Blog: Invest in the market-facing business while maintaining a strong core

Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips

Simon Phillips, regional managing director of Esh Border Construction, discusses the recent economy growth figures for Scotland.

Last weekend I jumped on the bathroom scales and found I had put on a pound. It came as a bit of shock as I’d been sticking to my health kick. Thankfully though the reading had corrected itself by the following day and I was back where I should be.

Whether it was faulty scales or water retention, it was enough to make me take notice, and it reminded me that we should each have a proactive approach and take responsibility for our personal and business health.

The news that the economy has grown this quarter is clearly welcome, and while the business world can perhaps now sit back and enjoy the summer with the comfort of the 0.8% growth, the reality is that the health of the economy, whether undergoing a 0.2% decline or enjoying a 0.8% increase, is a little delicate.

We have factors we control and factors we can influence, and yes there are factors that are outside our immediate control - for Scotland, clearly one is the revenue from oil.

There is some uncertainty on the economic outlook for Scotland, the UK, Europe, and the world. What I am unsure of is how these fluctuations in growth or decline should affect business strategy in the short-term. The swings in GDP are relatively small and surely we should look at our businesses based upon the opportunities we see rather than with an overtly strong focus on the macro economy indicators.

We don’t weigh ourselves on the bathroom scales as a family – we get on the scales as individuals, and businesses are individual. We need to look behind the weight, or the GDP, and look at our health.

Our view is that there are growth opportunities. Growth in a mature market should be driven by a business being different – offering more and delivering more, and more doesn’t always mean costing more.

Value is what it all comes down to, and it includes how we interact and our delivery, it includes a sense of socially responsibility. If we respect the built environment we believe we can grow.

We can’t build something for half the price; building something for half the price is not a sustainable model for us. It may benefit the client in the short term, but lasting and mutually fruitful relationships with clients aren’t pinned on cost alone.

Whether we are in a boom or the doldrums we need to ensure our businesses are set to grow. Right now, we are investing in the client and market-facing side of our business and watching our back-office costs.

Our business administration is the core of the apple and our client side is the flesh. If you cut an apple through the centre you will get some core, and our job is to make the core as small as possible, but recognise that the administration of the business is like the seeds within the core - absolutely critical. We want great seeds, but a small core.

We are focusing on the market, as that is revenue creation. We will grow our corporate social responsibility, we will grow our business development and bid management, we will grow our design support, we will grow our delivery and through all this we hope we can grow our business.

So, whether the GDP is 0.2% negative or 0.8% positive, it makes little difference to our strategy – our focus in on our long term health, not that extra pound on the scale.

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