An interview with Aynsley Cheatley, Board Director at Summers-Inman

How long have you worked for Summers-Inman?

I joined Summers-Inman in May 2004 and have been with the business for just over 17 years. Prior to that I worked as a Construction Site Manager and Building Surveyor with two other firms and have 22 years’ experience.

How did you get into your current role?

I joined the business as a Building Surveyor and shortly after joining received confirmation that I’d been successful in becoming Chartered, as I concluded this process just before joining Summers-Inman. I then progressed to Senior Building Surveyor, Associate Director, Local Director and became a Board Director in May 2018.

I got into the industry through advice from a family friend who lectured in construction at a local college. They suggested I undertake the BTEC National Diploma in Construction, which then allowed me to progress to University at Napier in Edinburgh where I completed a BSc (Hons) in Building Surveying.

You are responsible for managing the Scottish region, can you tell us a bit more about your role?

I am responsible for the management of the Scottish region from our office in Edinburgh and have been in this role for the last 4 years. This involves all aspects of running the business including business development, staff recruitment and management, resource and workload management, quality control and financial control. I also provide professional consultancy services as a Chartered Building Surveyor and Certified Principal Designer.

What type of projects do you work on?

Given my management role, I don’t tend to work on too many projects these days, but career highlights have been surveying most of the Ministry of Defence estate in Northern Ireland, some of which could only be accessed via helicopter- and securing framework appointments with most of the major local authorities and housing associations in central Scotland, the Lothians and Fife.

I’ve recently completed condition surveys of the entire estate of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) at their sites in Edinburgh, Logan, Benmore and Dawyck and have been providing consultancy services to RBGE since I joined Summers-Inman.

What would you say is the most important aspect of your role?  

The most important aspect of my role is ensuring that our clients receive a high level of service and that our staff enjoy working for us and are given the opportunity to learn and progress. I set a high level of focus on these aspects and regularly communicate with clients and staff to ensure we are achieving this. If we get this right, everything else falls into place.

From your own experience, what would you say are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

The biggest challenges facing the industry at present are the impacts of Brexit and Covid-19 as we continue to see issues relating to material shortages, increased costs, and longer lead-in times for delivery of materials to site. These are all putting a strain on the industry and increasing the time and cost elements of construction projects.

But there are huge opportunities being generated by the desire to bounce back quickly from the pandemic, both in the private and public sector. There is a big emphasis on development across many sectors and increasing opportunity for disruptive technologies in construction such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), digital image capture and modular construction.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into the industry?

I would recommend that anyone wanting to get into the industry tries to get as much experience as possible, for example labouring for a local builder or applying for a placement in a consultancy practice over the summer. This type of experience is invaluable when applying for jobs as it shows a genuine interest to work in the industry and helps to develop knowledge.

That said, there is no right or wrong way to get into the industry and there are many different opportunities including roles with contractors, clients and consultants in both the private and public sector.

It is also advisable to obtain advice and support from professional bodies such as The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

What’s it like working for Summers-Inman?

My experience of working for Summers-Inman has always been very positive, which is reflected in the length of time I’ve worked for the business. This is a common trait amongst our team – it is a great place to work.

I have always been given opportunities to progress in the business and the autonomy to achieve this. We try to ensure that Summers-Inman is an enjoyable place for everyone to work and there has been a lot of emphasis and effort put into this in recent years.

And finally, what would career plan B have been?

When I was much younger, I wanted to be an architect but I’m not sure I knew exactly what an architect did then, so I guess I was always destined to work in the property and construction industry. My dream job would have been a rock star but I don’t have the talent and certainly don’t have the hair!

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