IF ever the construction industry required a recruiting sergeant, it need look no further than Doug Keillor – and not because he briefly considered joining the army as a young man.

The Dundonian, who heads the UK operation of Dutch construction giant BAM, talks passionately about the industry’s esprit to corps which has provided him with great fulfilment in the last three decades. And he feels the diversity and level of opportunity offered by the sector is hard to beat.

“I thoroughly enjoy this industry because I am a practical person that likes to get things done,” Mr Keillor said. “And I like to see physical evidence of what you have done.”

Mr Keillor became the third generation of his family to enter the industry in 1990 when he joined GA Group (which became part of BAM in 1992). His father had founded Keillor Laine Martin Partnership, while his grandfather owned a joinery and coach building firm, which is still run by the family today.

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One of three brothers, Mr Keillor confesses his male siblings were probably more academic in nature, and from a young age would enjoy practical tasks in the home such as cutting grass and chopping logs.

“As a youth, I would have probably considered the army, just because of the camaraderie,” he said.

“As a child, I was always looking for fun… and the construction industry has given me that. There is so much variety.”

That the work suited Mr Keillor’s personality and worth ethic is evidenced by his steady progression at BAM, which was responsible for building the celebrated V&A design museum in Dundee, in the last three decades. From management trainee, he progressed through the roles of assistant site manager, site manager, project manager, construction manager, construction director, and then regional director for Scotland.

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He rose to become executive director of the £950 million turnover BAM Construct UK in 2016, which makes him de facto “right hand man” to chief executive James Wimpenny.

And that means he is effectively the firm’s managing director for construction, which spans seven businesses across the UK.

Asked if the industry has changed over the course of his career, Mr Keillor said: “Definitely. When I started in the industry, hard hats were something you might wear. It took us a long time to get to a place where you were really not having to challenge people [to wear them]. Back in 1990, which was just before the recession hit, you can imagine, it was very macho.”

A seminal moment, he recalls, came in the aftermath of the most recent recession, which forced the industry to look after the well-being of its people better.

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While the expectation when he set out was to work seven days a week, companies today strive to ensure people are able to strike a healthier work-life balance.

Mr Keillor, an outdoors enthusiast who has climbed 238 of Scotland’s 282 Munros, said: “I like nothing more than doing an activity at the weekend, and that might be hill walking, it might be cycling, and I feel so much better for that. If your workforce has got the same, they came back on Monday energised for the week.”

He also believes it is important for the construction industry to do more to attract young people, and to encourage more women to consider careers in the sector, revealing that one of his three daughters recently joined BAM as an apprentice. “My daughter is loving it,” he said.

Mr Keillor, who lives in Kirriemuir, is wary of straying into political matters as he speaks. But, when asked how he thinks the industry should change, he remarked that too many contracts are awarded to companies that pledged to do the job most cheaply.

“What needs to change is that construction contractors need to get paid what they are worth,” he said. “This is a high-risk industry with low margins. People see the massive turnover, but as a business you are only making two, maybe three per cent if you are lucky.”

He added: “The industry is driven by lowest cost, rather than greatest value. And I would suggest it is getting worse.”

He insisted BAM will not get involved in a race to the bottom. “We don’t do that,” he said. “We have a stage gate process. If it is not plausible, it is time to walk away.”

At a time when the construction sector is under pressure from the uncertain economic and political outlook, Mr Keillor said order book at BAM is in good shape. In Scotland, its property development division is building a new office block at Atlantic Square in Glasgow, which will be occupied by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, and Capital Square, a speculative office development in Edinburgh. Both are due to be delivered next year. BAM is also active building schools under the hub procurement framework.

As for highlights, he to talks glowingly of the V&A project, which he describes as the “big prestige job” BAM has delivered in recent years.

“Delivering that to the agreed budget and agreed programme was no mean feat,” he said. “I’m exceedingly proud of the team and the client and everybody associated with it, because we all gelled.”

Six Questions

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why? 

I go to the Netherlands for business and I enjoy meeting our colleagues over there. I spend most of my time travelling in the UK but I always enjoy travelling home to Scotland. My favourite holidays are skiing holidays and I tend to go to the French Alps. I have been across the pond a few times to ski and have fond memories of a trip I did with my dad to the Rockies in Canada. Over the last three years, and particularly this year, I have reacquainted myself with the Munro’s and spend my holidays climbing them.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

As a child I always needed to be doing something. I enjoyed being with people, the banter, the camaraderie. I enjoyed doing chores if there was an engine involved. My initial plan was to become a joiner which I thought would lead me to having my own business that was my dream. However I decided to go to college and go down the construction management route .

What was your biggest break in business?

My biggest break through, getting a management trainee job in 1990 with GA Group.  My most proud moment was when I became the regional director for BAM Construction Scotland. I would not have become as executive director for BAM Construct UK  if I hadn’t grown up with all my colleagues in the region.

What was your worst moment in business?

The worst moment for me is hearing about any industry accidents.

 Who do you most admire and why?

I have the greatest admiration for all our servicemen and women that look after our country now and in the past.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

The last book was about Louis Zamperini called the Unbroken.

My music taste is very varied, from Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin to Gerry Rafferty and Capercaillie.