Inside Mainmark: William Lindsay, Mainmark group head of commercial

With 21 years of experience working in the construction and ground engineering sector, William Lindsay is responsible for Mainmark’s commercial, legal, procurement and delivery operations as well as leading business growth and new product development.

He graduated with a higher diploma in construction economics from Limerick Technical College in Ireland, and later obtained a BSc. in quantity surveying from Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh in Scotland. William has worked with various chartered quantity surveying practices and held a number of construction sector roles including senior quantity surveyor, commercial manager and senior project/development manager in roles based across the globe including Ireland, the UK, Asia and Australia.

Tell us about your role at Mainmark and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

The commercial manager’s role is very diverse and there is no such thing as a typical day. From the moment I step into the building, my day can range from procuring insurance, writing tenders or managing large-scale supply agreements. I also provide internal day-to-day legal and commercial advice across Mainmark’s different departments.

Client relations is a vital part of my role. It’s important to balance risk and reward for Mainmark and its clients; pressing forward with an ‘out-of-kilter’ agreement is not a good way to start a project or a business relationship. I spend a lot of time reviewing large project contracts and will negotiate the terms and conditions. If it were to occur, I might also handle commercial misunderstandings with our clients or brief external legal counsel on contract delivery disputes. Fortunately, given our excellent project operations and project management teams, I don’t do too much of this type of work. It’s fair to say that Mainmark will go the extra mile for clients.

How did you come to work for Mainmark?

I had previously worked with our group CEO, Paul Hickman, and subsequently met Mainmark’s late founder, Phil Mack, at Paul’s wedding. When Paul heard that I was between jobs, he approached me and pitched the position of business manager. I was intrigued with Mainmark’s expansive resin injection technology and all its potential, and Paul and Phil did a great sales pitch on the people and company culture.

I started with Mainmark in 2009 as a business manager, helping to nurture Mainmark’s growth by developing business management goals and objectives. In 2011, I was appointed to the role of the business manager across Mainmark ANZ, which introduced me to additional regions such as Thailand and Japan. I was also responsible for innovation, research and development for a time. As the business has grown and evolved over the years, my position adapted and I was appointed to my current role in 2019.

What do you most enjoy about working with Mainmark?

What I enjoy most is being part of a much larger team made up of people with a ‘can do, make it happen’ attitude. No matter what department people are working in, whether it be finance, administration, sales or operations, everyone works hard to have a singular, unified positive vision for the future. Even when faced with a challenge where others have tried and failed, there are not many lengths we won’t go to for our clients.

Mainmark’s culture is based on the idea that ‘without the people, the company is nothing’. There is a positivity in the business that is palpable; The team at Mainmark has always welcomed challenges, seeing them as opportunities with potential for learning and growth.

What challenges do you face in your role?

Mainmark has grown into a recognised market leading ground engineering and structural asset remediation solutions provider. This has attracted more ‘Tier 1’ clients with larger scale projects, which has led to bespoke procurement models, weighty contracts and a significant preference for risk aversion.

These considerations mean it takes more time and patience to negotiate an equitable risk-to-reward balance for all parties. And when multiple contracts arrive on your desk simultaneously, and everyone wants the project started as soon as possible, coupled with other day-to-day responsibilities, time and client management is the key to success.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the ground engineering and remedial industry? 

Over the last few years, as a result of the flammable building cladding crisis, major structural defects have been identified within a number of high profile residential developments and there has been an understandable public outcry for accountability within the residential building sector. It has resulted in regulatory  reforms and ongoing investigations on a number of high profile residential buildings in Sydney. This has led to a marked reluctance within the insurance sector to underwrite, with a notable reduction in the number of insurance providers. We may see an increase in cost and a reduction in availability of professional indemnity insurance, which could pose a challenge to existing smaller providers or new entrants into the design and construct remedial market. Also, homeowners’ warranty insurance will likely become more challenging to obtain or renew as state regulators crack down on sham contractors.

Currently, one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is the ongoing restrictions and considerations related to COVID-19. It is likely we may still be facing the threat of COVID-19 post Delta variants, long after the roll out of vaccine programs. For an organisation like Mainmark, which has traditionally shared resources across the group internationally, we are finding new ways to adapt our operations. We have recently started to ask for the inclusion of special COVID-19 related clauses within our contracts to allow us more flexibility when delivering projects, where possible.

In the medium-term, I think one of the industry’s biggest challenges, and perhaps greatest opportunity, is how to respond to population growth and the tightening enforcement of existing green belts. Quality urban development space is becoming scarce and sites with poor ground conditions, that were previously considered not economically viable, are going to be revisited. Often these new sites are on wetlands or in coastal areas, and deep foundation and ground engineering providers are being asked to provide solutions for sites that are more technically challenging.

In the longer term, ongoing climate change and rising sea levels will also result in existing coastal infrastructure requiring additional maintenance and remediation solutions in more challenging conditions. Increased frequency and more severe flooding and drought cycles will result in erosion and more aggressive shrink and swell cycles impacting clay and other soil types that are susceptible to moisture content variance.

But as always, these challenges at Mainmark will be viewed as opportunities to innovate by delivering new solutions to help our existing and new clients, and the community in general, with sustainable, value added and innovative ground engineering solutions.

From a commercial perspective, what are companies or government agencies looking for when engaging a contractor for large complex projects?

Whether you’re talking about a private company or a government agency, surety of outcome is key. Securing outcome surety is typically achieved by engaging a service provider with a healthy balance sheet, long standing record of financial stability and good credit record.

Almost all tender pre-qualification submittal requirements we are completing on larger and more complex projects will have a substantial portion allocated to establish these commercial credentials. Ensuring that the company being considered has appropriate insurances, that are scaled and tailored and appropriate to the value, nature and risk profile of the project, held with a reputable insurer and underwriter, is also very important.  I am happy to say that Mainmark, with almost 30 years of sound trading history, easily addresses all these requirements and we have been working on some of the largest infrastructure and mining projects undertaken in Australia in a generation.

How has the tendering process changed in recent years?

With the onset of cloud-based data storage and cloud-based tendering software, more contractors, local authorities, councils and government departments are using online portals.

Almost all larger tenders entail mandatory completion of substantial pre-qualification submittal packages, requiring more time and resources in bid submissions. Over the last few years, individual Tier 1 contractors are tending to dilute their risk, temporarily merging with other contractors and consultants, creating one-off special purpose partnerships or joint ventures to deliver larger building, infrastructure or roading projects.

The use of custom-written, bespoke contracts is becoming more prevalent in joint ventures as we move away from standard, industry established forms of contract. This all adds to the time and cost associated with the submission of each tender and the review and agreement of contract terms when successful.

What are some of your passions outside of work?

I enjoy reading science journals and science fiction. I also like jogging because it clears my headspace and is a great disconnect and reset outside of my working environment. I also love going hiking with my friends and family, and camping during the summer is an absolute must.


William Lindsay

William Lindsay is the Group Head of Commercial at Mainmark. He has over 25 years experience in working within the construction and civil engineering industries, having a wide breadth of experience, in the capacity of quantity surveyor, project manager/representative, business manager, general manager and group technical and research & development manager.