Bricks And Bytes Podcast

#019 – Paul Heming- Transcript

Paul Heming

On today’s podcast, we have Paul Hemming, co-founder of Sea Link and a fellow podcast host of the Own the Build podcast. Sea Link is a subcontract procurement platform which speeds up the messy tendering process. And as a fellow QS myself, I know all too well the pain of procuring multiple packages of work. In this episode, we chat with Paul about his background as a traditional QS to a non-technical founder of a successful construction tech company. If you’re enjoying our podcast, please check us out on Spotify or Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts from, and please leave us a review. This helps us get more amazing guests to give you guys the best and most insightful content. 

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Well, with all that said, Paul, and your background as a QS and your movement to co-founder of a tech platform and the owner of some controversial posts about the role of the QS being replaced by AI on LinkedIn, how did you go from your QS traditional role to the owner of a tech business? 

Good question. I spent 10 years as a QS working on different projects and then came to be sat in the pub with a very good friend of mine who is also a QS. And as two QSs would, we were talking about tendering in the pub. That sounds sad, but we are. So, we’re talking about tendering. I’m working on major projects. 

Chris was working on much smaller projects, and we realised that we both had kind of exactly the same set of problems, which is everything took far too long when it came to tendering. We needed to automate a huge amount of things, and the supply chain was something we just simply didn’t understand. I was at a billion Euro company, and we still didn’t have a really good grasp on the supply chain. So, Chris, to his credit, convinced me that it was a good idea that we try and change the way the industry works and do something. And that’s really how I ended up where I am today. He twisted my arm, made me leave my job first as well. He’s a keen negotiator, but that’s just where it went. 

So, how were the early days of the journey? Pretty lonely, pretty eye-opening, to be honest with you. I came from a background in construction where I’d quite quickly built a career for myself. Things were going pretty well. It was going in a good direction, my career. Obviously, I wanted to change, but things didn’t come as quickly as I thought they would with the business. Honestly, you kind of think, right, this is my vision, I’m going to execute it over X number of months, and then boom, the world’s going to change. And that isn’t quite how it happens. But early days were a challenge. I’m grateful to have had a partner in the endeavour, Chris, who someone we could both rely on each other. I don’t know if I would be sat here today if I didn’t have a partner. And I think that’s kind of owes quite a lot to our success – the strength of the relationship that the two of us have. 

That’s a very good point. Were you guys working on the startup alongside your full-time jobs or… I can’t comment. Okay. Now, I mean, all jokes aside, yes. And in fact, my old previous employer did kind of know that at the time, to be honest with you. And another person who I have to be grateful to is my ex-boss who actually kind of said to me, don’t do it all at once. You can kind of keep your feet in both lanes, still earn some money, build a business that way. And honestly, again, without that, I don’t think I’d have quite been in the same position as we are today. 

And what is your opinion, Paul, on the future role of the QS? I know you’ve been talking about it a lot in your podcast, but it is quite an interesting subject because just based on our doings in this technology world, it seems to be a lot of ex-QSs that are moving into a more technological role. 

So they obviously see a lot of opportunity and probably think that a lot of the processes are outdated and very manual. What’s your view on that? Well, touching on your final point there, a lot of the processes are very manual and are outdated, and we shouldn’t be doing them the way that we are. As for the longer-term position of a QS, I kind of consider a QS to be a commercially minded project manager to some degree. I know that we’re very numbers-focused, etc., but the role that I always did myself as a commercial manager was never one where I was doing lots of take-offs or measurements, etc. Mine was always contracts, negotiation, variations, etc., claims, and that for me is a role that can still very much exist. It’s a lot of the grunt work, if you want to call it that. Why does anyone need to do a take-off when a model can do it with no errors whatsoever? There are things like that, even valuations, I think. 

