“It’s humbling to know that our business puts food on the table for so many others”
Construction has the power to reshape whole areas – and not only through the buildings and spaces that are created. The incredible careers and opportunities offered by construction firms can transform communities, which is something that Kyle Spiller has experienced in his hometown of Rhonda Valley, Wales.
SAM Drylining is a specialist subcontractor that has grown in the last ten years to become one of the area’s largest employers. Kyle has worked as a Director at the company since 2013 and is passionate about how it’s helping to provide new opportunities and change preconceptions about the South Wales Valleys.
In this week’s “Behind the Build,” we speak to Kyle about his career in construction, building in his home village and how technology has helped to transform the culture of his business, to ensure that it continues to succeed.
What first got you into construction?
I had a fascination with architecture from a young child, and it has been a driving force throughout my life. But I’ve never been very good with my hands, so I decided to take a different route and become a quantity surveyor. Essentially, I wanted to see buildings develop, but not be the one to put them up. Luckily for me, there are other ways to get into the construction industry without getting your hands dirty!
Why do you continue to build today?
I’ve always had a desire to prove that no matter where you come from, you can achieve whatever you set out to. I come from a poor background and didn’t have much opportunity growing up. My local area, the Welsh Valleys, carries the stigma of high unemployment and a significant number of entry-level, rather than really professional, jobs. I felt the need to prove myself to everyone early on in my career.
Today, I’m very proud that our business has grown to be a thriving local success story and that we employ over 200 people in the region. We’re making sure that people in the local area have the opportunity to get into a brilliant industry.
What do you love most about the industry?
In construction, you never know what will happen; every day brings a new challenge. You could get a phone call in your first half an hour at work that completely changes what you do that day, whether for good or for bad, and that element of the complete unknown keeps things exciting. There are always new things to explore, whether it’s new ways of doing things, new clients to win or new products to try.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I recently completed a project at a school in my home village, the place where I studied for seven years as a child. It was a really rewarding moment to see the building opened and pupils sitting studying in the block and to know that we had delivered that work.
I’m also very proud that our company gets referred to as a big employer in the South Wales Valleys.
It’s humbling to know that our business is giving opportunities for people and helping to put food on the table for many families.
What do you spend the most time doing at work?
It’s different every day, but with my commercial background, my time is mainly focused on how the business makes money. That could mean eliminating inefficiencies, cutting down on waste or looking at the management systems in our organisation. Unfortunately, lots of my time is spent chasing payments from clients; the industry has a poor reputation for getting paid on time, which sadly is often well-deserved. I also spend time mentoring the younger members of our team to help with employee development.
How has using technology changed the way that SAM Drylining works?
Implementing PlanGrid in the last six months has led to a complete culture change in the organisation. When we were relying on paper documentation for all our projects, there were often problems with communication between the head office and the jobsites, meaning that we sometimes didn’t know what was actually happening on the ground.
Now the instant information sharing through PlanGrid has created a level of transparency that’s absolutely priceless.
We’ve seen a change in mindset for the whole team: everyone is encouraged to be open and upfront about the status of work and discuss any issues that arise. As a team, we enjoy a much stronger sense of collaboration. We’re also standardising our processes, which is significantly improving efficiency on jobs. Implementing this technology has definitely increased our productivity and I think that will continue as we keep finding new ways to use PlanGrid.
Do you have any recommendations or thoughts you want to share with the next generation of builders?
I would encourage young people to get into the construction industry as soon as possible. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the opportunities in construction, as it’s not something that’s always well-promoted at schools. But it’s a really exciting sector: you can travel all over the world, gain all kinds of qualifications and try a whole host of new experiences.
There are so many career paths and it isn’t only limited to the usual activities that you might think of, like carpentry, bricklaying or plumbing. And on top, you get to work on some of the most prestigious projects in the country where you can really impact people’s lives.