In some ways, coming out of a recession can be as dangerous a time as going into it. Most of SELECT’s members in the electrotechnical sector are small to medium businesses and, when things start to pick up as they appear to be doing now, the temptation is to take on as much work as possible.
That means of course that they have to significantly increase the stock they hold and rebuild their labour force – all substantial costs which will not necessarily be covered by the receipts coming in, leading to every small business’ worst nightmare, a stuttering cashflow.
So SELECT will be focusing resources in 2014 on helping its members to survive the recovery, by continuing to provide expert quality advice and guidance on simple matters such as knowing who you are dealing with and having some idea of the prospects of being paid on time.
These problems affect all businesses and they are being addressed at a macro level through Scotland’s Procurement Reform Bill, probably the most substantive piece of economic legislation any of us will see in our lifetime, and to which the Scottish government has contributed a meaningful consultation process.
SELECT will continue to press to ensure that it delivers the changes the industry needs, such as ending bad payment practices, streamlining convoluted public sector procurement processes and ensuring it is only competent and qualified businesses that are allowed to compete for public contracts.
We must return to a situation where Scottish companies have a more favourable chance of winning Scottish public work and, quite frankly, we have to find ways to marginalise non-indigenous enterprises which have ticked the right procurement boxes but have not necessarily served Scotland well.
The industry must also begin to capitalise on existing legislation and regulation in the electrical industry, such as within the Building Standards system, where there is a statutory certification scheme for electrical installers.
Just before Christmas, the Scottish government launched its Certification Register, which is a searchable database of government approved installers. We must ensure that this becomes the go-to facility for the general public so that they can identify and access reliable installers.
That will go a long way to position our members well in the recovery phase of the economy.