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Members already have sufficient knowledge for green

opportunities – they should be positioning themselves as a solution provider

Bratt, 46, is a chartered director and has an MBA. Before joining the ECA, he was group business development director of Magna Housing Group and managing director of two subsidiary companies involved in property development. Prior to that, he was group commercial director of CORGI. Since arriving at the ECA at the end of 2007, helping

members to survive the worst economic downturn since the war has inevitably been a fundamental priority for the association. But developing the ECA’s role, both for members and within the industry, presents other significant challenges for the future. ECA Today caught up with Steve Bratt to ask him a few questions about what’s in store…

Do you think most members will notice any change? If they notice it straight away it would be a little unusual because the chief executive shouldn’t really be making operational day-to-day decisions that impact on them immediately. But certainly in the long term, yes, I would hope so. I’d like to reflect in a few years’ time and think how the association has helped its members through a difficult period, and also helped them to look forward, identify some opportunities and position themselves to take advantage of them.

So it will be evolution rather than revolution? Inevitably there will be change, some of which may be significant, however the ECA has a good pedigree, it has a long list of significant achievements within the industry, and I don’t think there needs to be any kind of radical revolution. But we all recognise that the industry is changing, that it’s facing a lot of issues at the moment – the recession among them.

So this year we’ve done a strategic review and we’ve asked

that question: ‘How is the industry likely to change?’ We’re looking at what opportunities and threats these changes are going to present for members. And we’ve also been having a look internally at the ECA, to see how effective we are. As part of that review, we’ve been looking at things such

as governance arrangements, funding arrangements, and so on. The idea is to identify what we currently do well; what it is that we need to improve on; and what it is that we don’t currently do that we need to start to do? That is going to form the basis of the revision of our corporate plan, which will be in place by the end of this year. As part of the review, we’ve looked at member research

statistics. In 2008, general satisfaction levels were in excess of 90 per cent; the association’s members generally are pleased with the level of service they get, and they are proud to be ECA members. That’s supported by the fact that we’ve been growing in the recent past, despite the recession. We also try to use our research to target our services.

The recession was – and is – clearly a major issue, and we went on the front foot; we recognised where the issues were likely to arise, what kind of support people needed and we went out proactively, running seminars and providing information on issues such as how to deal with contractual disputes, how to get paid, how to downsize effectively, and so on.

Has this proactive approach to address recession issues gone down well with members? That whole initiative was extremely well received. And it hasn’t finished. The recession in our industry clearly isn’t over. Our research indicates that we’ve hit the bottom, and may be coming up a little. But we’ve still got the inevitable cuts arising from the comprehensive public sector spending review to deal with. So that initiative hasn’t gone away.

Does the prospect of a more stable environment mean the ECA will be shifting focus? We try to help members to survive, obviously, but also the reason for our existence, fundamentally, is to help businesses to thrive. We will continue to focus on making our members’ businesses successful and profitable. And what we’re trying to do through all this bleakness is to try to say to them: ‘There are some opportunities here.’ There are some bright spots, including infrastructure

projects, etc. However, probably the most prominent example we talk about is the green agenda. It’s an area where we are saying that fortune really will favour the brave, and if they can see a way to engage in this, they really are likely to benefit in the long term. We’re trying to develop products and services that will help our businesses take advantage of these opportunities.

How much of an opportunity is the ‘green agenda’? It’s a massive opportunity. For example, it’s forecast that there’s £250bn worth of work in retrofitting properties to hit the 2050 carbon reduction targets. And even the government Chief Commercial Adviser recently, when reflecting on the scale of this initiative, described it as ‘terrifying’. To hit the 2050 targets – because 80 per cent of the properties that will exist then are already here – this is really

32 ECA Today Autumn 2010

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