Property and Construction Sector Update

Introduction by Stewart Grant – Partner at Grant Associates PDC

Stewart is a Consultant with Falconer Chester Hall, Hydrock and Poole Dick. He is Chair of both FBE Manchester and Norfox Trust and an examiner for the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL

Keep Calm and Collaborate

“Individually we are one drop – together we are an ocean”

So spoke the Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro which for me typifies the influence that our late great Steve Burne had on our corner of the Property and Construction industry. Amongst many other things, Steve was a great collaborator and leaves a massive legacy behind which we all have the responsibility to build upon and take forward. God bless you Steve – your positivity was infectious!

I’ve been involved with the Chamber P&C Group since 2012 – we are a diverse bunch of professionals from all points of the Property and Construction compass and as such represent pretty much all aspects of the industry.

As an architect with over 30 years’ experience in private practice in the UK, I now act as a consultant, helping different businesses to identify and achieve their growth objectives. When I include my pro bono, charity and education roles, I now find myself wearing 7 hats, so apart from honing my juggling skills, I do feel I see a pretty good representation of members and other interests.

What drives me and gets me up in the morning are the opportunities that true collaboration can bring across all aspects of our industry. I spend quite a bit of my consultancy time helping firms develop their internal collaboration and communication to create the environment where employees are empowered and can truly flourish – after all they’re your greatest ambassadors in promoting your business.

Collaboration has been at the heart of Manchester’s regeneration success and renaissance, particularly since the 1986 IRA bomb. So, when it came to our Northern Construction Summit in May this year, why did delegates vote ‘lack of collaboration’ as the single most significant aspect holding our sector back? Have we suddenly lost direction or momentum, belief in our vision – have our leaders lost their voice? Or is it because in this Brexit unsettling, divisive, angry ‘trumped up’ world that we currently live in, that we’re all just a bit jaded with the jargon and soundbites and crave for more openness, more transparency, integrity….trust?

So what are the Chamber P&C group doing about it? Radical streamlining of our overly complex procurement processes must be near the top of the list, surely. There are over 8,000 frameworks out there in the UK currently and most people agree that many are not fit for purpose. Post Brexit we have a fantastic opportunity to get back to basics and put our house in order – to strip away the layers of bureaucracy, legislation and box ticking that prevents us from doing what we know from experience is right and works.

The Chamber is lobbying to put proper governance in place so that only the best and most relevant frameworks remain, and the unproductive/wasteful ones are weeded out. Thankfully there are several best practice examples and pockets of excellence working successfully across the NW region with key drivers based around social impact and real value.

Link that with a return to Prime Cost traditional contracting where the supply chain can see years (not months) ahead as well as the prospect of reasonable margins and maybe that will start to give firms the confidence to invest again in technology, infrastructure and skills?

Over recent years, Manchester’s resilience and reputation has continued to grow through its strong civic leadership and ‘can do’ attitude. It has raised the bar through collaboration with central government on pioneering deregulation as well as its track record of inward investment, innovation and delivery. High performance has been rewarded by growing global interest in funding complex and pioneering projects.

Irrespective, we know there are some tough challenges ahead for the Property and Construction sector. The retail market is in flux and who would have thought that a city treasure – Kendals was set to close. Whether improved negotiations between landlord and retailer (instigated by the Council) overturns this or whether ultimately new uses can be found, only time will tell. As always though, the constant will be ‘change’. For all of us, change is the true agent of collaboration.

So, in returning to earlier themes, if you do one thing today (and everyday), turn the perceived ‘lack of collaboration’ on its head, remember Steve Burne and do something that changes the way people think about themselves and the challenges they face. If we all do that, anything is possible!