12 June 2020

The Construction Leadership Council said recently that the industry should transform its business model to create a more collaborative, fairer and resilient industry.

Collins was founded on a collaborative business model and we believe it is key to supporting our industry and serving our clients through challenging times.

Over 60 years ago, Collins relied heavily on repeat business. Architects and building surveyors were an integral part of our workstreams and we all took the same approach to a brief. A repeat client handed us a building and as the contractor we would discuss with our consultant partners how best to deliver it. The outcome was a client confident they would receive the highest quality solution at best value because it was delivered by people who worked as a team from the outset. This approach led to a succession of repeat business and the development of strong relationships across our partners and supply chain that Collins maintains today.

It was the strength of these relationships that led us to declare ourselves as non-contractual that whatever issues arose, we would co-operate to work it out. This approach has served us well and in the last 20 years has propelled us from a £10m company to a £140m business.

In 2008, we encountered the same struggles as other contractors and yet prospered through our partnerships. The negotiation with a client was a negotiation of what success looked like and how we could deliver the best solution, not a negotiation of how much we could reduce our tendered price in a race to the bottom.

The Construction Leadership Council states that collaboration makes the industry fairer. It certainly makes it more transparent; transparency leads to trust and trust leads to effective and successful programme delivery.

Tendering can be an important process for clients to explore best value and creativity. Over the past 12 weeks, Collins has witnessed an increase in ‘tender-negotiating.’ Progress delays combined with the additional lockdown time has enabled, and so encouraged, more discussion between contractor and consultants during recent tender stages.

If there are any positives to arise out of these past months surely this increased appetite from contractor and consultant to spend more time working together on a solution, is one of them? This level of collaboration has a real potential to support the wider industry and serve the client more effectively during a difficult time. It creates a smoother process with less conflict and it will enable an easier path to get a project finished at the allotted time as the design is realised by all parties together as part of a journey.

There is a well-known contractor saying: “Let us have a seat at the table at early as possible” and there are many commercial reasons why this can’t always happen. But best practice and best value is delivered when people solve a problem together from the outset. The early thrashing-out of technical complexities saves the time and money of all parties. The importance of having strong relationships is the team-approach is based on trust, everyone has the same goal, no one wants to thwart a partner’s vision or ideas, rather we all want to bring them to life.

We know our belief in collaboration can be seen to be biased. Each week we are reading how hard it is becoming for contractors.

For Collins, the lockdown period has created its fair share of challenges like so many of our peers. But we have acquired new appointments with existing and new clients for example, Landsec and CLS Holdings because we’ve demonstrated that by helping work out the brief alongside the wider team, we can identify all the issues upfront. This means we can focus on best practice delivered by best value to unlock them.

We tender most of our work at Collins Construction. But building on our foundations as a family-values run business that collaborates with others, we do this, as often as we can, in a way that is aligned to the tender-negotiation and partnership approach.

As we navigate challenging times, the industry should get ready to respond in a way that supports itself and each other. We need to get our heads together in teams and provide best practice and best value that works for everyone. Not just the contractors like us, but the whole consultancy chain and ultimately the client.

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