Restoring / Construction / Legal – well served locally

Newcastle / Gateshead has only one FTSE listed HQ, and we’ve felt privilaged that the core team that built Sage Software’s HQ has joined together again to restore The Racquets Court.

We own and inhabit The Racquets Court and that makes us unusual as building developers. We were told that it’s unusual for developers to be as involved as we were with every detail – to include the coat hooks.  We were fussy but not once did the teams at IDP, Tolent or Elliot do anything other than rise to meet our frequent challenges.  And the ‘process’ was managed as well as the build itself. This came home to us about half way through the construction …

… we were visited on site by two women responsible for a regional charity.  As they were leaving they asked us, in relation to Tolent’s people on site, “are they all like that” .  When we asked what they meant, they replied “are they all … nice”.  Of course, the answer was “yes” and that was our experience throughout – alongside stunning professionalism.  The project finished in the week that it was forecast to finish at the outset.  How about that for unusual!

Tolent and IDP and Elliots are local businesses and walking around Newcastle, Tolent’s brand is found frequently.  But – and this may be the crucial variable – their market is national and perhaps it’s this that makes them competitive and productive.

The implications of the local (small) market

The Newcastle / Gateshead market is a small one.  Indeed, that of the North East as a whole is also.  But that’s not the real issue – the real issue is that there simply aren’t that many businesses.  In other words, the number of businesses per head of population in the North East is around one-quarter that of London and the South East.  Put crudely, there are four times as many interior design businesses in London as there are in the South.

There are a number of implications of this – and some of the most important are not relevant here -but let’s take the implications for a potential customer for any service.  If that customer is not aware of this core fact; if that customer travels little in the UK and to the South East not at all, then that customer is very likely to be faced with a price which is high and service which is poor.  If local purchasing is ignorant of these facts (and most will be) they are likely not to recognise uncompetitive pricing and will not be demanding customers.

An example

As developers of The Racquets Court, we commissioned relatively few services ourselves.  One of the larger services that we did commission is that of connectivity and the bits and bobs associated with it. The core element of that is the Stellium line – upon which we comment elsewhere.  Stellium is not a locally owned business and it is by definition global. It behaves that way and service was outstanding.

Stellium only brings a line to the front door – at that point is hits a range of swithches and stuff which distribute connectivity around the building. We initially sought 2 proposals from local businesses. The costs of these were similar – and it seemed to us, rather high.

So we decided to call 2 businesses in Leeds.  The first thing to say is that the Leeds conurbation has a signiticant number of IT service businesses from which to choose.  The response from each of these businesses was superb – speedy, uncomplicated and friendly. The estimates from these 2 were also suprisingly close to one another.  But here’s the thing, these 2 were HALF the cost of the Newcastle based businesses.  And that is a very significant sum.

In the end, we had 4 proposals.  Each of the 4 offered different switches (3 were Cisco offers), but the fundamental cost differences were down to the offered firewall.  We carefully considered the proposals and our key requirements and decided that the expensive firewalls were not appropriate to our needs.  We did not consider that local offers quizzed us sufficiently before offering such expensive firewall options.

We did not award the project to the cheapest of the 4 proposals we received.