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CSR – disaster or opportunity?

The Comprehensive Spending Review that occupied the news for most of this week will have far-reaching effects for UK Construction Plc.

The cuts to public spending, despite the pledges to maintain infrastructure spending on some key projects, will mean hardship and job losses in the industry.

But even in this bleak outlook, there are specks of light, like a 13 billion light-year-away galaxy in the night. Cuts mean opportunity. Local councils face 7 per cent cuts and will be forced to retrench to statutory duties. But can you help them? Outsourcing of previously in-house services will be commonplace as they seek to shed staff and reduce their fixed costs, property requirements and so on.

What does your local council do that you could do? Planning control, building control, housing maintenance, property management, leaseholder relations…. all these may still be in-house, but done cheaper out. And the good news is that now, with the pressure on costs the only story, you no longer have to deliver a better service than an in-house one, it just has to be cheaper.

And while you’re at it, have a CSR of your own. What costs can you strip out? Do you still have biscuits at meetings? Do you still own your own capital equipment or property? Do you operate multiple locations when one would do the job? Have a rummage around the business, look down the back of all the metaphorical sofas and see how much small change you can turn up.

Anything you can find you can either save, or consider spending on winning share from your competitors, because if you’ve stripped your costs to the bones, you can make a margin where your competitors cannot, and right now you can win share. Businesses that can generate forward momentum in these toughest of times will surge when the financial taps are turned on again.

Don’t despair. Keep in shape. Look on the bright side - even the darkest of nights is followed by sunlight.

Ross Sturley is principal of Chart Lane, a strategic marketing consultancy specialising in construction and property, and a committee member for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group.