As I approach the end of my career, my overwhelming feeling is one of thankfulness. Thankful that I’ve enjoyed so much of my time in the construction and property industries and for the people I had the opportunity to work with. The following are just a selection of these many highlights.

My first post was at Higgs and Hills, who no longer exist but they were Contractors who were focused on planning, and they catapulted me into both management and programming. 

I joined what felt like the elite Management Contracting Division, when it started out, with a reputation for delivering large complex projects at speed. 

We had the first site-based planning and programming PC based system on site with a large AO plotter to run off the programmes. In the early days we did the programme networks manually to check the computer was working properly. 

My first big job was the CTO Towers a £64m in 1980, for the new BT HQ, built in St Martin’s Le Grande, near St Paul’s Cathedral. It boasted the biggest barrel-vaulted glass roof in Europe. 

I met great people and Phil Lewy was my Planning Manager and we remained friends and work colleagues right up to his sad death in 2020. 

I always assumed I’d set up my own business and Phil Lewy and David Ware (also at H&H) were many years later to be my first near venture. Timing wasn’t right so my plans to be independent were postponed. 

In fact, before setting up my own business I had assumed that I’d go and work for the Church and train as a pastor preacher to evangelise the world. That plan was both postponed and watered down to more localised vision, and I’m now considering going to train as a lay reader. 

A wise mentor called Derek Cutmore back in 1980s said I think you should map out a career plan in construction and work hard at that whilst waiting for the call. So, I planned a career leading to Director by 40. 

I then moved as the Project Planner to Great Ormand Street Hospital to repair the newly built, but structurally unsound and collapsing cardiac wing. The state of the building was far worse than anticipated and it took years to repair. I left before it was finished. 

I met Anthony Pippet on that Job and then he moved on to build London City Airport with Mowlem. I had a 6 month spell at Wates who hit tough times and made lots of redundancies, including me. I followed Anthony to Mowlem Management and built The STOL port as it was known then. STOL stood for short take-off and landing. The planes flew in at such a steep angle that you had to hold on tight to your duty free to stop it rolling down to the pilot when landing!

This was my third management contract, and it was then that I realised my future was as a consultant, the property development side of our industry needed project management and programming, particularly for design. 

So, at 28 years old I joined Cyril Sweett following an introduction by Paul Braithwaite who was a partner there and also a friend in my church. I had no idea how to consult but Mike Gibbons soon shaped me up into one. 

I introduced Programming into Sweett’s Property Consulting world and never looked back. It was a fabulous time in my career, I was soon made Associate Director and by 32 I was made Director, which knocked 8 years from the plan I had made at 21 with Derek at H&H. 

Being a director was disappointing at first, time seemed focused on trivia like where to position the new photocopier! But then I had licence to develop the Planning Team and develop design and preconstruction programming. We built up a great team and some fabulous repeat clients. 

My work was on rapid large shopping centres at that time and they were often late because the design could not keep pace with the rapid forms of procurement that were being used. 

At Sweett working with Bob Danks, an Architect turned PM, we developed SILF design techniques, SILF worked brilliantly but sadly never caught on. SILF stood for semi integrated loose fit, which we applied to design, which enabled slightly over designed solutions to allow for more design overlap and shorter design programmes. 

The design programming requirement did become popular, and the design process was integrated into more complex pre-construction programmes. 

Design programming was all about managing the briefing and consultation process in a more controlled approach. We were achieving 80% of design outputs on time, which was a massive improvement in those days. 

Rapid projects do typically include delays and that pushed me towards the delay claims and forensic planning. 

In the early days when the Society of Construction Law’s protocol for delay and disruption was first being developed, Sweett had a clever young legal guy in who was on the drafting committee. We regularly discussed the requirements and issues within the Sweett team and it was a privilege to be able to influence the outcome. 

At Sweett I moved from Property and Construction into their new Management Consulting division and became Deputy Managing Director with Andrew Hemsley. We built up an amazing team of experts experienced in many forms of Management issues. Our mission was to add value to our client’s business, and this focused us to ensure the type of services we provided were adding strategic value to our clients’ businesses. 

Sweett were part of Chestertons at that time when Francis Ives was our Chairman, and together we formed a Management Buy-out. I invested everything I had, which was not much. I believe the minimum investment was set on what young Ciorra with 4 kids could afford. I took out a 90% mortgage to raise the funds for my investment. 

It was great to finally be part of the ownership team, a real partner in the business. 

Sadly, things changed, and aspirations grew in different directions and so I decided to set up my own business. This was my first attempt that I mentioned above, which was with two ex Higgs and Hills colleagues. The timing was not right so this did not occur. But I had decided to leave so I joined AYH. I went as AYH’s Vice Chairman for their Consulting division, which was the collective for all the specialist property and construction services, including M&E services, Building Surveying and we developed a claims division. I felt more comfortable being back in a pure Construction based role. 

I had moved to Suffolk around this time and then I had a slipped disc and decided I could no longer commute 120 miles to London.  I joined Northcroft about 2004, but I wisely choose not to transfer my equity into them. I was Director at Cambridge working with Roger Birchenall. It was an important transition into a smaller regional business, and I learnt some important lessons that were critical to running a small business. 

Everything was hands on, and I was back doing the work rather than just managing people. I found it hard at first, but I got there. The Northcroft team were extremely nice people to work with. 

During my time at Northcroft I came across Sharman Barton and Partners, who later became my colleagues at Edge Consult. Well, I worked against them at first, but then they asked me / Northcroft to help them on a claim based in Barbados, which won me over. 

We worked well together, and since the future at Northcroft looked financially shaky I decided to join with them and two others, Kevin and Tracy to form a new venture together called Edge Consult. 

Edge Consult was where I wanted to be all those years earlier when I was thinking of starting my own business. 

Edge Consult had a fabulous group of professionals who could help me, a dyslexic planner, look professional! The poor guys had to proofread everything I did; I don’t think they ever realised how poor my report writing was [they do now – proof-reader]. All my working life I had surrounded myself with clever people and I’m very grateful to them all. I was often the least qualified person in the business. But I worked hard, I could plan, and I could analyse and most importantly I could solve problems. I had a keen business acumen and was good at building teams and overseeing business development. 

I was Chairman for 12 years at Edge and started to slow down after I had a heart attack in 2015. That really affected my self-confidence, I no longer felt invincible, which I clearly wasn’t. This led to me taking early retirement, which is now. 

I have so enjoyed my career and I have worked with some amazing people, including my fellow Edge Partners. My main skill has been to find brilliant people to work alongside with. 

My future looks great too, I now have time to focus on my youthful call and serve the Church and the Gospel message. 

Tony Ciorra