The chief executive of Specialist Engineering Contractors Group on the challenges the business may face in 2014
How sustainable do you believe the economic recovery to be?
I think it is sustainable – the industry’s capacity has been significantly reduced. Then there are benefits from housing expansion, and the government has committed to greater expenditure on infrastructure with things like HS2 and Crossrail. We also have the Chinese nuclear plant construction. Small firms might not always be engaged with these, but the big players are getting taken away with big jobs leaving more room for the smaller players.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for your business next year? Where is growth going to come from?
Hopefully an improvement in manufacturing and retail. That opens up opportunities for our sector because there are a lot of businesses with billions waiting to be invested. When they see manufacturing, retail or office building moving they will start to release that money.
What do you think the greatest danger to your business will be in 2014?
The people I represent expanding too quickly. As we go into an optimistic climate, firms might jump in and overstretch themselves, and when that happens insolvency beckons. It’s up to people like me to think carefully.
What do you think the construction industry could do to help itself in 2014?
Procurement needs looking at. We’re already doing something quite positive by funding a lot of work on integrated project insurance. I’d like to see pre-qualification rationalised so that we’re not spending vast amounts of money each year for forms.
What single realistic policy change from the government would make the biggest difference to your business next year?
Payment needs fixing. We’ve already got £4bn going through project bank accounts, now we need central government to spread this through the public sector. I want contractors to have to pay within 30 days, as they do in Sweden.
Rudi Klein is chief executive of Specialist Engineering Contractors Group