Sorry, a question: What is a take-off in QS kind of dictionary? In QS lingo, doing a bill of quantities, doing a measure, taking off the quantities of a drawing, using a ruler, a highlighter, using Bluebeam, whatever you want to use. Why is an individual doing it? And scale rule paper that they still teach at university. Exactly. I never used it. To be honest with you, I was absolutely rubbish at it, and I’d be glad for it to be gone. Yeah, like you were saying, it’s a role that is open to a lot of change in the next few years. Just like a point where I’m speaking to a friend who works for a tier-one contractor, I won’t say the name, but his process of sign-off for his subcontractor tendering is he has to print off his recommendation and put it in his director’s in-tray. Like they’re still paper-based, and I used to do the same. Maybe they need a bit of SeaLink in their life. Yeah, no, I used to do the same. Companies to work for was a 2 billion euro turnover, one of the biggest companies in our sector during the world. Maybe it’s the same company. I doubt it, but maybe. 

Paul, just a question: In terms of your background, have you always wanted to be a QS? And did you ever think you would be an entrepreneur? When we were at school and everyone was in the playground playing football, I didn’t want to be a superstar footballer. I was like, what can I do? I want to be a QS. I definitely didn’t want to be a QS. I didn’t even know what a QS was, honestly. I took the job as a trainee QS because I didn’t want to go to university in the traditional way. I wanted to go into work and kind of start my career from 18. So I went in as a QS as a trainee; quantity surveying was my best mate said to me at the time, don’t do that. You’re going to be miserable for the rest of your life. So I definitely didn’t expect it; it wasn’t something I wanted to do. 

And in terms of entrepreneurial vision, I’d never really been desperate to climb the ladder, honestly, I was, at times, quite obsessed with it. But I now wouldn’t have changed the decision I made six, seven years ago for anything. It’s the best way to do something on your own. Yeah, as much as we’re laughing about it, it’s still a very good career, and you can come out of university with a pretty decent salary, and you do jump that ladder quite quickly. It’s just, in my personal opinion, you also hit the ceiling quite fast as well. So that next step is probably for someone who’s come out and experienced that progression; they’re probably thinking, “Alright, what’s after this? Like, I’m at the top now, maybe it’s a role doing something else in technology,” but who knows? It’s very well paid for what it is. I look at people’s salaries with envy. I know. I agree. You guys are overpaid. Definitely. For what you provide. Don’t get me started on engineers. Yeah, I know. Yeah. You’re going to be fighting a lonely battle here. It’s 2v1. So, unfortunately. 

Okay, so let’s move to SeaLink then. Paul, what is SeaLink? Tell us about the business. So, SeaLink is, well, let’s kind of scale it back and just think about what a construction project is. Right. So, I’m a contractor. I’m actually a subcontractor my whole life. Chris, my co-founder, was a main contractor pretty much his whole career. On a typical project, even like a regional project, let’s say, nothing massive, the main contractor is going to procure between 10 and 20, 25, sometimes even like 40, 50 subcontractors, right? And in doing that, it is incredibly challenging. There are loads of problems in doing things on the back of a fag packet in terms of contracts. A lot of them don’t have high-quality resources to be able to execute because margins are so tight. And a lot of them will use the same subbies time and time again because they don’t have a grasp on the market, right? So tier-one contractors, the big contractors, the Mace, Balfour Beatty, whoever, they have supply chain directors, supply chain managers, procurement managers, QSs, assistant QSs to manage that process, which is something that SMEs don’t have. So what we are trying to do with SeaLink is create and scale a system for them, which gives them simple, quality contracts to be able to reduce their risk. It automates a lot of the work that a QS would do, so you either employ fewer QSs, or you have a project manager on really smaller projects executing that for you, the construction supply chain. 

