SECRETS OF THE APC: Mandatory Competencies

with Graham Cardoe


Host:        Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast Building Surveying for Professionals giving you a detailed and technical view of the world of building surveying.  In this episode we are once again adding to our APC mini-series by chatting with Graham Cardoe, Chairperson at Cardoe Martin, all about the mandatory competencies of the Assessment of Professional Competence.  If you are not familiar with the APC or want to catch up with the series to date, then please check out Episodes 1 and 2.  They’ll be something for everyone interested in the built environment but it’s going to be especially useful for anyone considering becoming chartered wondering about whether to do building surveying courses at university and also for those who are already deep in the process of building their submission.  Hi Graham, welcome to the Podcast.

GC:           Hi it’s good to be here thank you.

Host:        Join us now of a journey through time and materials as we reveal the mandatory competencies of the APC.  So, Graham we’ll kick off with what are mandatory competencies?

GC:           These are personal, interpersonal, and professional practice and business skills for instance ethics, client care, health and safety and professional conduct.

Host:        (1.05) Why do I need to know about accounting and business management?  I don’t run a business it sounds a bit of a waste of my time right now.

GC:           Well surveying offers a very good opportunity for ambitious people to start a business not only that but as you progress in your career you will hopefully be asked to take on the role of someone that is involved in managing the business and accounting skills and business management skills are absolutely key, if you start a business and you go to your bank the first thing they’ll ask for is a business plan and a cashflow and I think good businesses want to involve their staff not just in their specialist area but in other aspects of the business.  I remember I went for a meal at a Michelin style restaurant out in the Home Counties and after the lunch I ended up wandering around with my guests around the gardens of the property, which it sounds a bit bizarre I know, but we ended up in the vegetable patch and sort of chatting to one of the gardeners and she said that as part of their training and induction to the business they spent time in every department of the business so they could see how important the product they produced was to the overall finished product in the business and so if you don’t feel you’re involved with those aspects of the business then ask, and ask your manager to get you involved.

Host:        (2.26) You worked for a global consultancy before you started Cardoe Martin how did you make that transition, what were the biggest business challenges did you have other people, cos you had two partners, was one of those more business orientated or were you the business guru?

GC:           Well when I first started I started out on my own, I obviously developed the business to the point where I then, you know, brought on other partners but no I mean I suppose that’s the point I’m trying to make that I was naive in terms of my knowledge of business and what I needed to actually make the business work but very quickly you realise how important accounting and cashflow is.  When you are an employee you get your pay cheque at the end of the month, when you’re running your own business or a small business if you don’t get the money in from your clients you go out of business it’s as simple as that. 

Host:        (3.19)  And I think the real benefit looking at the business stuff is teaching people about a commercial way of thinking, so if you done a sales job you’re already thinking about commission, how it impacts, cycles, looking three months ahead in order to run your pipeline and if you’re not thinking about the business routine I guess it could probably damage your overall opportunities to succeed in building surveying because you’re not thinking about where business comes from, how to do it properly, how to invoice, how to then collect, would you agree with that?

GC:           Yes of course and you know every time you meet a client, you’re going to be looking at other opportunities to try and do work for them and increase the amount of work that you get from them, obviously doing work to the best possible standards so that you stand out from your competitors, and they come back to you rather than trying somebody else. 

Host:        (4.08) So I guess over the number of years you have been doing building surveying your business acumen has helped you develop lots of relationship long term and that’s really sustained you through I suppose difficult recession periods as well has it?

GC:           I think the, you know, the objective of doing your work to the best possible standard and giving the client the best possible service, you can has stood me in very good stead because I still get calls from clients 15/20 years on that say you did this work for me, I want to use you again.  Now if you have not stood out from your competitors, they are not going to do that so it’s fundamental I think to building a business. 

Host:        (4.49) So carrying on in that vein, one of the questions is I do not get involved in managing my business how can I possibly talk about this and my documents and the interview?

GC:           Well I think you will be involved in management maybe not to the extent that you think but you’ve got to get involved, ask to spend half a day in the accounts department with the team, ask to see the business plan for the business and find out what managing involves from Directors and Team Leaders and if they’re reluctant to involve you then you say, look I’m trying to get through my APC here, I’m trying to become chartered, I need this kind of information to get through you’ve got to help me. 

Host:        (5.29) I think that is some good advice particularly at the end, so why is ethics so important for RICS Chartered Surveyors?

GC:           Well behaving ethically is key to being a professional, it distinguishes you from other property professionals and the five ethics, principles, promoted by the RICS are to take responsibility, to treat others with respect, to always provide a high standard of service which we’ve touched on already, to act with integrity or honesty and to act in a way that promotes trust in the profession and I buy into all of those ethics/principles.

Host:        (6.11) So carrying on the ethics point, as I’m preparing for the APC how do I demonstrate I have devised on the ethics to meet Level 3 standard?

