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A matter of size

A matter of size

The case for choosing small when big is on offer

The truth is that size matters. And when in doubt, we often think biggest rather than best. It’s an understandable reaction. You know the old sayings: safety in numbers, might is right, the bigger the better.

So, why choose small when big is on offer?

Well, there will be times when less is more, when small equals precise, nimble, adaptable, as opposed to vague, measured and inflexible. It’s just a matter of recognising when.

There’s a good recent example of this principle. It involves a Jersey company and one of the UK’s largest and most complex building redevelopment projects.

The Palace of Westminster is due to go through a six-year-long, multi-billion-pound programme of renovation and restoration. Home to Britain’s Parliament, of course, this famous building is showing its age. Constructed over 150 years ago to replace an earlier one destroyed by fire, the once grand palace requires a massive overhaul to make it fit for 21st century use – and beyond.

The renovation challenge couldn’t be more daunting. The Palace is filled with asbestos, crumbling stonework, rusting roofs, cracking services and miles upon miles of creaking cabling systems. All need replacing or repair, while fully protecting the building’s historic fabric and character, and allowing the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ to continue functioning.

A first challenge was appointing the experts needed to design and plan the renovation programme. Then there will be choosing contractors to undertake the work. By nature, these organisations must possess the size and scale needed for such a huge and complex task. Choosing the best one is an exacting process.

This is where Jersey-based HLG Associates became involved – when less became more.

‘We were brought in to help with the selection and appointment of companies that would plan the renovation programme,’ explains Simon Matthews, HLG Director. ‘The challenge faced by the Palace was not just choosing the right ones, but also ensuring a selection process that was independent and fully transparent. HLG were clearly impartial – no vested interest in the programme. And too small to undertake any of the renovation work ourselves – so nothing to gain from the final contracts. Yet we possess the expertise and capabilities needed to ensure the right selection was made.’

The small is best principle can apply on all manner of projects or programmes. While turning to a large contractor or consultancy firm at an early stage may seem like the safe option, considering an alternative approach may pay dividends in the longer term, as Simon continues. 

‘We are inclined to think big is best – that the level of attention and expertise received from a large organisation outweighs the time it takes to seek alternatives. Yet large can mean a methodical or even inflexible response to your needs, particularly as the big organisation works out what’s best for its interests alongside those of the client.

‘Small organisations like HLG behave differently – they have to in order to survive. They must place clients at the heart of what they do, to see things from their point of view. By necessity, small organisations must work with others to deliver results, not try to corner the opportunity. By nature, they are passionate about a client’s business or purpose, having to fully understand what’s needed in order to help crystallise requirements and so deliver the best results. And being the best, not the biggest, is what HLG is all about.’

So, there’s the thought. Biggest does not always mean best – quite the opposite in fact as far as the Palace of Westminster was concerned. Think small at times – you never know how big the outcome could be. 

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