Ben Edwards

Ben Edwards

Group Head of Cost, Commercial & Procurement, Red Sea Global

Red Sea Global
Ben Edwards, Group Head of Cost, Commercial & Procurement for Red Sea Global, on the Unique Challenge of Working Overseas

I oversee three departments. The Cost department deals with the estimating and budgeting for all of our developments. Procurement deals with the procurement of goods and services, while Commercial handles the commercial management of all of those purchase orders and contracts after they've been placed. 

The entire team is 605 people, but we are growing by the day. We have a large portfolio of projects, and wide and varied requirements of everything that we're tackling as a department.

How did you come to be in procurement?

I started as a quantity surveyor and spent 18 years with one company working my way up from trainee to a commercial director. During the course of that, I was exposed to a wide variety of building and civil engineering projects, both in the UK and overseas. 

I've been working overseas since 2006, and when you work overseas for a contractor, you don't have the same level of support that you would have typically working in the UK.

So, you have to roll up your sleeves and be involved in more things than you would as a quantity surveyor working on a big project in the UK. 

That's really where my exposure to procurement began. I was working for building contractors, and dealing with the procurement of goods and services for construction works. Then as my career developed, and I've taken more senior roles with different organisations, my exposure to procurement has continued to develop and I’ve become involved in different areas outside building and construction and more on the development side of things.

The biggest challenge of your current role? 

The biggest challenge in Saudi Arabia is around the scale of the projects and the capacity in the market. There are so many projects being released to market, and the supply chain is limited within the kingdom. 

As a developer we recognise this is a big risk, so we've been actively travelling the globe and encouraging companies to come and participate in the tenders for our projects and it's been very successful. 

We've expanded our supply chain quite a lot through doing that, but market capacity within the Kingdom has to be the biggest single risk that we have as an organisation.

Best advice you've ever received?

Just before I left to go overseas, my commercial director told me not to expect every day to be the same, like it can be in the UK. 

He advised me to be flexible, and to be prepared to do what needs to be done to complete the job. I was talking about going to a project in the Caribbean. He said: ‘One day you'll be working in the office and doing your commercial manager role – certifying payments and dealing with variations and dealing with contracts – but the next day there might not be anybody to unload a shipping container, so you’ll be down at the port unloading the shipping container. But you have to do what has to be done.

That was good advice. It has led me to realise the great importance of communication, and being able to communicate with a wide range of people, of different nationalities and levels within an organisation – from the guy that's digging a hole in the ground to the CEO of a company, and being able to engage with both in a suitable way.

Read the full story HERE.

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