Alex Jenkins on becoming a director at 32, and what his younger self would think of him now (Q&A, part 1)

14th April 2021 |

As Alex Jenkins approaches two years in the role of Commercial Director, he looks back on the challenges of working in the construction industry, the surprises he encountered, and what got him here.

How does it feel to become a company director at a relatively young age?

AlexFrom the outside, it may look like it happened quickly – I started with Perkins as a quantity surveyor in 2014 – but it doesn’t feel that way to me. It was definitely a steep learning curve, but Perkins proved to be a great learning environment, both personally and professionally. I feel incredibly proud and honoured to have stepped into the role of Commercial Director.

Is it something you were always striving towards?

Not to sound cheesy, but it’s what I’ve wanted since the day I started in the industry. I always knew a smaller, ‘family feel’ business was the right type for me. In a bigger business, I may not have had this opportunity so early in my career.

At Perkins, we’ve established a good dynamic among the directors. Rob Yeandle, the Chairman, is the elder statesman, with decades of experience. I’m still at the beginning of my career, which means I bring a different perspective. Then we have Rupert Perkins, the Managing Director, who’s in the middle of his career. This creates a nice balance, along with the additional support we receive from the board.

What would your 18-year-old self think of you now?

He’d be shocked! I wasn’t a star student, passing every exam. When I left school, I was more interested in kicking a football than I was in looking for a job. Luckily, I had my dad around to give me a wake-up call. A literal one. He’d wake me up and say, “I’m dropping you at the Job Centre.”

I ended up taking a slightly different route into the construction industry, by labouring on site whilst finishing my studies, before ending up on a university course that included ‘day release’ for on-the-job training. A more direct route might have made it easier on myself, but I learned more by taking the scenic route. The more you witness, the more you learn about the industry.

I never thought I’d be a director at 32, but now I look back and realise how hard I’ve worked to get here.

What’s the number one thing that got you where you are today?

I owe a huge part of my success to my family – both my upbringing, by my mum and dad, and the support of my wife, Hannah.

When I moved from primary school to secondary school, I ended up at a high school which at the time didn’t have a great reputation. It might sound strange, but it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. For the first time, I met people from lots of different backgrounds. My upbringing was modest, but I had so much more than some of my classmates. It made me respect and appreciate everything my family had given me. I also think it shaped me into the person I am today. I feel like I get on well with everyone I meet; I’m a good judge of character; and I know how to get the best out of people.

What are you looking forward to about the coming year?

At Perkins, we’re in the process of implementing changes to make things more streamlined, cutting out waste, and empowering our teams to work more efficiently. I’ve already been heartened to see that our staff really are listening. They’re keen to work smarter. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved already, and I think there’s even more we can do. The future is looking really bright for John Perkins Construction.

Read the second part of this Q&A with Alex, to find out the biggest lesson he’s learned on the job.

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