Features - Business

SMEs: building the future

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a vital ingredient to help drive better performance from our construction industry, providing specialist capabilities, innovative thinking, agile ways of working and often independent views and approaches. As such, SMEs have an important role to play as ‘agents for change’ or, in more current parlance, as disruptors, we speak to Paul Dyson, Partner at HKA, one of the world’s leading providers of advisory, consulting and expert services.

We are all acutely aware of the ever-quickening pace of the globally focused aggregation of the construction supply chain, both horizontally and vertically, in response to the increasing complexity and size of (especially) economic infrastructure. Whilst clients, sensibly, look to larger organisations and their Joint Ventures (JVs) to deliver their projects, we believe that SMEs play a key part in providing a broader choice for clients and thus are an important part of the construction supply chain ecosystem.

The importance of the small independent companies to the UK economy cannot be overstated; SMEs account for more than 99% of all UK business and employ over 12 million people. They are a vital and energetic part of our growing UK economy.

It is interesting to observe that Germany has been highly successful in driving the expansion of its economy through the growth in its smaller businesses or ‘Mittelstand’. The UK government is cognisant of this success and is increasingly looking at ways to ensure that public money finds its way in part to SMEs. A good example of this is the current Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) RM3745 Management Consultancy Framework Agreement that is looking to achieve 35% total spend through SMEs by 2020.

The difficulty faced by all SMEs is their respective ‘routes to market’ – how do they compete, and how do clients gain access to their skills and experience? Cognisant of this and in support of the UK government’s SME objectives, HKA has been successful in forming a strong alliance of specialist SMEs to respond to CCS’s framework needs. To support the successful delivery of our partnership, we have established an open, transparent and collaborative teaming agreement giving equal opportunity to all partners to participate. Our view (and that of our partners) is that through such agreements we are able to offer very broad and deep capability in order to compete with much larger organisations. We are also able to offer true independence free from any conflicts of interest.

We believe that, in the wake of Carillion’s demise, there is a growing desire for clients to engage, where appropriate, with smaller consultancies that at the same time have access to a broad and deep set of skills that can be efficiently and effectively mobilised, something that larger organisations sometimes struggle to achieve. This is particularly true for the smaller but no less complex commissions. We carefully analyse each commission’s needs and draw together the appropriate capabilities from our own and our partner’s teams. Having a talented network ensures we are able to provide the right team at the right time.

From our experience of working closely with SMEs, it is evident that there is an openness to collaborating and sharing, an ability to be more agile and responsive, provide deeper specialist knowledge and also to be more innovative. Our industry is in need of both incremental and transformational innovation, and we believe this is best delivered by assembling the best teams from different business cultures and experiences to positively impact outcomes.

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