Chartered Director Sandra Rhodes is enjoying her career in construction - and doing her best to master the game of golf
She’s made her way to the top in the male-dominated world of construction.
And Sandra Rhodes, who lives at Lindley, says she couldn’t be happier in her role as commercial director for specialist contractor Lakesmere Group’s northern operations.
The privately-owned company is one of the UK’s leading roofing, cladding and façade specialists – working with construction firms such as Balfour Beatty, Carillion and BAM on projects on schools and universities, hospitals, sports stadia, railway stations, car parks and airports.
Sandra heads two teams of commercial managers and quantity surveyors who are currently working on about 30 projects ranging in value from £1m to £8m.
The teams – one based at Altrincham, Greater Manchester, and another based in Glasgow – are responsible for matters including agreeing terms and conditions with clients, handling project budgets and costs and managing cash flow.
Sandra and the Manchester team have been involved in several key Yorkshire-based projects, including the redevelopment of Leeds railway station. Other schemes undertaken in the region have included First Direct Arena in Leeds and Bradford College.
Says Sandra: “We have carried out projects across the whole of the UK and internationally. It is a fabulous business, well-respected and probably the leading sub-contractor in our line of work.”
But she still finds time to help one deserving cause close to home. She has been a trustee of the Elland-based Yorkshire Air Ambulance for the past 11 years.
Lakesmere, which received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise earlier this year, was founded in 1993 and has grown to employ about 900 people at eight UK regional offices and six international offices.
In the year to January 31, 2015, group turnover was £95.6m, an increase of 11% from the 2014 figure of £86m, while profits before tax rose by 23% from £1.99m to £2.44m.
Turnover this year is expected to reach about £100m – with the Manchester and Glasgow offices contributing about £25m of that.
Sandra says construction was hard-hit by the recession, but adds: “There are definitely more opportunities opening up in the construction sector.
“The recovery has started in the south and it is moving northwards.
“There are a lot of opportunities opening up along the M62 corridor and a number of high profile projects in Scotland.”
Sandra grew up in Fartown and attended Fartown High School.
She freely admits: “I didn’t have any career plans as such. I wanted to get out of school, get a job and get some money in my pocket – and feel like a young adult.”
She joined a Youth Opportunities Programme focusing on office skills, administration and finance before spending four years with building supplies business Heywood Williams – firstly at Heywood Installation Services at Red Doles Lane and then at Heywood Glazing Systems in Brighouse.
It brought her abruptly into the male-dominated world of construction – but Sandra was in no way fazed or intimidated.
Says Sandra; “I started as a receptionist and then became contract co-ordinator, working in the depths of the construction department! I absolutely loved it.”
She also discovered an interest in the technical aspects of the firm’s glazing products.
Her interest in glass and its properties developed further when she moved to work at a Bradford specialist glazing firm and later at Huddersfield-based Scholes Windows.
When Sandra took a career break in the 1990s to have children, she embarked on two house-building projects – acting as project manager and getting back into the nitty-gritty of construction.
She also went to night school to update her accountancy skills.
In 1998, with her two children now attending school, Sandra joined a small management consultancy, rising to director level. When that business was sold in 2002, she was appointed director of its new business unit.
Demonstrating a determination to further her expertise, Sandra became a member of the Institute of Directors and went on to gain a masters degree in entrepreneurship and business at Huddersfield University.
She also became a chartered director – an achievement in which she understandably takes great pride.
In 2002, she went freelance, working on several small business projects and buying a property in Slaithwaite, which she converted into three flats.
“I got the hard hat, goggles, mask and steel toe-capped boots on again,” she says.
“It was an eight-month project and I enjoyed doing it – it was really rewarding. It felt right to be back in construction, even if it was a small project.”
Sandra went back into paid employment, leading a multi-million pound IT projects for Alfred McAlpine, followed by another spell freelancing before she joined Lakesmere in June last year.
Looking back on her career path, Sandra says: “A lot of it is down to the individuals you meet on your ‘journey’ and the people who are willing and able to give you the opportunity to learn and grow,
“You are supposed to go to university and go on to get a job. Academic study came later for me. It wasn’t right for me at the time.”
Combining work and study later in life to gain her qualifications took self-discipline, she says, but adds: “You are more committed to it because you realise that it has great value.
“When it’s your choice to do something, it is not such hard work. It doesn’t feel like you are being forced to do it.”
As much as she loves her job, Sandra values time outside work.
She says: “I spend 20 hours a week in the car, but I enjoy having two teams in different locations and I enjoy having a broad client base – it makes every day interesting and there are always challenges.
“But I love holidays. I’ve enjoyed travelling for many years.”
Sandra has taken up another challenge – this time of a sporting nature.
She says: “I’ve been trying to learn to play golf for the past three years!
“My partner is a very good golfer and we’ve played a bit over the summer at Woodsome Hall.
“But I’m not good enough to join a club yet. We recently had a company golf day and I didn’t take part.
“My hand-eye co-ordination isn’t brilliant! But I’ve promised that I’ll be a good enough golfer to play next year!”
Role: Commercial director
Family: Partner Trevor with daughter Amber, 23, and son Brett, 22
Car: Mercedes SLK
Holidays: I love New York and I have been to Vancouver, which is stunning. We have also been to the Caribbean and South America
First job: I worked Saturday mornings in the local greengrocer’s shop
Best thing about the job? It’s a really exciting business. I have the pleasure of working with some fantastic people. It’s a privilege to work in such as people-focused and client-focused business
Worst thing about the job? The commute on the M60 and M62. It can take me two hours to go 36 miles when the traffic’s at its worst
Business tip: There are challenges in every business. If there are issues to be resolved, have a face-to-face meeting. Don’t send emails!
Work: Roofing, cladding and building facade specialists
Sites: Altrincham and Glasgow
Phone: 0161 4660210