Journey to Partner: Brendan Magee, Partner
Description of current role and team: As a Partner in the Building Consultancy team based in Glasgow, Brendan oversees significant projects, dilapidations, and pre-acquisition surveys. He also takes a lead role in client management, business development and planning.
Year joined Workman: 2011
In what ways did your early years at Workman prepare you for your career in property and your role as a Partner?
Having joined the business when it was a lot smaller, at around 340 staff, I could curate my career through exposure to many different areas of the business at different stages, so I grew to understand the business from the ground up. If somebody is enthusiastic, they get opportunities – and today, even though it is a much larger business, we still maintain the same approach and culture for our new joiners, both graduates and apprentices.
What did your Workman grounding teach you in terms of technical knowledge and softer skills?
News management is the most important thing I’ve learned, and what I mean by that is honesty and collaboration. If you are working within a team, you need to keep everyone updated with all the information, positive and negative. It’s about building trust and having a good relationship. I think that is the most undervalued part of our business; clients, stakeholders, anybody that we deal with, wants our recommendations, and it’s very important that we give the correct advice and insight to our clients, to help them achieve their goals.
Were there any memorable projects or properties you worked on that you now look back on as invaluable experience? If so, why?
At an out-of-town Glasgow Shopping Centre, there was a job which, on paper, looked very straightforward. But then once we started the project, we discovered serious omissions by the structural engineer. We had to basically redesign the whole thing at significant extra cost and extra time, but there was no way we were going to walk away.
What I learned from that project is that no hurdle is too big. Every problem can be overcome. But you all need to be rowing in the same direction: teamwork is the most important thing. Too often when there are difficulties, people can be adversarial and point fingers, but in situations like that, we need to remember that we’re all working together.
The best lessons are always learned through dealing with mistakes and solving problems.
What are the positive career development aspects of working in the Glasgow office?
In a smaller team, you get a lot of exposure to senior equity partners, who come to the office at least once a quarter. And because you’re in a smaller team and a smaller office, that results in a little bit more time talking to them because they have to see less people.
In Glasgow, there’s opportunity to grow. We have a couple of new staff who joined earlier this year but aside from them, the team is made up of people who have been with us for five years right up to 18 years. When people come to Glasgow and like it, they find it fits for them. We have a great city-centre location, a huge variety of work, and good opportunity for career progression. Everyone here has been promoted up at least one or two positions since they’ve been with us.
Also, the workload is unique because we’ve got totally different laws and regulations to the rest of the UK, so you effectively become experts within the business for your region. It’s quite niche, which makes it even more valuable.
What single thing did your closest Workman mentor teach you that’s been most valuable in your career so far?
Sometimes people can be too close to a project or situation and can’t see the wood for the trees. It’s something Richard Cooper taught me, and it has always stuck with me: just take a step back and look at it holistically. It’s so simple but it’s something I constantly do and say to this day.
In your journey to becoming a Partner at Workman, what have been the most significant or pivotal moments?
There are a few standout moments, firstly joining the Graduate scheme and my journey through it. I was interviewed by David Workman before I started and then again at the end of the scheme. I remember these being pivotal moments for me and a massive part of me really buying into the culture of the firm.
Secondly, in the early days Richard Cooper would visit the Glasgow office frequently as part of his oversight for the north. Whilst Richard has always been a great source of encouragement and support over the years, in the early days he wasn’t too impressed with my dress sense (he still isn’t to be fair). On one of his first visits to the Glasgow office, I wasn’t wearing a tie and he marched me out the door to get one. Since that day sartorial elegance has been my mantra.
Finally, my star showing presenting the Christmas party during Covid. David Workman told me his wife (who was watching with him) promoted me after it. I just had to wait until April to find out.
Now in your role as a Partner, when mentoring younger staff, what do you think are the most important aspects of coaching and developing younger staff in your team?
Firstly, from day one when they start, I have no expectation of what they know. They start learning from a clean slate on that day. I’m not going to judge them on what they don’t know, the learning starts now.
Secondly, we’re not looking for them to be a version of their manager or anyone else in the team or firm. I ask them to bring their own personality to the role, and that’s an important thing, because everyone does things slightly differently. Ultimately, it’s a very human job that we have, and we’re dealing with people day-to-day, so it’s important to bring your personality out.
Finally, remember the likeability factor, the trust factor.
What advice would you give to our graduates just starting now, in today’s unique (post-Covid) circumstances?
Be proactive. Always ask questions. Whether working from home or in the office, that would always be my advice. People get shy and don’t want to ask questions, but at Workman, we pride ourselves on being approachable, whether you’re an equity partner or a graduate, everyone is approachable, and we’ll take the time to speak to you.
What attribute do you look for when recruiting graduates and junior staff?
Knowledge can be taught, but enthusiasm for the role cannot. It’s a hard path studying for the APC while juggling a full-time job. You must be enthusiastic and motivated to do it, or you’ll never get through it.