A strategic approach is needed to tackle the issues facing the fiercely competitive grounds maintenance sector, according to new National Contractors Forum (NCF) chairman Phil Jones.
Jones, managing director of ISS Facility Services Landscaping, was sworn in over the Christmas break.
He told Horticulture Week that BALI/NCF has "done a few things around training but the point was to be more strategic around the issues facing the sector. Clearly there are some governance issues within the forum, which we have to decide how to run. We have to represent our interests on a wider scale - influence clients, groups and industry bodies."
Jones said he took on the chairman's responsibility because it seemed nobody else would or could, a consequence partly of the large number of NCF members with owner-operated businesses. He added that it looked as though there would be a non-NCF member elected as forum chair. "You either put up or shut up," he said. "It's an exciting time. It's a huge responsibility."
Jones said the BALI executive and he understand each other's point of view but there has been a lack of "expert resources at a high level". He added: "They recognised they could not put the resources into it.
"There are very separate, very challenging issues in grounds maintenance," and it is important to find out what common issues are shared among the members and express them in the right way to the right people.
This will include Government departments and organisations such as the Local Government Association, which represents 415 local authorities. "Those sorts of bodies directly affect how we operate in the industry and we should be talking to them," he said.
He advocated a more proactive approach to tenders and the main public sector clients - rather than passively waiting for tenders to come in.
The industry should be broadcasting about how what it does has an influences everyone else - providing healthy and safe green spaces that have a widely positive impact on society.
Jones said he will also work with The Parks Alliance, the industry organisation that lobbies on behalf of public parks and the professionals who work in them.
First steps Consulting business leaders
Phil Jones is starting his new role by establishing a series of meetings with other business leaders in the sector to see what issues they think are key, before drawing up a clear plan of action.
But extending the membership, which currently represents about 65 per cent of companies operating in the field, is also near the top of his list.
"There are a number of big guys who are not part of the forum and one of my key aims is to welcome them into the organisation and see how we can help. It's a challenge as we're all commercial organisations, but if we can find common issues people will get into it."