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50:50 vision

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Scott Wilson's Warsaw office opening doubled as the location for the regular quarterly meeting of all the company's international directors. Overseas work is a significant proportion of the firm's $243M turnover, but not enough. 'We are currently operating at a 40:60 international to UK ratio, ' says chairman Geoff French, 'which might sound high. But for us it's the lowest it ever has been.

Our aim is to bring the ratio back to 50:50 by 2009.

'It's good news that the UK is so strong, obviously.

We've been through a very good period with low inflation, positive market conditions and consistent government policies. But people have forgotten what things used to be like and you have to assume the current situation can't go on forever.

'We are planning for the future while the UK business is doing OK. If we do it when there is a downturn that will be too late. We are just making sure we give overseas work due emphasis.'

Overseas expansion also offers the business access to new, less costly resources which can contribute to work around the globe. 'We continually aim to see if work being done in the UK can be carried out by lower cost areas like South Africa or India. We suspect UK growth will not be as significant in the next few years as some of the work will be taken up by cheaper locations.'

The man charged with contributing significantly to the 50:50 target is chairman of the international division, John Nutt. Since the start of May, Nutt has led the team of directors responsible for everywhere but China and Hong Kong.

'All the regional directors have clear targets, ' he says.

'And they work with other directors with sector responsibility like rail and power to expand our workload.

They were all asked to come to Poland with a vision for how they would double their turnovers in three years. From those ideas we have developed a strategy to take us forward.

Now it's sleeves rolled up to deliver the plan.'

'The biggest challenges are limitations on capital, ' he says, 'we can buy businesses but there is only so much money to go round; security issues in southern Africa and the Middle East; and staff resources.'

The skills shortage is not just a UK issue. But Nutt is confident he will hit his target.

'If not I can always phone a friend, ' he says.

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