Celebrating 18 years
Harvey Lawrence celebrates 18 years in business this month. As a well-known construction recruitment specialist, Harvey Lawrence sources talent across engineering, management, technical and commercial disciplines in the construction sector. The business has seen many changes in the last 18 years, and it is a consistent approach to quality that has built the successful business we know today. The driving force behind the company, Sarah Harvey, is also celebrating 30 years as a construction recruiter this year. Here, she talks about the business and what makes Harvey Lawrence successful. What motivated you to start your own recruitment business? I had always wanted to have my own business, even within my first two or three years as a recruiter. I remember attending an event with my then Director for the Businesswoman of the Year Awards in Yorkshire in 1992 and he commented “that will be you one day”. Not that I think I have reached those dizzy heights, but it did strike a chord with me and I knew that working for someone else wasn’t my long-term aim. It was my move to Manchester in 1993, to set up the Manchester office for Hays and the key role I played in the development and then management of the Northern region, that really gave me the confidence and skill. Whilst I value what l learned in nearly 12 years with a major player, I ultimately wanted to prove to myself that I could do things my own way and put my own personal stamp on a business. What makes Harvey Lawrence different? I genuinely believe the things that make us different are not all that complicated, in fact they are very simple. We are incredibly knowledgeable and we are upfront and honest. When you break it down to what clients and jobseekers want, it’s about dealing with a recruitment company that can show real market understanding and do the job properly. We know that people have long memories and therefore we consider business ethics to be high on our agenda. This attitude really helps to differentiate us in an industry in which I feel business ethics can be seriously lacking. With the increased demand for staff over the last few years, I think this lack of skill and ethics has been further eroded. There are still good recruiters out there, but I feel that they are in the minority. For the good of the sector it needs to be sorted out. For Harvey Lawrence, however, it is a major differentiator; we are much more than CV pushers. We are well-connected, particularly at senior management level and I know that we are taken seriously by many construction professionals as well as amongst our competitors. We have been around a long time, we have placed many people, including in senior level positions, which we do by doing the job properly and being so much more than post boxes. For us it is about longevity, sustainability and pride. All of these things are priceless. It is what makes you hold your head up high and I have made certain that these ethics are upheld throughout the business without compromise. What are you most proud of? I am proud that I started a business from scratch and that 18 years later it is still here and is in better shape than it has ever been with a rock-solid credit rating and credibility. The brand is respected, it is very stable and successful. I have learned some hard lessons from the last recession which makes me always keep my feet on the ground and importantly learn from mistakes. I probably didn’t realise how hard it would be to guide a business through a recession, through lots of legislative change, always gambling your own money. I think a lot of stress, busloads of determination with hopefully a smattering of insight got me through. What is the secret to longevity? It’s about being good at what you do, clearly, but it is much more than that. Adapting to change and embracing new ideas is paramount, especially in the ever-changing recruitment industry. Sadly, this industry is not known for engendering trust so Harvey Lawrence works hard to cast away the negatives associated with the recruitment industry which is why we’ve built so many long-standing relationships. I believe my three decades in the industry and valuable experience gained during this time, means I won't take unnecessary risks. Market conditions are fluid so for me, it is about sustainability, strong compliance and commercials. What do you see as the major changes in the construction sector since setting up Harvey Lawrence? For me, the industry has become much more process and governance-led and has made significant headway in improving its image. The amount of Tier 1 companies has reduced through merger/acquisition and business failure. No longer is the view that biggest is best. In fact, the SME market has really been a game changer for the sector as they now provide very real competition to the larger players and I think the view of the SME space has changed in the last 18 years. They are now taken very seriously and quite rightly as they have attracted some excellent talent. They also have the added advantage of being very price competitive. In fact, we frequently see people migrating from the large players to the regionals as they feel that they can take on a bigger role but clearly there are still those that prefer to stay with what they feel is the security of the larger players. For most people who have been in the construction sector long enough, they know that it is very susceptible to market fluctuation. I think regardless of how busy the market is, the dread of a recession is never far from peoples’ minds. We have gone from a nation of school builders to high rise residential builders. Now everyone is asking how long the developer boom will last and what will replace it. There are also those who, some may say wisely, opted to stick with public sector work as a safer option. There has definitely been a change of work streams and procurement routes, bringing with them their own challenges. What I do remember very well... a few years ago people asked what they would do after the school building had finished as they had not developed their private sector contacts in time and the same question could be asked now of those that are so heavily reliant on the private sector. There has also been a clear move of permanent staff taking to the freelance option for a whole host of reasons. This route has become more widely accepted by construction companies to attract the services of construction professionals and it is definitely the route in the trades and labour market due to its cost effectiveness. Even against the background of legislative change, I think the current market uncertainty means we will see more of this but there will need to be closer examination of how services are supplied in certain circumstances. I also think that some of the characteristics of the UK construction workforce have changed. Long gone is the general acceptance of “have suitcase, will travel” if the money is right. I think people will take less money to be near home and this attitude has strengthened over the years. In the geographical areas where we are strongest, the North West and the Midlands, people who live in Liverpool don’t tend to want to travel to Manchester and vice versa. Similarly, in the Midlands people based in Stoke-on-Trent, don’t tend to want to travel to Birmingham. Twenty years ago, it was generally accepted that you travelled in excess of an hour each way to work. Nowadays, we see people making decisions on which job to take based on its location. If they can get the train or the tram, they are often prepared to take less money for less travel. What changes have you seen in recruitment and what are your thoughts? Since the inception of Harvey Lawrence, the changes have been enormous. The way in which recruitment is done – the gradual drive towards automation and technological advance and changes in procurement of recruitment services in terms of the likes of applicant tracking systems, recruitment portals, PSLs and Master Vendors combined with the growth in social media and email marketing. All these represent change to how traditional recruitment was done. I fully recognise the importance and power of technology, particularly the value that can be created through quality content and thoughtful engagement strategies. However, I think that this is an area that is overcrowded and current content is very “same as”. I don’t think this does anything to find quality people, in fact it potentially deters quality people coming forward. I am concerned that there is a danger of deskilling and devaluing the recruitment process and the recruitment industry which would be a shame for recruiters who still want to go out and engage with clients and candidates, build relationships and find the best candidates. I think technology should be used intelligently but currently I think it is churning out uninspiring, personality-less content that will do little to bring the best people to the fore. ------ In summary, it is clear that the recruitment industry is ever evolving and keeping up is essential in such a competitive industry. The number of competitors is significantly more than when Harvey Lawrence first opened its doors, so keeping abreast of the latest developments in the industry keeps specialist recruiters at the top. The skill and knowledge of a good, well-connected recruiter with market credibility is still the key factor to delivering results in what is now a very compliance-led industry. The leadership, tenacity and adaptability that Harvey Lawrence’s founder and director Sarah has shown over almost two decades, go a long way to explain why the business is celebrating 18 strong years this month. Here’s to many more. Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us now to discuss your next career move.
