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More to partnering than a buzzword

Des Moore was appointed partnering director of Nottingham-based Baggaley Construction in July.

He talks to Joanna Booth about why this role was created.

How long have you worked for Baggaley?

I joined in May 2003 as head of sales and marketing after spending my formative years at social housing developer Keepmoat Group.

Why was the role of partnering director created?

In my previous role I was taking on more of the responsibilities I'm now free to concentrate on.We wanted to formalise our reputation as a good business to work with and having a full-time partnering director was one way to do that.There has been a major shift in the market from the traditional, instruction-based client-contractor relationship to something where we're asked more often: 'What can you do to deliver this cheaper, faster, to a better quality?'

What would you say to people who think 'partnering' is just a fashionable buzzword?

It is a buzzword.When I say we want to work with clients, not against them, and that we want to provide total solutions, it sounds like just semantics.But that doesn't mean we don't want to work in a more collaborative way.There has been a real change in the industry in the past few years and to give them their due I think it has stemmed from the clients.

They're much more amenable. Instead of just telling contractors what they want, then waiting for us to fail, they want our views on how best to approach a project.We do a lot of public sector work and I think those clients have led the revolution.

How do you go about putting partnering into practice?

It's about finding out what the client wants.We monitor client satisfaction on two levels - at the project stage and at a more generalised business level. At project level we thrash out with the client what is most important to them. It varies.For some, on-time delivery is the only thing.At a broader level we ask about things like client satisfaction, defects, health and safety.We also make sure we've put into place processes for open book costing, whole life costing and dispute resolution.

What effect do you hope this will have on Baggaley's future?

We're planning to expand the business - we hope to double over a six-year period. Hopefully with partnering we can underpin relationships with existing clients, increase repeat business and attract new clients.We will stick to the sectors we know.

Clients are telling us they want expertise in particular fields.We plan to split our workforce into teams, each permanently dedicated to one sector - schools, perhaps, or commercial work - so that they know the exact nuances facing clients.

How do you keep partnering in place if things go wrong?

It's tricky. Sometimes things do go wrong.You have to jump on problems quickly, acknowledge they're there then talk about them honestly and openly rather than hiding behind the contract. It's all about relationships in the end.