An Expert Interview with Construction Mogul Lee May

Whilst researching the construction industry in the UK and through meetings with some of the larger commercial property developers, one name kept coming up as being worth speaking to, an entrepreneur called Lee May. I had listened to several colourful stories about May, one of the industry’s larger than life characters and I was told he was known as an exceptionally hard worker with big ambitions, all whilst still being a very grounded and approachable man.

We always search for outsized characters for our readers and by chance, I rang up his personal assistant who was very helpful in organizing a meeting for us. I found Lee exceptionally polite, endearing and humble for a man who has accomplished so much. What follows is an account of our discussion together.

Lee and I sit across from one another in a West London hotel, he is well dressed in a conservative three-piece suit and sips an orange juice from a cut crystal highball glass. His athletic build betrays his prior boxing expertise, but his smile and demeanor are warm and approachable.

 

-So Lee, you’ve obviously accomplished a lot in your career and we could talk at length about your successes in the construction industry, but I’m sure our readers would like to know:

 

How did you get your career started?

 

“Believe it or not, I began my career as a hod carrier. I joined the industry at 16 and then worked my way up and by the age of 28, I was one of the largest brickwork subcontractors in the south of England. My vision and passion were always to become a developer. Initially, I started small, buying up land to build 1-5 units and it was the satisfaction that this gave me that spurred me on to bigger and better things.

Back in those days, when I was trying to grow my business, my wife and I would compile lists of national house builders and then send them letters to try and get a foot in the door. It was a long road, but at that point, once I’d had a bit of success under my belt it lit a fire within me that has fueled me ever since, to this day on.”

-It’s incredible to think about where you started and to be able to look at what you’ve accomplished in your life.

 

What was your biggest challenge when setting up the company?

 

“Assembling the team, who were all very experienced from big-project backgrounds was hard work, and I think I realized back then that everyone had to take a real leap of faith in joining. At that stage, we weren’t the size that Beamridge is now and it took a lot of trust for that early team to leave their successful jobs and to join me in building a business from the ground up.

Ultimately, I think my reputation really helped a lot at the start, as I’d always made sure to work as hard as I could and to treat people as I’d want to be treated. I think that helped people to instill faith in my journey.

-I don’t think anyone would argue that treating people well and working hard are great principles to have in setting up a company – “You can really see those values in the people that work at Beamridge now. I class and treat them like family.”

 

What other advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

 

“If I had to give advice I would say that long-term success is a slow and steady process. Start off by focusing on one thing and become the absolute best you can be at it – ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’. 

That’s how I did it, I began as a hod carrier and worked my way up until I had earned the respect of the people around me. That path has helped me be fair and gain the respect of my staff as they all know I’ve been in their position and I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. 

There’s honestly nothing magical about it, it’s just putting in the work each and every day and not expecting breakfast, lunch, and supper in one serving!”

-I’m sure our readers would love to aspire to accomplish what you’ve managed to achieve with Beamridge. Could you tell us:

 

What are some of the habits that make you so productive as an entrepreneur?

 

“I start each day hungry for success, I feel I’ve merely scratched the surface and it’s that ambition that drives me on a daily basis, work to me is merely a hobby.

I wake up at 4:45 am and start my day with a double espresso. Then I hit the gym for an hour with my personal trainer and finish with forty-five minutes of cardio. After that it’s a quick shower, a healthy breakfast and then on the train into London. That way I’m awake, alert, and alive before I even start the day. From there I thrive on meetings and networking. It’s a passion for me, meeting new people, discussing exciting projects and although I work very hard, it’s my love for this business that makes it easy to stay motivated!

If possible, due to work commitments, I like to go to bed at 8pm every day, 7 days a week. Some people would call it boring, but to me it’s just part of the journey”

-I can see how driven you are and I’ve no doubt you would have been successful in anything you put your mind to, but I’m sure you have people who have been with you along the way.

 

Who would you say are the most important people to your success?

