Lead CA for procurement on the Victorian Pride Centre in St Kilda, Nick recently joined Alchemy as a Senior CA, bringing great expertise into the business.
Nick has incredible experience across many projects and a colourful career to date.
It was great to welcome Nick back, as Nick helped in the early start up days of the business and it felt like a very natural return to the company at the stage we now find ourselves in.
In such an important role we thought we’d lean in and ask Nick about his learnings throughout his career, and his thoughts on what it takes to really excel in the role of CA.
As a CA, the art of negotiation and relationship management is key. How have you honed this skill and what have you learned?
For negotiation, I have one simple philosophy, treat company money as if it is my own. If you really apply that mindset, it forces you to be creative and look for solutions that may not be apparent initially. It’s amazing how often a situation can be improved with some creative thinking.
I had some experience in sales prior to construction and I found those skills were extremely useful to apply as a CA in order to build new relationships and in maintaining existing ones. I have honed this skill by being on the phone constantly and asking questions of subcontractors and internal stakeholders within the businesses I have worked. Also, because I had cold-called in sales, there is an element of courage required for that, and that was very helpful for dealing with the numerous challenges we face in construction as well as building a rapport with all relevant stakeholders. I also think it is incredibly important to share some details about your own life and be yourself in interactions with all stakeholders.
Victorian Pride Centre, Melbourne
“It is more important than ever to pick up the phone and build genuine relationships with people. It allows us to negotiate the best outcomes no matter what the situation on the job is.”
The construction industry has weathered some tough moments in the last few years. At this time, what advice would you give to CA’s on where their focus should be?
Communication. Hate to sound like broken record, but it is more important than ever to pick up the phone and build genuine relationships with people. It allows us to negotiate the best outcomes no matter what the situation on the job is.
Over the years we all work on our own self-development as we grow. Who has inspired you – be it thoughts leaders, teachers, colleagues or friends/family as you journey through your career?
Good Question! I got into personal development quite a bit over the years and Tony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle, Earl Nightingale and Napoleon Hill are all great leaders in this area. I was lucky enough to work with a great PM in my first real job as a CA who was very organised – and effectively running two projects at once – who taught me an effective method of organisation I’ve used ever since.
Construction is fast paced and ever changing. What do you love about the industry?
I love the variety of working in construction. Every day is different and there are new challenges presented, but it is incredibly rewarding when those challenges are resolved and we can see the tangible impact of making decisions. I also love the camaraderie that develops when we are in a strong team working towards the same goal. There is an incredible bond and trust that can be formed surprisingly quickly in that environment.
“I love the variety of working in construction. Every day is different and there are new challenges presented, but it is incredibly rewarding when those challenges are resolved and we can see the tangible impact of making decisions.”
Throughout your career, what skills have you realised are critical to succeed in the industry and in your role?
It is important to spend time familiarising yourself with the processes required of a CA (head contracts, subcontracts (both preparing and management), payments, variations) because that provides the foundation. If maintaining the foundation is viewed as a non-negotiable, this acts as a springboard to succeeding in other areas. Beyond this, integrity and transparency of communication are the key in my view.
Your biggest win in your career to date and your hardest lesson? What were they?
Tough call on a biggest win, but I would say winning project team of the year for the Victorian arm of my previous employer for the Ferntree Business Park project. That was a great reflection of many little wins throughout the course of the job from a project team that functioned really well. Hardest lesson would be to be careful with making assumptions. I have on occasion assumed things had been completed when they weren’t when joining a new project team, and that can lead to a challenging environment when the Site Manager is demanding things on site that aren’t ready. I’ve learned to always trust my gut and continuing to ask questions when something doesn’t seem right is critical. Every questions leads you (and by extension, the business) closer to achieving your goals for the project.
The art of negotiation – something we all need to practise and be good at. What’s the key and what are some of the common errors people make?
For negotiation, there are three key elements based on what I have learned:
- First, to listen and understand the story of the person you are negotiating with.
- Second, to challenge the view in a constructive manner that is hopefully well informed and understanding of that story.
- Third, is to discuss an amicable resolution. It is critical to Always treat stakeholders respectfully and never personally criticise people.
Some common errors I think come from miscommunication or being shy about asking questions around money. I question I often ask is, “what is the best you can do for us?” It’s important to not come across as demanding and ask questions that are genuine and consistent with your own character.