An Interview with James Neil, Managing Director at Dalcour Maclaren
Although no one knows at this stage what the true social and economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be, the gloom merchants, including the mainstream media, have started the negative focus on a deep recession. The UK is going to have long-term economic consequences as a result of COVID-19, that is certain. But we should now be focussed on positive future solutions, not be dragged into negative forecasting.
Dalcour Maclaren, for whom I am the Managing Director, is a company that is entirely focussed on the utility and infrastructure sector. The world in which we work has changed overnight as a result of COVID-19. However, our focus has been both during and now coming out the other side on the lessons learnt and the opportunities that have arisen from this situation. We think that we can make a real difference to the UK and help bring the country out of any potential recession and on to a brighter future.
“Our clients did not stop- in order to ensure that the country kept the lights on and the taps flowing, literally."
How has the utility and infrastructure industry reacted to lockdown?
When the coronavirus first hit this country, many of our clients reviewed their capital programs and made the decision to focus solely on essential works. They did not stop in order to ensure that the country kept the lights on and the taps flowing, literally. Stringent health and safety measures were introduced across the board to ensure safe working, this was also implemented by Dalcour Maclaren so that key infrastructure was maintained and progressed, no matter what was happening in the country around us. A small number of clients did close projects, but only for a matter of a few weeks, with the majority now coming back to full strength, with the exception of airport infrastructure which has been suspended. We as a company, overall, remained extremely busy. The UK government has a policy in place, which protects essential infrastructure, and has a programme that could not simply stop as a result of this pandemic, or any other world disaster.
“Infrastructure plays, and will play, a huge part in making the UK successful and we, alongside our partners, are the future of this industry."
So, what does the future look like for the utility and infrastructure industry?
Many of our clients have been having discussions with the government over what the world looks like after lockdown, and certainly the vibe that they are getting is that the government, as it was pre COVID-19, will continue to invest in infrastructure. With all this distraction, many will have forgotten about Brexit – and the fact that this is still happening, and the UK needs to get ready to be as attractive as possible to the rest of the world. Infrastructure plays, and will play, a huge part in making the UK successful and we, alongside our partners, are the future of this industry.
It makes logical sense that by investing in infrastructure and utilities, the government is not only making efforts to kickstart the economy, it is also making a clear commitment to the country’s long-term future. By planning and carrying out vital infrastructure projects now, we are better preparing the country to return to robust financial health, as soon as is possible.
What has Dalcour Maclaren learned from the lockdown?
On day one of the lockdown, we immediately reviewed our 2020 plans and placed expenditure and recruitment on ice. Within a week however we reviewed this and realised that we had a vital part to play in ensuring that our clients were successful in all their key activities. Everything was taken off ice. We went from a seven office operation to a 260 office operation overnight, without any downtime which I put down to not only superb IT solutions, but primarily down to the company values and everybody within the company, without exception, working to these values.
Over recent weeks, the government updates have taken more confident and bold steps to ease the lockdown. There appears to be an air of confidence in the near future, something we have had in our culture, but it is good to see this spread across all industries. We are preparing our offices for re-occupation. I don’t think our offices will ever be occupied in the same way again, I predict our workforce will use our office locations as meeting hubs -where teams will meet for face to face meetings regularly, and client meetings will take place. We are genuinely excited that we will be able to roll out a much more flexible way of working for our staff. This is our more immediate future, which will allow colleagues to work the way they want to work, whilst maintaining our first-class service to our clients.
Our aim is to make Dalcour Maclaren an employer of choice, as we are a people business. It is key that our people love working for us, and that we continue to attract outstanding people to join our team. The flexible working arrangement will allow people to work from home if this suits them, but I don’t necessarily see this resulting in office closures because I think face to face human contact is vital, not only for people management, but more importantly the ongoing development of staff, helping them to realise what an asset they are to our success as a company.
I think our positive actions for a positive future approach will be mirrored in many UK companies, which in turn will increase the pressure on UK infrastructure – both from essential utilities, but also with a drive for improved connectivity to every home – especially those in extremely remote locations. All of this will need a huge investment in the UK’s infrastructure to achieve this and Dalcour Maclaren are in a really good place to help our clients achieve this.
Dalcour Maclaren through its values, exceptional people, and One Team approach is feeling positive about the future and where the UK is heading in these challenging times.