A Day in the Life of Simon Harrison, Managing Director

Kicking off our new ‘Day in the Life of’ series, Our marketing team sat down with our Managing Director, Simon Harrison to get an in-depth perspective of what a day in his shoes looks like.

Welcome to our first ‘Day in the Life of’. A series of interviews with our people here at Connolly’s, providing insight into our day to day activities and who our people are. So … who better to start their series with, than our Managing Director, Simon Harrison. 

So, let’s go back – can you give us a brief insight to your career path which has led you to be in the position you are today?

I originally started my career as an apprentice joiner at the age of 16. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work at a local family business (Durose and Gourlay) who’s ethos was to support apprentices and develop them into higher roles within the business. I worked hard and challenged myself academically over the next 16 years which helped me develop my skills and finally take on the role of Area Leader (Director) for the family business in which I‘d began my career.

In 2012, I joined Connolly Ltd as operations manager with the focus being to recreate the same family culture, whilst growing the business. A couple of years into our journey I took the role of Manging Director and over the past 6 years have seen our business grow year on year to over £35m turnover and 260 employees.

It’s been hard work, but unbelievably rewarding to see the success of Connolly Ltd and its people. I know every employee is passionate about our business and always goes the extra mile for our customers.

Are there any moments in your career, past or present, that stand out to you?

There are quite a few, but I suppose the one that stands out to me most would be completing a leadership course whilst working at Rok. It was the best training I have ever undertaken and helped to build some good relationships along the way. It was great to see people using and discussing the skills they had learned into their day to day activities. I felt the course added so much to my experience and skills that we have since engaged with the same provider to complete a similar 12 month course for most of our senior people.

Can you tell us about a typical working day for you?

A typical working day for me involves getting into the office after going to the gym and having time to sit down and talk to members of the team. Reviewing progress with Tony, our founder and Chairman and having time to sit and discuss our future and life in general.

Obviously in the current climate a large proportion of my time is spent reviewing our daily COVID-19 offering to ensure the safety of all our people, our customers and our clients.

I get involved in lots of different things such as tender submissions, particularly our quality submissions. We have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our quality offering is first class, which sets us apart from our competitors. We also have a new pre construction team, which whilst its still finding its feet a little, believe will be a major part of our ongoing success and aspirations to continue to grow.

My favourite part of the day is sitting with the whole team at lunchtime, reminiscing about old times and just having a good laugh. That’s one of the best parts about Connolly’s, we are just like one big family.

We can’t do an interview without mentioning COVID-19 as it is very much the topic of conversation at the moment. How do you think Connolly reacted to the pandemic and what kind of effect to the overall industry do you think it will have?

We are quite fortunate that our business is very proactive and quite innovative. Early on in the pandemic we worked hard to safeguard our business, communicating with all customers and employees on a regular basis. Our senior management team were instrumental in the development of our COVID-19 policies, procedures, processes and systems, which enabled us to get our services back up and running once lockdown had been lifted.

I think the impact will continue to affect all construction related businesses day to day until the pandemic comes to an end. I feel the world without COVID-19 will be a greater challenge as the financial impacts of lockdown are realised and customers are forced to review budgets.

Whilst we are now impacted by a 2nd lockdown, we are confident that we are able to keep everyone safe and will continue to deliver our services in line with all government guidance.

Where do you see Connolly Ltd in 5 years?

Over the last 6 months we have been working hard to develop a new 4 years business plan. Our focus is to continue to grow our core business streams (housing, build and development) in order to provide a wider range of services for our customers. Our target includes an increase in turnover to £60m, an increase in our directly employed pool to 350no whilst retaining our family business ethos.

Can you tell us about the hardest moment in your career and how you overcame it?

The hardest moment in my career was when I had to make over 260 people redundant when the family business, I had spent over 15 years with, went into administration. It was difficult and upsetting to see people you have known since being an apprentice, lose that sense of belonging and having to look for new roles. Whilst it was an extremely difficult time for all involved, I think the development of Connolly Ltd has helped to provide a long-term home for many of those who were affected.

Connolly Culture is at the heart of the business – can you describe what the culture means to you?

It’s fair to say at Connolly’s, we have a very unique culture. Our people are the core reason for our success and providing a great place for them to work, combined with a fantastic culture, helps to empower them.

For me, culture means the way we are as a business, as people. The way we interact and the way we do business with our customers. It’s being honest and truthful whilst sincere and likable at the same time – someone you can trust who is approachable and nice to do business with.

We all spend a vast amount of time in work, so best to be in a place you enjoy and feel supported in my view.

What do you believe is the greatest thing that Connolly Ltd has achieved so far?

I believe our greatest achievement is the long-term employment and continuity for our people. It’s fantastic to see them develop and grow with the business.

From a personal perspective, I am proud of every achievement, but the best thing is feeling that I delivered exactly what the people that believed in me wanted.

Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the Construction industry?

In all honesty, I think the industry could do so much more to attract the right talent. I hear so many comments about the construction industry being an alternative for young people when they don’t achieve the right grades! The honest truth is that if people work hard at something they enjoy and are passionate about, they can have a career just as successful as other sectors.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the people and the atmosphere of our office. It’s such a great place to work and we make everyone feel welcome. The culture is fantastic and we have quite a few laughs which makes everybody’s day brighter!

Finally, if there was one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

You can’t know everything and to make sure you treat everyone as you would like to be treated.

Someone once told me – it costs nothing to be nice!

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