GC:           Well Level 3 requires you to explain the advice you have given to your clients and provide specific examples, there must be examples of you providing a high standard of service to your clients or of you taking responsibility possibly in a project which may have been going wrong and you took control, it may be that you were offered an inducement by a contractor to be included on a Tender List.  You reported this to your client which indicates that you are acting in their best interests and that you have integrity so I think if you look and apply those five ethics principles to the experience you’ve had you will find examples that will serve you well. 

Host:        (7.06) And I guess you can always talk quite openly with team members about their own experiences to be able to isolate what sort of ethical situations would count towards this cos I’m guessing surveyors would encounter this quite regularly?

GC:           I think chatting to other team members and especially surveyors that have got more experience you can learn a lot and it will help you focus on the areas that are gonna be important in your APC. 

Host:        (7.29) Okay thank you Graham.  How can surveyors who work in very small practices learn more about the subject of the mandatory competencies?

GC:           Well I think we’ve touched on this already but I mean you’ve got to ask questions and get involved, if you feel that there are areas that you’re not really getting direct experience of then you’ve got to ask to get that experience from your colleagues by requesting that they get you involved in projects where you are able to demonstrate those skills at the APC. 

Host:        (8.04) What can surveyors in large practices do to learn more about the subjects of the mandatory competencies? 

GC:           Well I think the same answer applies really, I suppose in a large practice there’s more scope to get involved in these sort of areas, large practices tend to be very organised and have business plans and all this sort of thing, all set up so I don’t think there’s a problem in getting that information you’ve just got to knock on the door and be persistent and explain that you need to gain this experience and knowledge to succeed in your APC.

Host:        (8.43) Having worked in both large and small practices and managed and owned one do you think that both are equally good and bad at leading candidates through their APC or do you think, say for instance, small practices are better because they offer more of the nuances and smaller scale opportunities?

GC:           I think it’s difficult to generalise actually because I mean in the large practices you can end up being a little bit sort of pigeon holed and put into a team where you’re not getting the breadth of experience, certainly in a small practice there’s a scope to get a broad range of experience but a lot of it will depend upon how proactive the management in the company is and your Director or Team Leader is but I don’t think anybody would need to be persuaded of the importance of training their staff to a level which will enable them to become chartered.

Host:        (9.39) Okay that is a good answer thank you.  What are the assessors going to be looking for in my documents and during the interview?

GC:           Well, they are trying to establish that you are competent by asking questions which will display your knowledge, your confidence, and competency in a typical client/surveyor situation and how you present yourself and how you answer those questions will influence them greatly.  I mean I’ve sat on quite a few of the APC assessment panels and when the candidate has left the room the Chairman has quite often said, well I feel that candidate is okay to be let loose on the public and that conclusion really is based on the way they presented, we put ourselves in the situation of the client, if that surveyor is answering questions that we’ve asked as a client do we feel confident in their advice, would we act on their advice, would we instruct them again. It’s those sorts of responses that are going to help you as a candidate.

Host:        (10.43) Going back to the panel then, so you have sat on many a panel over various decades, would that be correct?

GC:           I would not say various decades, but I’ve sat on a number of panels yes.

Host:        (10.53) Has it changed noticeably over that time do you think from when you last did it to when you first did it?

GC:           Inevitably I think the RICS are always improving the process, making the actual APC more comprehensive and possibly fairer for the candidates as well but inevitably it has progressed certainly over the course of my career, it has absolutely.

Host:        (11.18) Has it got harder or easier?

GC:           Harder. 

Host:        (11.19) Just live A Level?  It has.

GC:           Definitely harder yeah. 

Host:        (11.23) Right that is fantastic, any final tips for our listeners?

GC:           Well in terms of the APC I think inevitably after you’ve only been working a few years that the extent of your knowledge is fairly limited, I mean I’ve been working for four decades and there are still huge areas of construction and property that I don’t have good knowledge of so it’s inevitable that you’re going to have gaps in your knowledge when questioned, but I think you should really concentrate on revising as thoroughly as you possibly can, whether you make notes on your tablet or your phone and refer to those notes on a regular basis, or maybe type written cards and keep looking at those until you feel more confident, it’s important to practice your presentation and it’s important to have some mock interviews with some of your colleagues and make them as formal as possible, obviously there are certain things that you should be doing that are obvious really but things like firm handshake and good eye contact and maintaining a professional approach to the APC. 

Host:        Lovely, thanks Graham so you have been tuned into Cardoe Martin Building Surveying for Professionals Podcast.  Thank you for listening and thank you very much to our guest Graham Cardoe for joining us today.

GC:           Thank you, it has been a pleasure. 

Host:        As always, you too and thanks again to Graham for sharing his very own tried and tested secrets of the APC.