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UKGBC – A Plan for Growth in a Resource-Constrained World

by Mel Starrs on May 30, 2012

in Strategies & Consultations

This morning I went to the launch of the ‘business plan’ I blogged about back in March. All the usual suspects gathered in Kings Place near Kings Cross for a two hour romp through the report in a Dragon’s Den style format. I tweeted some of the event (once the wifi was sorted out) as did others – the hashtag was #PlanForGrowth.

In addition to the report (we all got a paper copy), there are loads of supporting documents on the UKGBC website (I’m not sure if you need to be logged in to access them). And of course, you can download a copy of the report too.

So did the UKGBC manage to meet their original objective:

By developing PEST-based scenarios for future operating environments, and conducting SWOT analyses to determine a range of strategic options, the mega company will decide which divisions should be expanded, which ones will probably have to be wound up (and when), and which new ideas need to be incubated or accelerated, based on the pursuit of high value, low carbon products and services.

(This was the scope according to my previous blog). Oddly, no.

What we got, instead of a business plan for ‘UK Built Environment Plc’, was a collection of 5 ‘ideas’. I think Paul King may have over-egged their innovativeness in his introduction, as it turned out all five ideas can be found in the marketplace already, at small scale (this was picked up by various people on twitter). I won’t look at each one individually, they are listed below:

  1. Community Collaborators
  2. You Design & Build
  3. Liveable Places
  4. Great Home, No Hassle
  5. Use Space Well

But this is not a business plan. These are business models and products.

What I had hoped for was a strategic vision of where the sector would shrink (and it most definitely will) and expand. I wanted to see the PEST analysis set against a SWOT analysis – what are we as an industry good at, and where are our weaknesses. There was a great deal of work done on the PEST analysis (I’d recommend downloading the Excel spreadsheets and having a read), but how they moved from there to the 5 ideas seems an odd tangent.

In conversation afterwards (and in the key insights section of the report), many felt the process was more important than the outcomes, and I’d agree with this. The five ‘ideas’ seem an odd distraction from the main value of the exercise.

A key overarching theme was placing the consumer (or as Ed Gillespie said – people) at the heart of the business proposals. A sound tactic, but the effect of framing the business ideas in this way for me highlighted the risk that any entrepreneur who had the capital could come in and deliver the service – the competitive advantages of the construction industry delivering any of the ideas were not highlighted. In fact for at least two of the ideas, I know existing companies in other sectors who would be much better placed to deliver them than ‘UK Built Environment Plc’.

Chris Brown of Igloo gloomily stated that “the construction industry is dead”. I hope he’s not right. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the industry and how can we ‘sustain’ the industry going forward? For me, this report didn’t answer that question. I am holding onto the hope that the Green Construction Board Route Map will address some of my concerns.

I didn’t mean for this blogpost to turn out quite so negatively – and I’m not knocking any of the individual ideas. Plenty of people in the room and on twitter seemed enthused and invigorated by the report. What it has done for me is kick off some blogpost ideas on company governance in the construction industry (private equity vs. LLP vs. PLC) in relation to sustaining our industry – I do think we will need new business plans to survive (speakers today included Duncan from Verco, Sally from Gentoo and Chris from Igloo – all pioneering new approaches to running businesses). New paradigms of employee ownership and vehicles such as CiC (community interest companies) fascinate me and was more what I was expecting from today.

Those who know me in real life will know I’m prone to coming at things from a glass half empty angle. In any proposition I need to know:

  • who’s going to pay for this?
  • will they pay enough to make it worth our while doing it?

In other words “Show me the money”.