At Rise we are truly lucky to be immersed within a community of experts. Each individual has their own talent, opinion and knowledge. We decided that instead of writing what we thought of the world and the industries we all work in, why don’t we ask them?
This has part of our series of Q&A style articles that we hope will inspire you, educate you, and or empower you.
We spoke with Maria Seabright the Finance and HR Director of Greendale Construction to ask her a little bit about how she got into what she is doing now and how they are shaping the world of construction for young people in our area.
RISE: What is your name and what is your role at Greendale Construction?
Maria: My name is Maria Seabright and I am the Finance & HR Director.
RISE: How did you get into the construction industry? Did you work your way up to the role you are in today?
Maria: Previously to joining Greendale Construction I was working in the waste disposal industry which worked alongside the Construction industry. I wanted to change careers and answered an advert in the Bournemouth Echo for an Admin Assistant / Receptionist (I still have the original advert in my personnel file!). So on the 1st October 1997 I joined Greendale Construction. My role was to answer the phone, and to provide admin and secretarial support. When I joined the company their turnover was £1m. As the company grew my role within the organisation grew. I started doing the accounts (which were originally outsourced) so also became Accounts Manager. In 2000 We moved into larger premises and engaged more staff so again my role changed to Office Manager. In 2009 we moved to Old Generator House where we now have 19 admin/senior managers based in the office and the number of staff that we employ grew to 50. On the 1st January 2013 I was promoted to Finance & HR Director at the same time Andy Musselwhite was promoted to Contracts Director. This now meant that the company had 4 directors on the board. I was so honoured and privileged to be asked to become a Director of this great company that I had seen go from strength to strength. I have now been with the company 22 years this year.
RISE: As great sponsors (and believers!) of the Rock Star Awards, how do you make your workplace inclusive for young people starting out?
Maria: We strongly believe that we have a responsibility as an organisation to train for the future of the industry – this means that we are very active in recruiting apprentices. Apprentices can be for various trades; site carpentry, bricklaying or Painting & Decorating. We also engage Graduates where the company financially support any university fees, meaning that they can study for a degree without having to get into debt, and ensure that every apprentice / graduate has a 1-1 mentor that helps them with their training. We also offer work experience placements for students (majority being of school age) – this gives them an insight into what actually happens on a construction site or within a construction office if it is a career that they wish to embark on. We interview every student that applies for works experience as we believe that this gives them valuable experience in attending an interview with an employer. It also allows us to see what the student wants to gain out of their works experience so we tailor their training to reflect this. Because of the number of graduates / apprentices that have trained / qualified with us over the years we know that they make great mentors for the other young people coming through the company and we encourage ex apprentices and ex graduates to actually mentor some of these young employees. In 2018 we won the Dorset Business Award for “Developing Talent”. It was wonderful to be recognised for the great work that we do with developing talent within our organisation.
RISE: From what we know of you, you are a very charitable company and truly believe in giving back to your community – do you think that makes you all more effective as a workforce?
Maria: We do an awful lot of charity work and also working with schools & colleges to promote the industry. Again we feel it is important to give something back to the community. We have a nominated charity every year that we raise money for – this charity is voted for by the employees and this is really important as they are contributing / giving something back to who they have chosen to support. We are also currently looking to introduce some volunteer days within the company – this will be where an employee can volunteer within the community one day a year. This volunteer day encompasses our mental health & wellbeing in the workplace policy. By allowing our employees to give something back and volunteering to help other for a day makes them feel good.
RISE: Do you think the construction industry is slowly becoming more approachable for both men and women?
Maria: More women are becoming more interested in working within the construction industry. This is very evident when I am attending careers events at schools & colleges as more young ladies approach me to ask about working in the industry, be it becoming an architect, or working on site, or learning a trade. I do think that employers within the construction industry are now more open to engaging women within the industry.
RISE: What advice would you give to a young person looking to get into directorship one day?
Maria: Being a director to any company is a massive responsibility. It has its good days and its bad days however it is wonderful to be in a position where you can see the company grow and the people around you excel in their chosen profession. It is hard work and requires total dedication to the business. It can be stressful but it is how you manage that stress – it is essential to get your work life balance right. Do things away from the office that help you re-charge your batteries so that you have the strength the tackle each day head on. A business is only as good as the team around you to make sure that you employ the right people that will embrace the company ethos and who all work in the same direction to make the company bigger and better. Be a director that is approachable – always have an open door policy for your staff to talk to you if they have any concerns or problems. Share your business plan with all your staff, that way they all know what you are trying to achieve as a business and they will be working towards the same goal.