Five Minutes with… Barry Woodham

Barry Woodham is a customer stakeholder manager and has just celebrated his one-year work anniversary at Cappagh Browne. A real people person who loves making a difference, Barry tells us about his passion for restoring furniture, why no two days are the same at Cappagh Browne and how working in a Brighton butcher’s shop set him on the right path.

What does your role at Cappagh Browne involve?

I deal with all customer and stakeholder communications relating to our reactive and planned works. I speak with customers who might be impacted by our projects, work with the design team to understand what the plan is so I can share that information with customers, look at any potential issues that might arise and cover these off as best possible.

I suppose I’m the go-between with the Cappagh Browne team carrying out the work, our client Southern Water, and residents, business owners and community leaders. It’s really important that I get that bit right, speak to the right people to gather information and make sure we’re sharing it with our stakeholders. That way, they know we’re doing everything we can to get the work right first time and as quickly as possible so that we keep disruption to a minimum. As we work on behalf of Southern Water, we have to work closely with the team there too and respond to any customer enquiries as they come up.

As the first point of contact for customers, communication is key – that might be writing letters, replying to emails, taking telephone calls, going around to people’s houses or businesses handling enquiries and trying to solve any issues for them. The most important thing for me is to listen to people’s concerns and make sure we always learn from each job to make things better for the next time.

What was your first ever job?

I worked in Brighton in a local butcher’s shop as a general dogsbody! I was a bit of a tearaway when I was younger and my dad said, ‘I’ve got to sort him out,’ so he sent me to work with one of our friends. Every Saturday morning at 6am I was lifting carcasses off vans and sorting deliveries. I used to get paid £6 an hour in 1988 and got £50 in tips at Christmas – I was only 13 so that was a lot of money then; I felt like Elon Musk! I used to deliver meat packages to our older customers and rode around on a cycle – it was a bit like the lad in the Hovis advert or Granville from Open All Hours!

I learnt a lot there and it was a great grounding and education – I used to watch how the butcher would deal with people when they got a bit angry or difficult, I learnt about people and how to handle things. It taught me to calm down and I liked earning money, so it really sorted me out.

How did you get involved in this industry?

Before I worked in the probation service between 2005 and 2012. I used to work with people who had served life sentences and help people them reintegrate into society. That was helping get them booked onto courses so they could retrain and get qualifications, and it was all about trying to get them to see there could be a future for them. It could be quite scary at times but it was so rewarding.

I reached a point where I needed a change and saw a role at Southern Water being advertised – it suited my skills and thought it sounded great. It was as a customer case lead. Say a customer’s home had been flooded and it had happened regularly over for years, I’d try to help people understand how we might be able to put in measures that would improve things and minimise or prevent the flooding. I’d also work closely with customers to keep them updated on issues, a bit like I do still to this day. It was an excellent job where I learned a lot about the water industry, how to put yourself in other people’s shoes and how to handle challenging situations.

What do you like most about your job?

I love taking on a challenge and I enjoy the diverse nature of the work we do. No two days are the same – you just don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next and that’s mentally stimulating for me. I also have to say the spirit and teamwork that runs through Cappagh Browne is great.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the water industry?

Companies like ours play a vital role in the water industry and it’s important to remember that, even when there may be difficult moments to contend with. You have to remember that what you’re doing does help people – even if it might not feel like it at the time. There’s a real opportunity to make a difference in this job so I’d say keep learning your craft, learn about the industry more widely and keep thinking about what you could do to help someone else. That’s the bit that really gives you job satisfaction.

Can you share an interesting fact about yourself?

I love to find interesting pieces of 1970s furniture for restoration or re-sale. I love mid-century G-plan. I once found a telephone table with a padded leather seat in the back of someone’s car at a boot sale in the pouring rain. It was only £2 and just needed a bit of love. I cleaned it up, researched what products I needed to use on it and it’s now in pride of place in the living room. I normally restore pieces and put up for sale online, but this was such a beauty I thought I had to keep it. It was a labour of love but it was worth it.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

As well as furniture restoring, I like DIY and walking my dog Mabel, who’s a cavapoo. I also love coaching my daughter’s under-14 football team under in Brighton, which is actually sponsored by Cappagh Browne.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?

Never try to cover up a mistake, always be honest, be accountable and your colleagues will be there to help. We’re just human, after all, and everyone understands that. I’ve stayed true to that piece of advice and it’s served me well over the years.

What do you consider your biggest success so far?

Joining the water industry at a relatively junior level and rising through the ranks. It’s meant that I’m able to really make a difference, which is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

It’s got to be the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. I think it’s amazing! It feels like a total escape when I’m there and I’m like a different person. I don’t really switch off at home and when we’re on the coast my wife will say I’m really relaxed, and my daughter tells me I’m not grumpy! It’s great because that’s where we can be a family enjoying each other’s company and the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a while! That’s my little fix.