Chris Blythe: Tender advice for competitive advantage
A recent survey of architects sounds a more optimistic note about prospects for the industry. But as architects are upstream in the construction process, it will be a while before any upturn results in concrete being poured, steel erected or employment increased. If the industry has made good use of the recession, then employment should not increase in line with output, because what we need to do is make productivity gains.
The challenge for clients and their advisers is to spot tenders where keen pricing has been achieved by contractors being innovative in the way they plan to do things. In this respect, the adviser needs to be on top form.
Those who are responsible for delivery are best placed to see the opportunities and make the changes. They are also likely to be well ahead in their thinking compared with some of the more traditional advisers. Experienced construction managers are perfectly placed to give the right sort of advice to clients.
There is no reason why best value and lowest price cannot be one and the same. Good management, innovative approaches and visible productivity gains go to make a business super competitive. We have seen that in other industrial sectors where the UK has world-beating companies; there is no reason why that should not be the case in UK construction.
One innovative approach might be to stop blaming the customer for all our ills. The litany of complaints about clients is endless. Do these sound familiar? – “If we had an intelligent client everything would be better”, “Customers don’t understand how we work”, “If it wasn’t for clients this would be a great industry”.
A super-competitive construction business doesn’t think like that. Instead it asks, how I can exploit that to the best advantage? Not by suicide pricing and not by bidding low with the expectation of getting the margin back on the variations. That’s not clever and is the antithesis of the super-competitive construction business.
I look forward to having more than a handful of super-competitive construction businesses in the UK because that sort of leadership will gradually pull all the other businesses along with it. Unless that’s where we are heading, talented young people who want to spend their lives being creative will chose other industries at the expense of construction. That’s something we just cannot afford.