes to flexible working so it’s a good thing that this will hopefully become a bit more ‘normal’ practice. However, I do think there are real benefits from being in the office – conversations happen more naturally and there are more opportunities for ‘problem-solving’ when you might not even realise that’s what you’re doing.”
If you would like to listen to the conversation in full, you can watch Part 2 of the webinar series here.
Don’t miss our third and final webinar on ‘Building a Winning Housebuilding Team’ where we’ll be focusing on succession planning and moulding different personalities together, stay tuned!