Adaptability, it is one of the traits Managing Partner John Mcilwaine attests to. He sees
this reflected in Skope with its ability to adapt and change with the times and economic
circumstances. John should know, as he has ridden economic highs and lows and has
seen many changes in the construction industry in his time with Skope for more than
That’s resilience in the face of change or a Global Financial Crisis, Brexit and now COVID–19.
“I’ve been through three of these economic cycles, and obviously we are in one at the
moment, with COVID,” he says.
“I was around as an employee way back in the nineties when the economy hit the bottom,
I took over as Managing Partner in 2008 when we had a previous economic downturn.
“It is being able to ride the storm, being able to adapt both yourself and the business to suit
“Also being forward thinking and trying to consider how you adapt and develop a business
in changing circumstances.”
Both the construction industry and the world itself was a different place when John first
started with Skope, then called Bruce Shaw, but his approach to his work and his client
relationships has remained unchanged – he conducts business in person. This is his point of
difference, and the way he’s garnered respect from clients and colleagues alike.
“Modern technology is brilliant for speed of transmission or getting a message across, but it
doesn’t necessarily give you the speed of concluding something,” he says.
“A lot of clients will ask me to be part of their project teams, they want me to get involved and assist to close things out.
“You find things can drift if you totally rely on electronic communication, sometimes you
have to bring things to a head, you have to be able to negotiate, face–to–face.”
When John first started at Skope, he was able to learn from the consultancy’s founding
fathers, Peter Bruce and Roy Shaw. Both were experienced quantity surveyors, with a keen
interest to develop and grow the business – which they did. John was able to gain an insight
on how to run, grow and develop a business from both leaders – which he describes as
discipline and fairness.
It’s these attributes, along with his own brand of business acumen, that has seen John
become a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building. It’s the highest award offered by
“It is a recognition in the industry in general, that you’ve reached a certain level in your
career and the level of responsibility you have attained,” he says.
“Not everyone gets a fellowship so you’re recognised as one of the leaders in the industry. It comes with time, experience and capability.”
With a list of projects as long as his career, it’s hard for John to pick one particular highlight.
He recalls the delivery of ten Marks & Spencer stores throughout Ireland as one.
These projects spanned many years and saw John travel extensively around the country and
to M&S head office in London, answering directly to the company’s board.
Currently John is working on the development of Tribeca in Belfast’s city centre, a 200 million pound investment he believes will bring a new sense of vibrancy and long needed
regeneration to the city.
There’s comfort in the knowledge that Skope has the right people to carry the business forward, says John.
“Skope will continue and has all the tools, the people, the personalities and the expertise to keep that going,” he says.
“I’ve been involved in some challenging projects, when you look back you see what you’ve been able to achieve, and what you’ve been involved in, it is very satisfying.”