Hong Kong-based Rob Hill is the Director of rhConsult Limited and has worked on some of the world's biggest construction projects. He tells us why it's crucial to spend a little more when looking for staff, and how an annual "Swiss Dinner" is the product of settling the toughest project of his career.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I currently own and manage a niche construction consultancy business, having previously worked on many of the world's largest, tallest and most complex construction projects.
I've held director and senior management appointments in world-class organisations, and I've represented investor/developers, main contractors, specialist trade contractors and global consultancies.
My working lifetime of experience on complex and mega-projects, from Canada and Europe to the Middle East, Asia and China - together with my MSc in Management of Projects and BSc in Quantity Surveying - remain valuable and complementary foundations. These foundations allow me to advise and support business leaders and organisations that seek real and substantial improvements in their construction project outcomes.
What gets you excited about your industry?
How can you not get excited about the construction industry? Doesn't every child want to build a 150-story super-tower, a crazy 3-dimensional museum, or a road bridge over a ravine?
Thinking back, my fascination with construction started with building tall slim towers with LEGO blocks, and flimsy bridges with Meccano metal strips and angle girders. Usually, though, I ran out of components before my creations got tall enough or long enough!
The bottom line: Every construction development is different and necessarily involves smart, diverse people, and great teams. You can work anywhere in the world.
Doesn't everybody want a job like that?
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I walked into my Managing Director's office. We had five ongoing projects, and there were issues on each one. As usual, his desk was clear, and he smiled, pleased to see me.
Before discussing business, I commented: "You're the MD of an international contracting company; how do you stay so calm all the time?"
He responded: "I've got a great team around me. Every one of you is the best in the business. You all know far more than I do. If there's a problem, you'll fix it. Why should I worry? I'm really just a salesman!"
For sure, he wasn't just a salesman. He was the best boss I ever worked with. But his point struck home, and I've tried to follow his guidance ever since. Always employ the best person available for the job, even if you have to spend a little more. It's the best investment you'll ever make.
What, or who inspires you?
Who inspires me? The most beautiful lady in my life.
She grew up with nothing, and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. She remembers her shoes 'smiling' as she walked to school and getting an apple from her parents as a birthday present. A typhoon destroyed their house and swept away their possessions. She was top of the class in school, but unable to go to college or university. That one still hurts.
Now she's a professional driver, trusted with stretched limousines and Porsches. And an exceptional chef, creating her own unique dining experiences for some of Hong Kong's wealthiest residents.
She made this incredible transition by herself, through daily study, continual development, hard work and commitment. She did it with no external funding, only her own income, most of which was - and still is - sent back to her family each month.
I am truly blessed to have met her.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
I spend at least one hour a day trawling through online industry publications, selecting interesting or valuable articles and posting these on LinkedIn for others to learn or enjoy.
These are usually fresh legal developments, helping readers to stay informed in just a few minutes each day. Of course, this also means that I'm fully up-to-speed when advising clients.
I must be doing something right as I now have nearly 2,000 people following me on LinkedIn!
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
I was Contracts Management Team Leader, acting for the lead partner in a JV, bidding to design, build, and operate the new Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) in Hong Kong. This mega-project required the creation of an artificial island and associated roads, sea walls, berths and breakwaters, installing a state-of-the-art waste incineration plant, and, finally, operating it for 15 years.
Amongst other things, I led the tough negotiations to settle key legal agreements between JV partners, including JV/Consortium and Interface Agreements, and I led and closed even more challenging negotiations for the multi-million HK$ EPC Contract.
To this day, members of that bid team meet every year for a Swiss dinner (don't ask) to revisit the challenges encountered and solutions found!
If you could start your life again, what would you do differently?
As many others have said after leaving full-time employment and starting their own business, I wish that I had done that sooner.
Otherwise, I've been very fortunate. I'm blessed to have amazing friends and a wonderful family, and I've always enjoyed my work life. I've travelled the world and met hundreds of fascinating people.
I can honestly say that I wouldn't do much differently.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
My first thoughts would be for family and friends. Too many of them are living less than comfortable lives, with little chance to improve things.
I have to admit, I have a weakness for classic sports and saloon cars, so I would probably treat myself as well :)
How do you switch off after a day at work?
If I don't get to walk before breakfast, I'll put on my hiking shoes after work and head for one of the incredible trails around my house.
Very few people outside Hong Kong know this, but HK has an extensive network of well-managed hiking trails, most of them with stunning views. In fact, 75 per cent of Hong Kong's territory is green!
Otherwise, after dinner, I'll dim the lights and watch a movie, accompanied by a glass of red wine.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
This one's easy. Collaborative working from top to bottom of the construction industry, led willingly and openly by governments, investors and developers.
How should people connect with you?
Linkedin : www.linkedin.com/in/rhconsult
Email : rob.hill@rhConsult.us
Website : www.rhConsult.us