PETER Commins is 48 years old and has worked in the indust ry for 30 years, star t ing as a trainee engineer and working his way up the ranks, predominantly with national contractors such as Wates and Birse, to the boardroom.
He joined Birse in 1989 when it was mainly a civil engineering contractor and was given the task of growing its Northern building business ? he took it from a £50 million turnover to £100 million.
Stadium work proved to be par t icularly f ruitful with jobs at Manchester United's Old Trafford and Bolton's Reebok stadium ? but not, alas, his own team, Stoke City. 'We were £3 million more expensive than Mowlem. I was called in to see the chief executive, who invited me, as a local boy, to knock £3 million off our price. You can imagine what I said to him.' He joined Pettifer Construction as managing director on January 1, 2001. His brief was to build the business up from a £12 million turnover local builder into a national contractor.
Turnover in 2005 will be over £40 million, there is £60 million on the books for next year and the target is to hit £100 million in 2007.
Peter Commins has never been involved in industry politics before, but when the National Federation of Builders suggested he take the Construction Confederation chair, he thought it was about time he gave something back to the industry.
'I suppose my biggest pr ior ity is mak ing sure there are integrated teams, I mean really integrated, and I don't see that, ' he says. He explains that it is no use a cont ractor having a good relationship with the client if there is a separate relationship between the client and its consultant. While there is an organisational relationship between contractor and consultant, there is a lack of contractual relationship and no sense of par tnership. He believes consultants, contractors and clients need to be in the same team, as does the supply chain.
He acknowledges the inevitability of claims but with integrated teams it can be decided at the outset how they will be handled , he says.
'I think back to when I was made project manager. I was a sub-agent on a civil engineering job at the time. The project manager and the resident engineer were at each other's throats, ' he says. When the project manager moved on, Mr Commins replaced him. There was a mountain of paperwork generated by disputes.
'I went to the resident engineer and told him I didn't want to work like that, ' he says. The situation changed after a pipe was put in on the wrong alignment because of a dialling error on a laser. Commins' crew told him they could cover up the mistake but the new project manager insisted it be taken out and made right. 'I ripped it out, ' he recalls. Spoiling for a fight, the resident engineer saw a pipe being taken out ? work he hadn't authorised ? and demanded to know what t r icks the cont ractor was up to now. When the project manager explained that a mistake had been made and it was being rectified on his own initiative, a lasting peace was made. 'The job went well after that, because of trust, ' Mr Commins says.