That’s what we’re trying to build. We’re trying to build a system where no matter where the project is, no matter what you are building, you will always have a supply chain of vetted subcontractors who are suitable for that task. So that is kind of what we do. And if I talk to you about automation, we’ve done a lot of studies around how much time QSs waste. And this is why, going back to your original question, Owen, what are QSs going to do in the future? They’re going to be doing a lot less of what they currently do, because it makes no sense. So we’re a bit obsessed with subcontract procurement, as you can imagine, that’s basically our business. And a typical subcontract package, let’s say, I don’t know, you’re doing a groundwork package from inception, right, from having the drawings to placing the contracts. We’ve done a lot of case studies, we’ve done a lot of research with QSs. And we think it takes about 40 hours in total to go from getting the drawings, finding the subbies, pre-qualifying the subbies, doing a tender and then doing all of these different steps – about 40 hours for a QS, which is one week, right? What do I say? 20 packages on a single project, so that’s 20 weeks doing just procurement. Now, of those 40 hours, we think a huge amount of it can be automated. We think about 30 hours of it can be automated. So we think we can take a QS’s man-hours down on procurement alone from 20 weeks. So it’s all about automating, but then giving you access to contracts and all these other things that just mean you can better deliver a project. Yeah, very well explained. That’s a very long answer, sorry. No, it’s very clear, actually, it makes complete sense. And you mentioned, obviously, I think you said it was mostly targeted at SMEs. Is there plans to, do you have any tier-one clients or plans to branch into that market at all? We are having conversations with a few right now. We have been incredibly, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly product-focused as a business over the years. And we’re now starting to reap the rewards for that, we think, in that we focused a huge amount, I should say, on how the product works, making it really viable. And we’re now having good conversations with some of the larger companies. But really, our energy is on those SMEs – 99% of the industry is SMEs, right? Why is it that they don’t have those tools? You talk about technology, right? And the topic I’m passionate about, the two of you are passionate about. The money going – all the money has gone to the large, so the 1%, hasn’t it? That’s where the money can be spent. That’s where R&D is possible. It’s not possible for the SMEs. I was an SME at times. And it’s just no wonder we’ve got a problem in the industry with productivity, etc., considering that. Yeah, absolutely. And what’s the implementation like? This is the theme that comes across in a lot of these conversations we have with people – with implementation of technology on, like, the people using it, obviously, or it’s not quite on the, well, I suppose it’s not obviously putting hammers and nails in walls or whatever, but you still got to have someone there doing it. 

And in many cases, that could be someone who is reluctant to use technology. So do you struggle with that? Yeah, I mean, naturally, people don’t like change, do they? Particularly when change is coming in and affecting how you’ve done things for years, right? So once the product is sold and the user is engaged with it, there are hardly ever any problems. We do a couple of hours of training per company, and it’s really simple to use once it’s being used. That’s great. It’s more the mentality of getting the conversation, explaining because it’s funny, you’re trying to sell them something that they think they don’t need or that they never knew they needed because they’ve been running a business for the last 10 years, making good money or making money. And they think, “I don’t need that. It’s not at the top of the radar.” So there is a challenge with changing mentalities. And I think we’re getting there now. I think we’re starting to get there now, whereas five years ago, even when we first started, it was still technology, “What’s that? Yeah, I’ve got Excel mate. That’s absolutely fine, isn’t it? Yeah, we use computers.” Exactly, the word is getting around, thanks to the bricks and mortar show. That’s for sure. Exactly. Yeah. So at the beginning, were you using your own money, or did you raise some money for the project? Yeah, so we bootstrapped for a good four years, and then we’ve got two investors who have done seed, done seed top-up, and we’re now in 2023, at least going to be thinking about a more serious Series A round is how we’re going to do it. But yeah, we did bootstrap, and it’s funny, I speak to some people that there’s a couple of people in construction tech, you’ll probably end up interviewing them, who I’ve known basically for the entire time that Sea Link has been going, their businesses started at similar times. They didn’t bootstrap. I was very envious of the other side, and they were very jealous and envious of us that we did bootstrap. So swings and roundabouts, Sam. Yeah, that’s really actually quite interesting. Yeah. What’s the best way, would you say, to bootstrap or to get as much money as you can? It’s hard to say, right? Because if you bootstrap, it’s a lot less complicated in terms of the potential bureaucracy of running the business. 

