BWB boss Steve Wooler is new ACE Midlands chairman

New man in the chairman’s hotseat at the ACE Midlands region is BWB managing director Steve Wooler. He has been running the 200 strong consultancy since a management buyout in 2008 and has been with the business for 20 years.

Steve is a champion of the abilities of SMEs and believes that as the bigger consultants get bigger there is huge opportunity for smaller, more responsive firms to offer clients a more tailored service. “But we need to facilitate better opportunity for SMEs to get involved in major infrastructure projects,” he said. “Prequalification and selection processes, particularly for larger public sector frameworks, mean SME firms are being set up to fail.”

He is an enthusiast for ACE. Membership he says brings great opportunities for networking, profile raising and collaboration with other like minded firms. “But the key is the opportunity to have a voice when talking to Government.”

Read Steve's blog the importance of regional representtion here

Steve Wooler - My Career Path

Why did you decide to go into engineering?

All the usual reasons – good at maths & science; logical and practical; took an active interest in construction from an early age – often found exploring the wonders that building sites hold for curious children (in the days when they weren’t securely fenced off and patrolled !)

Despite the total absence of role models, parental guidance or careers counselling (1970s comprehensives were not at the forefront of enlightened education) I instinctively knew I wanted a professional career that would provide an opportunity to make my mark and make a difference to society/quality of life. I was a kid from a council estate in north east England so, believe me, I knew this subject are. I also wanted to travel and discover what life could offer a lad who would never be content with ‘ordinary’!! 

What did you study? How did that lead to this career?

After completing A levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry I went to Manchester University to take a BSc Honours degree in Civil Engineering (in the days when courses lasted a mere 3 years.)

Who was your first employer and why?

I graduated during the early 1980s recession when jobs in the construction industry were very thin on the ground, particularly for new graduates. I had my heart set on joining a contractor, but they weren’t hiring so I changed tack. I beat off very stiff competition to get a graduate engineer role at Nottinghamshire County Council where I obtained excellent training and broad experience that enabled me to gain chartered engineer status in 1987. This in turn enabled me to leave local government to join the world of engineering consultancy.

Give us a brief CV.

I joined Travers Morgan & Partners to work on the A46/A17 Newark Relief Road for a year before moving to a newly established TM&P office in Nottingham in 1989. I had five years there, gained great experience, then left to join an ‘up and coming’ practice in Nottingham’s Lace Market called BWB Partnership.

What is special about BWB and why did you stay?

From the outset there was something about BWB and its people that just felt “right” Perhaps it was the fact that it was a recently formed company that was starting to make an impact in the East Midlands and ‘punching above its weight’ by competing successfully with larger, established practices. Perhaps it was that I just spotted its enormous potential and instinctively knew I could help steer it towards its destiny. Whatever it was I was ‘hooked’ from the outset and there’s hardly been a dull moment over the past 20 years as it has constantly evolved, expanded by service and geography, and become established as one of the UK’s pre-eminent medium sized, owner managed consultants. Having survived the recession and emerged strong and with massive potential for future growth and success I can’t think of a better place to be !

Describe your job and BWB

My role as managing director is multi-faceted, but my primary focus is business development and acting as BWB’s ambassador to raise the profile of the business on a national, and occasionally international, stage. I work with a very talented executive board and leadership team who very capably look after the technical, financial and procedural aspects of our business which enables me to focus on relationship building, both internal and external.

What is the ambition?

The ambition is to propel BWB into the premier League of UK based multi-disciplinary consulting engineering whilst retaining our owner-managed status and independence. The trend towards sector consolidation that was prevalent before the recession has reappeared and is no doubt set to strengthen. This creates opportunity for medium sized, independent businesses to flourish – and BWB is well-placed and eager to occupy the space in the market that results from the larger, established firms merging together to become global operators. The phrase ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ can be applied to the world of consulting engineering and BWB’s challenge is to make sure we are able to fill the void being formed by sector consolidation.

What is exciting?

The vast potential for continued growth and diversification as the global demand for engineering services is driven by population growth, increased urbanisation and unrelenting demand for improved social, transportation and utility infrastructure. BWB has taken its first tentative steps in working in the international arena and the potential for building on that initiative is huge over the coming years.

Who has had the most influence over your career and why?

Me – because I’m a self-starter who is very driven, ambitious and tenacious. I’ve never expected anyone to take me under their wing, so to speak, but I’ve benefitted enormously by working with lots of fabulous and talented people during my career and I don’t underestimate the influence they’ve had on me.

What about work gets you interested, keeps you interested?

The 3 Ps ; People (and their personalities, potential and professionalism) Projects (particularly those with great profile and impact) and Prospecting ( for new clients and project opportunities.)

What can employers offer to make you most happy in your career?

The most important things an employer can offer, in my opinion, are the opportunity to fulfil your true potential, to recognise and reward the value you bring to their business, and to really enable you to shape the future success of their business.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To have an ambitious career plan, but be willing to adapt according to changing circumstances and experiences gained along the way. To understand that whilst technical excellence is undoubtedly  important it is equally important to build strong relationships – the latter will serve you throughout your career and be invaluable when things go wrong (as they invariably do !) Sign up for executive coaching at the earliest opportunity. I did that 10 years ago and it was transformational for me, not only in my business life, but in my personal life too.

What is the best thing so far in your career?

It has to be leading the management buyout that ensured BWB remained owner-managed. Although the recession hit us shortly after completion, forcing us to take decisive and effective action to survive, the business is getting back towards the size it was in 2008. Much more importantly, however, it is leaner, fitter and more resilient and therefore very well placed to take advantage of the improving market and the inexorable demand for well designed, value–engineered projects.

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