In this exclusive Q&A session with Irina Cherkasova, Chief Operating Officer of Brevity, we delve into the insights and reflections garnered over the past year at the helm of one of New Zealand's leading interior engineering firms.

From the return to the office post-COVID to the impacts of governmental shifts on the industry, Irina provides candid perspectives on navigating challenges and seizing opportunities. Amidst discussions on fortifying the organization through recession and fostering high-performing teams, Irina also shares the  vision for 2024, highlighting the balance between business growth and a commitment to exceptional service. Join us as we uncover the aspirations propelling Brevity forward in an ever changing construction sector.

Q: It’s been a year since you took the reins at Brevity. What has surprised you over this time?

Irina: One of the most surprising and rewarding aspects of leading Brevity has been witnessing the return of our team to the office. Following a period of remote working during Covid, we had all adapted our work practices. While we’ve retained some great learnings from this time, seeing everyone back in a shared space is a reminder of the importance of personal contact in fostering a vibrant work environment. The team reports they are more energised by their work and learn more by having each other around. They fact they love to help each other and are very generous with their knowledge and experience has undoubtedly contributed to this positive dynamic.

Q: With the recent change in government, what impact do you see this having on the construction industry?

Irina: The recent change in government brings a renewed sense of hope for addressing the challenges and uncertainties facing companies in New Zealand’s construction sector. This shift presents a unique opportunity to tackle pressing issues such as the high cost of labour and materials, and the significant compliance burdens that have tested the resilience of the construction industry. Importantly, there’s an anticipation that the new government will prioritise creating an environment where SME’s have equal opportunities to participate in and compete for projects in the marketplace, evening the playing field against larger companies. The government’s commitment to clear policy directions, long-term investment, and reducing regulatory complexities has the potential to provide the stability and support SMEs need to thrive. By focusing on these areas, there’s hope for a more equitable, productive, and prosperous future for all players in the industry.  

Q: Going through a recession certainly challenges a business. Were there any aspects of this experience that have made your organisation stronger?

Irina: Absolutely. Navigating through a recession has undoubtedly tested our resilience and adaptability, yet it has also fortified our organisation in several meaningful ways. Firstly, the economic downturn compelled us to double down on delivering the value and services most important to our clients, ensuring we remain aligned with their evolving needs.

In response to the pressures of the recession, we’ve embraced the challenge of finding efficiencies and enhancing productivity across our operations. This effort to “do more with less” has sparked innovation within our teams, leading to streamlined processes that maintain, if not enhance, the quality of our services.

Moreover, despite the economic challenges, we’ve prioritised maintaining practices that support our employees’ well-being and performance, notably our commitment to the four-day work week. This approach has underscored our dedication to work-life balance, improving productivity and fostering a more motivated and engaged workforce.

The recession also presented us with the opportunity to focus on professional development and to refine our processes and policies further.

Through these initiatives, we’ve not only navigated the challenges of the recession but have emerged stronger, more agile, and better prepared for the future.


Q: What do you see as the single most important thing for developing a high-performing team?

Irina: Building a high-performing team starts with fostering a strong values-led company culture. Our emphasis on a robust work ethic and high standards of personal and professional integrity has been fundamental. Additionally, creating an environment that encourages innovation, collaboration, and continuous learning is crucial. It’s about inspiring individuals to bring their best to the team while ensuring their contributions align with our shared values.

Q: Looking ahead to 2024, what will your focus be?

Irina: Looking ahead to 2024, our focus will be on balancing business growth whilst also focusing on exceptional service. Concurrently, we will continue our transition to digital platforms, recognising the critical role they play in today’s business landscape. This approach allows us to not only enhance our operations and service offerings but also allows us more time for the personal connections that are fundamental to our success. By placing our clients at the centre of our strategy and seamlessly integrating digital advancements, we aim to provide unparalleled value and satisfaction. Our commitment to this dual strategy—focusing on client satisfaction and digital transformation—positions us for sustainable growth and continued excellence in service delivery.