One of the key lessons I have taken from the continuing COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of partnerships. I am aware that this word carries baggage in the construction sector – it has been with us in various guises for the past three decades since the Latham Report in 1994 and the Egan Report in 1998. Yet the latest version of partnerships – those forged or renewed during the pandemic – feels to me to be the most robust.
As an SME contractor and consultancy, good partnerships are essential to our business. We work hard at them, but, due to the frequently adversarial nature of construction, partnerships can too often be based on the letter of contracts. As times grew increasingly tough this year, it would have been easy for partnerships to retreat in this way. But it is really pleasing to say this has not generally been our experience at Helix.
Newbury property partners
Take for instance our membership of the Newbury West Berkshire Economic Development Company (EDC). We sit on the Property Focus Group of the EDC and it is one of the most important things we do as a Newbury-based business. At the most recent meeting in September, we were able to contribute our views to a consultation on the proposed regeneration of an important Newbury industrial estate. We were also able to share our experiences with our property peers of the Westworks procurement consortium (very positive from our point of view).
This discussion with our local partners is all in the context of the recovery from COVID-19 and the impact the pandemic has had – and continues to have – in West Berkshire. The local authority has put in place a COVID-19 Recovery Plan, which focuses on health, education and the economy.
Getting back to work together
At Helix, we have been pleased to play our part as a local and regional employer in the recovery from the pandemic. Where it was safe to do so, we began the return to work in May, working with our clients and supply chain partners all the way to ensure we did not proceed with any activity until we were certain it could be undertaken safely.
Other partners share this focus on detail and safety and, as a result, a number of opportunities have come our way. These include projects for local authorities and housing associations, as well as on a number of frameworks.
Local charity relationship
It has also been important to us during the crisis to work even harder at our relationship with our key charity partner, Home Start West Berkshire. It was their virtual AGM this week and, despite the slight disappointment that we could not celebrate the work of this amazing local charity together in person, it was a great event with a focus on how Home Start has been able to evolve its services to continue to support its families.
So, while it is true that, at present, none of us has our challenges to seek, we are not doing so alone. There is no need to plough a lone furrow. My leadership colleagues and I at Helix are long enough in the tooth to have experienced previous recessions. We know that they often bring pain and difficult decisions. Yet, this time around it feels different. And they key reason for this is the strength of our partnerships with our clients, suppliers and peers. It takes work, honesty and commitment, but it is definitely worth it.
Nic Davies, Managing Director, Helix Group