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UK Quantity Surveyors: 6 Benefits of Working for Smaller Contractors In Construction

The construction industry in the UK continues to go from strength to strength right now. In such buoyant times, we see a wave of smaller to medium sized contractors performing extremely well and experiencing rapid growth throughout the UK.

I have taken great pleasure of late in working with smaller businesses that are experiencing an unprecedented number of tender enquiries and are rapidly increasing their turnover. In some cases by as much as 100% per year.

For those involved in such businesses, this is an exciting yet challenging time as the business often has to adapt accordingly to increased workload. One of these challenges in finding suitably qualified construction professionals such as Estimators, Quantity Surveyors and Project Managers to help drive the business forward.

I've been working on a number of Quantity Surveying roles for such companies over the past 6 months with great success. However, whilst interviewing potential employees for such companies, it's apparent that some candidates shy away from the smaller businesses in favour of the larger national and global blue chip contractors.

From my experience of working with smaller to medium sized contractors, and speaking to employees of smaller businesses, I've compiled a number of benefits to working with a smaller business that I'd like to share:

1. Varied Workload

The most evident difference between working for the smaller contractors that I represent and the larger contractors is the job role itself. Larger companies tend to work like a well oiled machine with each cog often doing their unique part in the process. However, with a smaller business, this appears to be the opposite.

You may come in as a Quantity Surveyor, and yes, your role will predominantly be as a Quantity Surveyor. However expect to be involved in the pre-contract stage of projects, expect to be work closely with the Planners and the Design team and often provide input and generally assist in other areas of work slightly outside the typical Quantity Surveying duties.

This can be great exposure and understanding to the construction process that other Quantity Surveyors in the market do not have.

2. Input in Strategic Decisions

You'll often be working directly with management within a smaller contractor and that means that you'll often be aware of strategic decisions that are being made within the business and have chance to provide input and advise where necessary. This can be a welcome change from a larger business where you may just hear of such decisions after they've been made via an e mail on a Monday morning.

Again, this can help your understanding of how big decisions are made and be a great learning curve for if / when you get to a level where you are making these strategic decisions for the business. It can also give you a sense of making a difference within the business that can sometimes be lacking for larger contractors.

3. Less Rigid on Salaries & Bonuses

Smaller contractors typically have less HR involvement than the larger companies that are heavily regulated by the corporate HR machine. Therefore smaller contractors often lack the strict salary bands and red tape relating to salary & bonuses that most of the larger contractors are governed by.

This means; Starting salary can be completely negotiable, you don't necessarily have to wait until April or January for a pay review and Bonuses are truly discretionary.

I've seen Quantity Surveyors receive 2 pay rises in 12 months with particular companies and also bonuses of 20% or higher where companies are performing very well and the individual is deemed to have played a strong part in their success.

Everyone wants to feel valued at work and if you're taking on more responsibility and feel that a pay rise is necessary, you don't want to be told you have to wait 10 months until the next pay review comes around. With a smaller contractor, you often have the flexibility to have a sensible discussion with your manager about these matters knowing that something could be actioned immediately.

4. Job Satisfaction

This isn't to say you don't get job satisfaction working for a larger contractor. That would be completely untrue. However, the point I am trying to make is that employees often feel more part of the company's success in a smaller business.

I very rarely hear a candidate from a larger organisation telling me one of their biggest achievements was that they were part of a business that increased its turnover by 'x' amount this year. They may tell me their specific project was profitable by 'x' amount, but rarely the business.

However, with employees from smaller businesses, they'll often tell me of their businesses success whilst they were working for them as they often feel more part of that success.

This sense of achievement can do a lot for your confidence and development and give you something to talk passionately about in future interviews, which can only be a plus.

5. Getting Noticed

I wouldn't go as far as saying better there are better promotion opportunities for a smaller company as I don't necessarily believe that to be true. Some larger companies I work for have fantastic schemes to enable career progression.

However, I would say that it is often easier to get noticed for hard work, showing initiative and other similar good qualities that can go unnoticed / unrewarded with larger businesses.

In a smaller business you can often be working directly with Director level staff, or if not, you often have regular contact with them. Therefore getting noticed for your strong performance tends to be easier. With larger companies there are often layers of mid-management levels all looking to climb the corporate ladder and getting recognition from anyone other than your direct line manager can be difficult.

6. Handle More Projects

Smaller contractors often thrive on picking up projects in volume that may not be as large in value as the national corporate contractors. Whilst for some Quantity Surveyors who want to work on the biggest and the most exciting projects around, this may be a negative; I would argue that working on multiple small projects could actually be a benefit to your career.

Often Quantity Surveyors for smaller businesses are involved on multiple smaller projects at any one time. These projects may be at various stages in their developments from pre-contract stage to nearing completion. It's a skill to manage so many projects all at varying stages at any one time, planning and organising your time accordingly and hiring managers have looked favourably upon this type of experience when presenting them with candidates.

Project values may be less, however the skills to juggle so many things at any one time can be a real challenge and is not to be underestimated, especially if you are getting involved in pre- and post-contract work. This experience will set you up well for your career ahead.

 

SUMMARY

There are some fantastic employers out there in the UK construction market. Whether they be large or small companies. Whilst many know the benefits to working for the larger, well known companies, it seems the advantages to working for a smaller business are less obvious.

I hope this article has opened your eyes to some of the benefits to working for a smaller business and given you something to think about.

Some of the most exciting vacancies I've been working on of late have been with smaller contractors experiencing rapid growth. Often promising quick career progression for candidates that perform and working directly with senior management.

I often think there may be slightly trickier working for a smaller business as it can be harder to get feedback about working for the company than it is for the larger contractors. I think this can be dealt with by really asking the right questions at interview stage and also working with an experienced recruitment consultant who has worked with the company for a sustained period of time.

Luckily Maxim Recruitment can help with both of these points to make sure that the company is going to match your personality and career aspirations. We are currently working with a number of exciting smaller contractors throughout the UK at present. Please feel free to look at our Quantity Surveying vacancies on our web-site or contact myself if you'd like to explore working for a smaller business.

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Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant – UK & Middle East

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