 

“My family, especially my wife Renee, she is my rock without a doubt and my team at Beamridge who put in their very best every day, and for that, I would like to thank them. I like to always make sure that the people that help me get the most help in return and it’s them that I want to work hard for each day. 

Other than that, I have learned a huge amount from my mentor Brendan Kerr, who owns Keltbray. I can honestly say that for me, he’s the cleverest businessman in the construction industry and he’s helped me learn and grow immeasurably. Whenever I come to a crossroads, where I’m not sure which way to turn, Brendan is my compass, he would always be the first person I call.

I’d also like to name some personal friends who have continuously helped me on my journey and also on a personal level; to name a few: Phil Mitchell, Barry Morgan, Simon Pryce, Dean Levy, Alan Smith, Tommy Birkett, Terry Groom, Danny Masters, Barry Porter, Dembo Jobe, Clive Male, Brady Powell, John Dennington, Adam Mason, David Price, Pat Kemp and I’m sure there’s a few more that – I would just like to say thank you for your continuous support and love”

-Putting Beamridge to one side for a second, I’ve heard a lot about your work in the community and several people in the industry have told me you used to be quite the boxer! Could you tell us a bit about:

 

How do you give back to your community?

 

“Sure, I’d be happy to. I’m passionate about helping young people find ways to overcome their circumstances and reach success in their life. As someone who’s had to make their own way, I like to act as a role model for others. To do that I’ll often spend time in youth gyms where I can meet the members and offer them career advice as a lot of these kids can get mixed up in some aspects of life that are really damaging, such as criminal activity.

My hope is that by serving as a mentor to them, they can see that there is another path to achieving the life they want, through hard work and determination.

I also like to support amateur boxing gyms since the sport has given so much to me and I see it as a great pursuit for young people seeking to enrich their lives. Many of these gyms are underfunded so I’ll undertake various charitable activities to try and help them meet their goals. Recently I ran a sponsored 10k race to raise funds for a local gym to purchase a minibus to shuttle members to and from tournaments; it’s making little personal efforts as well as the big fundraisers that really make the difference”

-Thanks for sharing that Lee and it’s great to hear about how your success with Beamridge is making a difference to other people’s lives.

 

What are your other passions outside of work?

 

“My family is my top priority, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible. Alongside my family, I’m passionate about my training. I’m in the gym 7 days a week working on strength and conditioning, Thai Boxing, Boxing, and Wrestling”

-It’s so nice to see such a successful entrepreneur with his priorities right in terms of family and work and it seems like you’ve got it all sorted.

 

If you could improve one thing in yourself what would it be?

 

“Thank you, that’s really kind of you. I could probably stand to talk a bit less and listen a bit more to be honest. There’s always something to be learned from others and it would also help me to play my cards closer to my chest, which is something I’m working on. As it stands I tend to be the man that “leads with a clean heart” and I often expect the same from others. In my experience, it’s good to assume the best in people, but it can sometimes be to my detriment.”

-Lee, it’s great to see that someone in your position is still working on improving themselves and I can really tell you lead with a clean heart! With everything we’ve talked about so far:

 

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

 

I think the future is very bright for Beamridge and that’s coming from someone who sets the bar extremely high for himself. As a developer, I’m looking to have a consistent output of 400 units a year and in the long term, I’d like Beamridge’s turnover to reach £500 million per annum.

That being said, my family is extremely important to me and all of this is done with my children in mind. I’d like to finish my career and be able to leave them a portfolio of thriving business that they can grow into. At this stage in my career, my focus is on the long term and I think that would be a fantastic legacy to leave to them.”

-Thank you so much for your time today and I look forward to seeing what’s next in the future for both you and Beamridge. If I can leave our readers with one final question:

 

What’s one project you’re working on that really excites you for the future?

 

In terms of future projects, I can’t say much about it at the moment, but there’s a project I’m working on in Essex that has the potential to make a big impact. 

I’ve always been someone who would rather show results than talk about them, but I can say one thing, ‘watch this space!’.

For more information about Lee May visit his LinkedIn