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Bar Stool Chats: Dave Phelan - Suir Engineering

During the current Covid-19 crisis, Garry Connolly, Founder & President of Host In Ireland interviews Dave Phelan, Business Development Director at Suir Engineering, a leading provider of innovative mechanical, electrical and instrumentation engineering solutions for clients throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe and other locations across the globe and a valued Host In Ireland partner.



Garry: Hello Dave, how you doing?

Dave: I'm good, Garry. How are you keeping this morning?

Garry: I'm in my bar here and it’s scary on my own, maybe it’s social distancing. I see yourself, you look like you're in Ireland. What part of Ireland are you in?

Dave: I’m in Ireland. I'm actually in South Kilkenny and would you believe it, if I forget about the chaos that's going on around me at the moment and look out the window, It's the most beautiful place I could be.

I’m looking across into the Suir Valley. I see the River Suir ahead of me looking over into Waterford City, to the right I have the Comeragh Mountains, I have Hook Head to my left and the animals are grazing in the field. They have no worries, no issues and it's just absolutely marvellous out there. Now, let's forget about everything else going on out there. So it's beautiful.

Garry: It's a great way to start because I think that our brains are conditioned since we lived in a cave to look at the negatives way more than the positives They’re there both sides of the brain are there but being able to recognize, to start out, what’s outside your window is a positive.

Dave: Well, I suppose you have to Garry because there's so much stuff going on and I suppose this is my first week working from home and last week, sorry last week was my first week working from home, which was quite difficult. So this week I'm kind of getting a bit used to this environment. I'd prefer to be out and about meeting people and getting to see people and meet people face-to-face as opposed to this type of an environment, but I have to kind of pull myself back and say look this is fabulous looking out that scenery and looking at nature and so on and so forth, that's important but especially in these times.

Garry: I heard a few little voices there a few moments ago, the little ones, I guess they’re schooling from home as well.

Dave: Well they are. We've three kids at home ranging from 11, 14 and 18 and I suppose last week as part of this adjusting for my life at home part of this as well is that, last week I was saying to them, Listen I'm in the office for x amount of hours. Leave me alone. And I was kind of saying to them, I’ll see you this evening, but I kind of changed my style this week.

I have to appreciate that they're going through some issues as well in terms of adjusting. So I do break up my time every couple of hours, go out and see how they’re getting on, get involved in a row or an argument, and then they leave me alone for another hour or two.

It was chaotic here last week because my eldest girl is trying to cope with the Leaving Cert coming up, if that is to happen. Then there's the youngest fella looking at me, looking into a computer screen talking to every day. So he thinks I’ve totally lost it at this stage. He doesn't just get it at all and he wants me to go out and play soccer or hurling, go for a cycle, all this kind of stuff. But look it's all coming together now and we’ll get a handle on it because this is the new norm for a little while to come.

Garry: You mentioned you look to the left and you see Hook, so obviously, Mr. Varadkar is mentioning ‘by hook or by crook’ we’ll have the Leaving Cert particularly gets up the nose of your girl?

Dave: Well, yeah, it does allude to the fact that he has Waterford relationships. Some of his family comes from Waterford, County Waterford. So yes by hook or by crook he's saying it, but I don't know. I'm not as optimistic as he is at the moment, but he knows best right?

Garry: Have you learned anything about yourself? I mean, I know we're only two weeks in?

Dave: One thing I learned I'm not really cut out for this life, in terms of stuck at home. I really appreciate the job my wife does every day the week, looking after everyone, but for me now to be stuck at home, not getting out and about, meeting people, doing different things, I just couldn't cope with it too long.

I kind of, in my mind, have it set up now that this is going to be for a couple of weeks, but I can't wait to get out on the road again and get moving, get meeting people. You just can't beat the physical kind of meeting and going talking to people and engagement. As I said earlier, talking to a computer screen, it just doesn't sit right with me at the moment.

Garry: No but I guess it gives us a greater appreciation. (A) for what we’re missing and (B) what we like and what we don't like. I was speaking to some people recently and they're reconsidering their whole retirement plan, would you believe. They're getting to the mid-50s and they're saying ‘Oh It’ll be great when I'm at home’ and now they have some experience of working and being at home and they’re not liking it.

Dave: No. No, I understand that. I get that a lot.

Garry: Is there anything that you've observed or you've seen others that have surprised you? Your own team? Your own organisation?

Dave: We're all going through adapting. Speaking openly, every one of us have different challenges dealing with people within our organisation. I actually found from the last couple of weeks that there is a stronger engagement between people within the business. In terms of working together, trying to get something done, we all seem to have one focus of even our people say look talking to our customers and saying how can we change to suit and meet your requirements and how do we get back working on sites as safely and as fast as possible whenever we can do it.

I find people that you were struggling with before are all more engaged in terms of the greater good or the greater subjects. Maybe that's because I'm not beside them and I’m virtually somewhere else, so they don't have to look at me every day, every few minutes. They just tell me what I want here and we can go away, but maybe that's part of it.

I'm enjoying this change, this togetherness as a business which is great and I think as a community, a business community, even this week. we're starting to talk to customers in terms of what should we be doing now together, before we actually get back onto construction sites, to be ready to hit the ground running and there's a real honesty and a more easiness in our speech and everyone has just calmed down a little bit.

I think it's probably we're all getting used to taking our time, queue up, keep your distance, you'll get it when it's ready, slow down and hopefully in our world, the construction world, that from clients to us as contractors that we just take handy. Relax. Slow down a little bit. Do as good, maybe even better, do the safety of course, but just calm down.

Calm our minds, calm our lives down, calm down as individuals and maybe we'd all be better people and better organizations for it when this is true, and hopefully we don't forget about this in a few weeks or months time.

Garry: I don't think we will. I know you say you're not adjusting well to this camera thing, but I see a job for you as an Evangelist in the United States, going around on the big stages telling people ‘Calm down, it'll all be fine’.

Dave: You just gave me a point there, maybe that is something I should be doing. YouTube.

Garry: I see a million followers by the end of the week. ’Just Calm Down’ could be the name of your podcast.

Dave: I’ll cut you in for a percentage.

Garry: That's okay. I could be your promotions agent. So I'm thinking I know but I'll ask you anyway, if there was three words, just three words, that would say to people right now What would those three words be?

Dave: I’ll tell you. Are you okay?

Garry: Well, that's lovely.

Dave: What's that mean? Really what I mean is we just have to start asking people are you okay? both in your home, personal life, your family life, your kid's life and also colleagues and competitors, clients, suppliers, supply chain because we're all going through stuff at the moment and just take a minute to say ‘Are you alright? Is there anything you need to talk about?’ That's it.

Garry: Isn't that wonderful.

Dave: And then listen

Garry: I was just about to say, the old saying of two ears and one mouth and maybe we should all use it in that proportion, but Dave I really enjoyed listening to you. I genuinely have. Stay safe. Look after the children.

Dave: We’ll do that Garry. Good talking to you.


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