But it’s a lot more complicated because cash is absolutely everything. It’s absolutely everything to all businesses, right? But having gone through a couple of rounds, including our top-up, having the money and having the runway allows for, in my opinion, a much quicker and energetic way to start walking towards the milestones, which we’re now seeing. What I would say is bootstrapping has meant that we, as founders, have cultivated an incredibly close-knit team that almost feels like a family. We really know our product and our customers very, very well, because we’ve had to keep that momentum and keep those customer relationships going. So that has been very strong for us. It sounds like the right strategy. I read a lot of things about how important product focus is and being literally in your customer’s shoes as often as you can. A lot of people, their advice is, I think we had Ram on our podcast once, he’s like, “if you’re not going to a job site like twice a week or something like that, then you’re doing something wrong.” Yeah, and Sea Link looks like a very well-marketed company. And I say that because sometimes I get questions from clients that I should know as a QS but have no idea of the answer to. And I quickly do what everyone does these days and go and Google. And you guys are normally one of the first links that comes up. So what’s your approach to marketing and do you have any tips that you can share? Well, it’s funny because we didn’t, and we haven’t ever really exhausted a huge amount of funding into marketing. Focus has been very heavily on product, as I kind of alluded to at the top. When it comes to marketing, when I came into construction, like I said at the top, I didn’t know what QS-ing was, right? So I started as a trainee QS and everyone’s thought I was in the office, never saying “birdcage scaffold”. You know, I can’t even get a little bit of a simple, they said, “all these things, I’m doing what?” “Long weight?” Exactly, “glass hammer,” all the usual “paint.” So there are all these terms and jargon, right? I wish I could laugh with you. I don’t think it translates well in Polish, Martin. Yeah, it’s not about Polish, it’s about US terminology. Okay, sorry. No, no, let’s go on, mate. We can send you to the merchants for a “long weight,” if you want, mate. But I felt that coming in as an outsider to the industry, a lot of people seem to, like their parents have been in construction or, you know, their – and it wasn’t the case for me. So I came in and just thought there was no knowledge sharing. And there’s a big white space really in construction for knowledge sharing, which is slowly but surely being filled. But we always wanted to create insightful, meaningful content really that helped people to better execute. 

It’s kind of like the whole purpose of our business, to be honest with you. So we focused a lot on producing really valuable eBooks, content about contracts, et cetera, which hopefully are the things that you potentially search for when you’re dealing with the JCTD&B or whatever, right? So that’s what we focused on, and we’re now doing it with the podcast and hoping to be able to invest a lot more in marketing in the future. 

Cool. Okay. Yes. I was going to say, before we move into more about your other endeavours, one being the podcast, it would be really interesting just to hear your top insights, tips, feedback from being someone, you know, as a QS non-technical founder of a construction tech business. What’s your experience, any do’s and don’ts, biggest mistake, that kind of thing, for moving from being a QS to being a co-founder of a construction tech business? 

Yeah, whoa, how long have you got? I’ve got a lot of things I wouldn’t do again. It kind of turns back to the way I felt at the start, which was this idea and this vision that I had in my head in 2016. Once that’s down on paper or on the website or whatever it was at the time, I would have sold it. That’s it. That’s what the industry is desperate for, right? And if I reflect on that now and think about the product that we produced in 2016, our very, very first beta, it is not even a percentage point of what we currently have. And we were obsessed with, I think it comes from, this won’t be relevant to everyone, but construction mentality is kind of waterfall project management in terms of groundwork start and the job will finish when it’s done, and the cleaner has scrubbed the last piece of glass or whatever, right? A to Z. And we thought, this is exactly the product that we want. Let’s get it from A to Z. And once we’re at Z, we’ll start marketing and all those other bits and pieces. And although it was only months at that time, if I reflect on that, the thing that you really should be doing is thinking as agile as possible about how you’re going to execute a project and think about what your minimum viable product is. What is the first iteration of a product in front of someone who I think is going to buy this product and get them to say, “what do you think of this?” Because almost definitely they’re going to say, “oh, it’s alright, but I’d like it if it did this” or “I’d like it if it did that,” etc. And that’s feedback. Yeah, you’ve got to get feedback, and you’re never going to make a finished product. We haven’t finished; we’ve just done a big release on our product tomorrow, another one next Thursday. Like, the way it’s a never-ending cycle. 

So, if I reflect on what I thought at the start, it would be: be agile, MVP, MVP, MVP. I’m going to do the three the way that the politicians all do. Yeah, I thought you sounded quite familiar. Very nice. How about building a technology team? Because that’s quite a challenge in itself. Were there any mistakes you made, like just hiring the first technical person you found, and then they built code which didn’t work or worked but couldn’t be reused, or something horror stories? 

