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Five Minutes With Kiera Vogel

Kiera Vogel, Co-Owner and Director at Senate Group, recently took part in an interview with Manchester-based Tax Consultancy firm, Claritas Tax – here is the full interview.

Claritas spent ‘Five minutes with’ Kiera discussing how the construction sector has been affected by Covid, Senate’s plans for moving forward and what it’s like to be a woman in a predominantly male-led industry.

Kiera, thanks for taking time to join us, we’re really excited to be chatting to you and discussing all things Construction and M&E.

So let’s start with the obvious question about Covid-19. We know that over the past few months the construction sector has been hit hard – how has this affected Senate and as we emerge, what does the ‘new normal’ look like for Senate? Great question – I think, like most companies operating in our sector, there was an immediate impact.

Government guidance was unclear at the beginning of the crisis which brought about a real inconsistency in what our clients needed and an initial disruption to our operations and what we could or couldn’t do.

There was a requirement for us to utilise the furlough scheme, this gave us time to understand our position, engage and communicate with our customers and review our future strategy – this put us in a strong position once the sector started to emerge from the lockdown, allowing us to remobilise quickly to continue operating.

In terms of the ‘new normal’, we restructured our business to ensure we could mitigate any further risks and to make sure we were financially strong and agile enough in the next 12 months to respond. Thankfully, we’ve had a strong trading period over the summer months, which gives us a really great foundation to build upon this year.

For those readers who don’t know much about Senate, you work across a number of different sectors, from education through to health and housing, all of which have had a very different last few months. Moving forward, what are the signs for M&E and Construction coming from these sectors? The focuses depend on the sector, take the education sector for instance, their focus is primarily around bringing children back into schools safely. We’ve had to adapt our approach and how we carry out our work, which would usually be carried out throughout the academic year. We’re working closely with schools and coming up with new and safe ways of us working alongside the sector to ensure our projects are delivered – many of which are to carry out vital refurbishment works within schools – we’ve received positive feedback from our education clients about our flexible approach.

The same applies to the health sector, given restrictions around access to hospitals and wards. In terms of housing, although in the short term the housing sector was affected by development sites closing, we are now seeing building sites remobilising and our housing clients being positive about future investment and giving commitments to support the sector by continuing to progress with investment plans.

All sectors should now be thinking about how they can support the construction industry to ensure they do all they can to retain skills and employment in their areas.

I’m a firm believer that something positive will always come out of challenging times, maybe this is the time for sector leaders to review relationships between client and contractors and start thinking about working together in a true partnership to deliver projects in the UK that are efficient, exciting and add real value.

Now a topic I know you’re passionate about, Senate is a proud Liverpool based company, serving the whole of the North West. The City is itself ever-changing from a Construction point of view, what’s your view on this evolution and what does it mean for the City? Well, Liverpool is my home, so any development or improvement that can be made in terms of physical infrastructure is always a positive. It would be great to see more projects being offered to local contractors, in particular SME’s, especially during these times.

Localism is in my opinion, key to ensuring efficiencies through any project and makes good business sense. It would also at this point in time, help our workforce maintain a good work- life balance, which from a Health and Wellbeing perspective this is hugely important to us and something that, as a sector needs further discussion.

Now, we can’t not mention the obvious, you’re a leading female Co-Owner and Director in what has been a male orientated industry. What advice would you give to young women looking to follow in your footsteps? I get asked this question a lot and I do a lot of speaking and mentoring on this subject, particularly in the City and with young women.

I have five top tips:

  1. Remember, on your first day, you won’t think about it, and on the second day no one else will.
  2. Opinions of others will always be there, but having positive self-confidence, self-awareness, and surrounding yourself with a network of trusted people internally and externally is important, these are the opinions that count!
  3. Take every opportunity that comes your way!
  4. Never fear failure. You generally learn more from the bad than the good!
  5. Be courageous, but most importantly be yourself!

Finally Kiera, what’s next for Senate? Well, we’re in our 19th year of trading and our focus is on strengthening what we already have in place, whilst looking to expand our client base. We love working with like-minded clients, those who share the same values as we do – trust, honesty, hard work, fairness and always striving to be the best we can be!