In the coming week, we will be sending out an INNSA Member Survey and we would love to get as many responses as possible, to help us understand how the association can best serve the interests of its members.
But, as Chairman, I feel particularly strongly that we need to focus on the industry issues which directly affect our members on a day-to-day basis and on their bottom line.
For example, do many of you as INNSA members feel that there is not enough recognition for invasive species control as a stand-alone service? While INNSA has had success in being recognised by mortgage lenders, procurement schemes, organisations like RICS and even the UK government, there is still a long way to go until consumers have a clear recognition of where they should go if they have an invasive species problem.
Do you face competition or loss of works to non-specialist groundwork or landscape maintenance contractors? We are aware of a few large projects where invasive weed works have been contracted out to haulage companies after invasive species specialists provided detailed reports and specifications (in some cases including Japanese knotweed management plans, risk assessments and method statements).
INNSA and other bodies, including the Amenity Standard work to attain preferred status for our members for relevant tenders, but as an association, we still get significant feedback that the bottom line for clients is… well, their bottom line. As contractors and as an association, we know that quality works are liable to be less costly in the long run than a job done badly – yet there are many stories of major contractors cutting corners and using inexperienced or under-qualified contractors to complete what should be specialist works.
This would be less of a problem if the contractors worked to the INNSA Standards (and on a broad level, INNSA would welcome this as representing an improvement from the practices which were widespread when the association was founded) but there are still too many stories of INNSA Contractor members being called in to fix messes made by bad works, for us to believe that this is no longer a significant problem.
Do you as INNSA members struggle to distance yourself from ‘one man band’ or ‘man and van’ operators? Such operators may be able to offer highly streamlined services by working locally, reducing overheads such as premises, admin staff, websites, marketing and demonstrating their competencies through approval schemes, compliance with SSIP, Amenity Standard and other industry accreditations. One hopes that safety and results don’t also suffer through this lack of investment but again, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is, sadly, not always the case.
How do you communicate the need for financial stability; accessible office staff; meaningful, site-specific reports and accurate site drawings? How do you convince clients of the value of health and safety best practice, environmental responsibility and quality control?
Do you struggle to find competitive rates on specific products? We would be interested to know about areas in the market which you find particularly challenging in this current climate.
INNSA has had numerous reports of delays and price increases across the board, including in the herbicide supply chain, but particularly with construction materials, timber and fencing used in domestic and housebuilding projects, and the availability of plant, welfare and machinery (particularly in areas where HS2 projects are taking place). We hear reports that availability at landfill facilities is increasingly at a premium – although this is a longer-term trend. We have been aware for a few years of the crunch in insurance products, particularly professional indemnity, since the Grenfell disaster.
Do you feel that you can continue to demonstrate that you are the best in the industry simply by meeting INNSA’s membership requirements, or do you find yourselves being asked to have more and more accreditations and complete more and more in-depth questionnaires about how you implement your corporate social responsibility policy, how you provide opportunities for local projects (while running an agile, go-anywhere nationwide business with three offices!), where you source your ethical tea and coffee, how much time you spend spoon-feeding learning to a coddled intern and how you invest in supporting the local school sports day (in order to meet your core corporate values of digging plants out of the ground)?
Do you find yourselves doing this all the while being asked for cheaper and cheaper prices?
So, tell us: What are your issues? INNSA really wants to know, and to focus our attention on areas that we can make improvements for our members.
Let’s get some dialogue going and see if we can help each other make INNSA the best portal for discussions relevant to or industry.