Yeah, are you capable of coding yourself, or were you? No. No. I can’t even do a takeoff, mate, so I’m just an… excellent formula. Yeah. I can’t. It’s funny, actually, we’ve been doing this now for six years, and at the very start, Chris and I had a debate about whether one of us should get into coding, whether that would be valuable for the business, and it probably would have been, given that we’re now here six years later. We didn’t opt for that route. This, of course, I mean, we were subcontracting a lot of work initially, but funnily enough, our first employee is just about to come up to his fifth year working with us. Our development team is six strong at the moment, and we’ve never had anyone leave from employment. And we’ve got a really, really great close-knit team in that regard. All I would say is get a great CTO because we now have one. Without him, we would be completely and utterly lost. And there were definitely times when two QSs were probably getting run around a bit by developers because, at the outset, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. I look at it a little bit like, I forget if you’re a main contract client-facing, but as a subcontract QS, right? I was always in facades. I knew the technical detail of facades. Main contractor QS usually didn’t. And there were ways that I could manipulate conversations so that only so much was understood so that it was better. I could protect my interest, right? And that’s kind of how I often felt with developers because you don’t know the detail. You can sometimes be told otherwise. 

What was the moment that you knew that you have to have a full-time CTO? Once our first beta was kind of… really proven. We knew that we wanted to, and we were going for rounds of investment, you want to start thinking about strategic architecture decisions about how you’re going to build your code, how you’re going to build your product. 

And once you’re starting to get really serious, yeah, you need to get someone super serious around the table, I believe. Yeah. And what are the future aims for Seedling? You’re like building to see the future. Maybe you don’t want to say that on here, but is there life after Seedling? Have you thought about that, maybe even from a personal standpoint? Well, my girlfriend is Italian, and she, in her own views, has been in London for far too long. So I’m sure she wants to extract me from here. She’s probably missing it now. Yeah. So at some point, I mean, on a personal level, that is the dream in terms of Seedling; we’re currently wholeheartedly focused on executing our roadmap, building what we think is an amazing product and service in London and the Southeast, and we’re now growing across the UK. We’ve got lots of plans for the future, and we want to execute on them all. 

Excellent. Can you not be remote working on the project or the business? Have you been speaking to Anna? That’s the whole point. So we are actually a remote business; we always have been. So we are a remote business. It’s just, I mean, it’s hard to dig myself out of this hole. But we, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to go and work in Italy at the moment; the team is here, clients are here, sites are here, projects are here. I want to be here, doing everything wholeheartedly for the business, and yeah, it’s a dream for somewhere in the future. No, that’s fair. Yeah, okay, let’s go on to your podcast. So you have the Own the Build podcast. What was the purpose of setting it up, and how is it going? 

So it goes back to creating insightful content, being thought leaders, filling that gap, which at the time I thought was very much there in terms of marketing and content for construction. We built up with the written form like eBooks, blogs, newsletters a pretty good following over the first few years. And then when we got investment, we thought, how can we kind of take it to the next level? So, moving away from written to audio and video with the podcast. And we started it. One thing that really helped us out, I don’t know if you guys think about this yourself, is before the pandemic, there was a far higher bar to enter the podcasting space. Before the pandemic, everyone was in a studio, everything was amazing quality, even, you know, the news, right? It would always be reporter to reporter, amazing footage, amazing audio and video. Now it’s really common, isn’t it? To see someone on a Zoom call on the 10 o’clock news or whatever, right? So the bar got lowered, which helped us to enter. So we do a weekly podcast called Own the Build, I think as you mentioned, and the objective of our podcast is to speak to the construction industry and once a week give them insight from someone focused and passionate about a niche topic in the sector. 

So that people listening can either take away something tangible and think, “You know what, tomorrow on site or tomorrow on my project, I’m going to do something differently.” Or I can just think, “Oh, I didn’t know that was happening in construction. That’s really fascinating. Glad I know that now,” because it’s such a broad industry, isn’t it? It’s impossible to, I was a subcontractor in the facade world for 10 years. I hardly knew about anything else going on. I thought that was it. But so it’s just, that’s what we do. And it’s going really well. I started listening to podcasts as well. You’re just so cooped up in your little world of what’s going on and you listen and your mind literally, you almost feel your mind expanding when you listen to these things and you’re like, “Oh my god.” When you listen to Own the Build, right? Yeah, exactly. That was the podcast that really made my mind expand, and I was like, “Wow, this stuff in the world really does exist.” So it was very interesting. 