Manchester – an exciting place to be…
It is very plain to see that Manchester is alive with tower cranes,many of which you will see are on city centre high-rise PRS and student accommodation sites. Perhaps people are looking at how long this “bubble” may continue and when we will return to the almost overnight slowdown in this sector that we saw in Manchester in 2008. Many will have an awareness of this but it seems that there is real visibility in this market for the medium term as Manchester continues to attract significant investment. It would seem that this surge in “accommodation” building has a few more years left yet and, the great city that Manchester is, will continue to be that vibrant and exciting place to be! Picture source: constructionnews.co.uk PRS There has been a whopping 400% increase in the construction of residential units in Manchester in the last 2 years with PRS (Private Rental Sector) accommodation dominating the way. Paul Beardmore Chief Executive of Manchester Place (Manchester City Council investment agency) says: “The work we have done on population growth in the city shows that the demand is absolutely there. All of our agents are giving us the same message: they can’t get their hands on new apartments quickly enough.” Investors from the Far East are “still very active in the city centre market”, he added. It is predicted that there will be a 220% increase in city centre completions by the end of March 2018. High-profile schemes include East Consortiums 756 unit development at Angel Meadow including a 41 storey skyscraper and Oxygen Tower with 357 units (Property Alliance Group) to name a few. Image by Falconer Chester Hall from Place North West Student Accommodation Student accommodation has changed drastically from the “cheap” and “grotty” looking accommodation into more luxury and high-spec flats and this continues to grow. Student accommodation, particularly PBSA (Purpose-Built Student Accommodation) is currently worth £46bn in the UK and will be worth £47bn by the end of this year. Investment in PBSA has doubled in the last 2 years and will only continue to grow. This is the largest emerging sector within property investment. High-profile student accommodation includes a 30 storey SimpsonHaugh-designed student accommodation tower at New Wakefield Street by Unite, a 37 storey Hodder-designed student accommodation tower – Liberty Heights – at 1 Great Marlborough Street, which was developed by Student Castle during the last recession. And last but not least, Vita 716 ultra-modern flats, part of the £750m Circle Square development. Picture source:constructionnews.co.uk Other projects in Manchester: £153m Angel Gardens 466 apartment private and rented scheme £200m Angel Meadow project with 750 apartments with retail and leisure space The NOMA/Angel Meadows project comprising of skyscraper apartments, offices and public space. This will include a 36-storey, 458 apartment development and a 13 storey block of offices Ancoats, in New Islington includes a 31 storey sky-scraper which will feature 345 new flats, 12 townhouses and its own allotments The Plaza which is a 10 storey development with 201 new apartments Deansgate/Spinningfields development including skyscrapers, offices, hotels, arts venues and green space £1.3bn vertical village towers £34m refurbishment of Hanover Building and Federation House Picture source: rightmove.co.uk Harvey Lawrence – Opportunities in Manchester The last two years has seen us leading recruitment drives for some of the key brands in these sectors. We were also leading recruitment in Manchester in the previous accommodation boom of 2005 – 2008. It is a market we understand and have a long-standing knowledge of. Our roots are in Manchester, it is where our business began and where we have always had a huge focus and contact base. We are proud to have recently recruited for senior roles such as: Project Directors for high-rise residential schemes in excess of £100m, Commercial Managers managing portfolios in excess of £150m and various quantity surveying, site and design management roles. Sarah Harvey, owner of Harvey Lawrence commented: “Having lived in Manchester for 20 years and having spent my entire construction recruitment career focusing on Manchester, it is an area that has always been at the top of our agenda and part of our overall business strategy. I am very proud that we have succeeded in maintaining some very strong relationships with key players in the region. Clients come to us as they have the confidence in our presence and in the way we do business. As a Director told me the other day, we listen to the brief and deliver. For me, if you are looking for a job or staff, this is what good recruitment is all about and it will continue to be at the heart of what we do.” There are some very significant and even iconic schemes that are happening in Manchester with even more in the pipeline. For those that want to advance their careers and be part of challenging schemes, there is definite opportunity and career advancement to be made. Working on projects in busy sectors with well – respected brands clearly is great for the development of a good CV and sustained and long-term advancement and earning potential. Like anything, being in the right place at the right time has a part to play and Manchester is definitely the place to be. Feature image sourced at rightmove.co.uk