So, what are the episodes that really stood out to you and that you would perhaps like to share? There’s quite a few, actually. I mean, you touched on one at the top of the show, which would be, I think, episode 88, which was called something, I forget exactly, but is quantity surveying going extinct? Or it was something along those lines. And we’ve had some really interesting conversations recently about the future of quantity surveying and how it’s going to look. So episode 88 is really popular. Episode 90 has proven to be very popular. And then, yeah, if you want to be a bit more geeky QS, with construction lawyers about proving values, proving claims. So yeah, check those ones out as well. 

I’ll check it out. I think episode 88, was that the one you did with Projecting Success or something like that? Yeah, yeah, shout out to those guys because I’ll actually be at the Project Hackathon in November as well. So is that the one on top of the stadium? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I might be trying to come along to that one as well actually. Oh, awesome. You might see me there. Yeah. And we’ll try and do some data science. 

So, Paul, I share your thoughts in terms of the extinction of the current roles in construction, like probably architect at some point, structural engineer, QS. What are your thoughts about that and how these roles will have to evolve to accommodate the needs of the future of construction? Well, I’m probably best placed to talk about quantity surveying. I don’t want to be the QS that wipes out architects and engineers. I’ll let you guys do that. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I don’t want quantity surveying to be wiped out. However, I’m just going to go back to my own personal experience. And I’m going to talk about my business for obvious, biased reasons. If, and I’m talking only about subcontract procurement here, if it takes 40 hours to procure a tender for one package, and it could take you 10 hours, we’re kind of proving that there are 30 hours of dead time in quantity surveying in the current format. 

And I believe that to be the case for multiple different elements of the quantity surveying work, right? So I think it will change. And I don’t think that it means you will never need a QS. And I got accused of almost suggesting that when I did that podcast and did a few posts, which it absolutely wasn’t the intention. But I think what it can mean is a QS can be far, far superior at their work. They can do it far more effectively, focusing on data entry or whatever it is that you no longer need to do. The QS can be that commercially minded project manager who, if they are a good one at least, can be value engineering. They can be cultivating relationships with subcontractors, cultivating relationships with main contractors, the client, consultants, whoever, and helping foster a far better industry than QSs spending 30 hours, 20 times on a project, doing stuff that a computer can do for them. So I don’t think it’s the end for QSs or architects or engineers, right? All of them are going to evolve. What it means is you’re going to be able to do different work more effectively. 

And I heard at an event not so long ago, actually, that I think it was Sir Robert McAlpine putting their QSs through data analyst training. So maybe that’s the way it goes, because you are ultimately dealing with tons and tons of data. So there has to be something there. And I feel a lot of it, that’s where they kind of get into the AI world and all that, can these procurement packages be predicted before they’re placed? Kind of thing. Highly inconsistent data is the problem, right? So as a QS, you’re procuring a package. How much did we spend on this, on that job? Someone find out for me and then bounce around the office. Well, the rate was this. How inconsistent is that data? Why does it take so long to get that data? Why do billion-pound companies not just go, “There’s the data, bang.” And then the QS delivers it. I completely agree. I think there should be almost quasi data scientists for construction. That’s almost where it can go. 

There’s also lots of interesting things coming in with new technology, AI, blockchain. In my conclusion from the really fascinating, interesting conversations I’ve had recently on Own the Build, and I’m not going to do this because I’m no longer a Quantity Surveyor, but if I was a Quantity Surveyor, what I would be doing. If I was a quantity surveyor, what I would be doing right now is thinking about in five years’ time, AI will be a thing, blockchain will be far more predominant. The role will be evolving. Do I want to be at the forefront of that? Because there’s not going to be that many people who have had the foresight and got ahead. Or do I then want to be thinking, “Right now I need to get into blockchain or AI or whatever.” You can, it’s almost once in a generation opportunity, I feel, to get ahead of the curve. And that I would say is probably very similar for architects, structural engineers, all of these roles because it’s changing and you can get ahead of the curve, I believe. 

Yeah, I actually agree. I think the technological change, as we all know, exponentially increases as it has done over the last few years, but I almost feel like it could change overnight and at the rate we’re going and the speed things are happening. So it might be a very quick shock for a lot of people that, “Oh crap, this is the norm now.” 

We better upskill. It’s not too late, and people, like you say, have got the foresight to be able to prepare themselves or at least start involving themselves with technology and listening to Bricks and Bytes a little bit more to find out how precisely. Paul, regarding team building, what are your thoughts on team building and how to maintain good spirit within the team once you grow the company? 

Well, we’ve grown now to a team of 11, and that team has largely been stable. There’s no simple answer to this other than personal belief, whether this was when I was managing quantity surveyors or managing the team that we manage now. It’s all about mutual trust and respect. And if my staff, my employees, can trust me and I will be true to my word, I think that then reverberates back. I think it’s the same for almost all relationships, to be honest with you. All good relationships are built on trust. And so it sounds cheesy, but that’s kind of the basis that we try to grow the business on and grow the team on. And it’s also trust between the employees, right? When we’re not there, it’s nothing to do with us. It’s how does the team work? How do they, can you speak your mind? That’s the environment that we’re trying to build anyway. That’s great. 

Um, all right, let’s go on to some off-topic questions then. And you are obviously an extremely busy person. You run the podcast, you’re co-founder of your business and managing teams, probably hiring, worrying about raising money, problems that come with that. So, what is your number one productivity hack or tool if you have any? 

You know what? I don’t really have any. Weekend in Italy? Weekend in Italy, yeah, that one usually doesn’t work, because I end up just eating loads and loads of food and drinking loads and loads of wine. What I will say, actually, that is something that I have introduced in the last six weeks, and it’s made a really big difference to everything really, actually, is I’ve now blocked out a bit of time once a week, always on a Wednesday morning. That’s not that I have the whole Wednesday morning off, but I’ll block out three hours in my diary where I kind of just do me. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but actually just do something that I want to do, go for a walk, go and have a nice breakfast or something like that. 

And I’ve actually found in the last few weeks that just doing that has actually meant that I get the headspace that I need, but it’s not really a productivity hack. But that’s all I’ve got for you, I’m afraid, guys. I like it. No, I think it is. I think it’s very, very good. It’s important. You can get very knee-deep in what you’re doing all the time and seeing it from the outside is great. Exactly. You can distance yourself from the problems and just subconsciously digest it in your head. Exactly. Completely get it. 

What are you currently reading if you read anything? I am currently reading a book by Tim Marshall, who is a… Oh, a geographer. Prisoners of Geography is the famous book that he wrote. And I’m reading a more recent one. It’s called The Power of Geography. Similar kind of thing, but I am pretty much obsessed and always have been with geography and magic. So, it’s a bit… I shouldn’t have said this out loud, should I? Anna’s the only one that knows this, but now everyone knows it. It’s great to hear. Is it geography or like geography, geopolitics, and the economy a little bit? 

Yeah, I mean, it’s all his books generally revolve around geopolitics, kind of like the reason why things are the way they are, and I’m only just started it, really. It’s much more about the new regions that are going to shape global politics, geopolitics, in the next century, like Asia. That’s right. Yeah, I read his books. I love geopolitics also. So, definitely can send you some that I read; they were super interesting. Yeah, please do. Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? Yeah, Almighty Dollar is also mind-blowing. It’s kind of not only geography but also how the dollar is shaping the world and super interesting. 

Excellent. I’ll give it a whirl. Sounds very interesting. Okay, Paul. It’s been a pleasure to have you on. So, where can people find out more about you and C-Link and your podcast? 

Thank you very much. Yeah, thanks for having me on, guys. It’s been really good fun. You can find the business at, C-Link. So, you can find out about the business there. The podcast is on Spotify, Apple, all the usuals. It’s called On the Build. We release Monday mornings, and then my email is if you want to reach out; very happy to hear from anyone. 

All right, excellent. Thank you very much, Paul. Thanks for having me on the show, guys. Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the Bricks and Bites podcast. If you are enjoying the show, please feel free to rate, subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. We really appreciate it, and we’ll catch you in the next episode. 

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