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Being there

After 31 years at the Highways Agency, procurement guru Steve Rowsell is striking out.

If Steve Rowsell's first day in the private sector for 31 years is anything to go by, he's got the hang of it pretty fast. 'I'll be working in the afternoon, then I'm off to play golf, ' he says nonchalantly.

But then, after six years as procurement director at the Highways Agency, he can be forgiven for making up for a bit of lost time. 'My hospitality book over the past four or five years is full of rejections, ' he ruefully admits.

Hopefully, with his edging procurement consultancy Rowsell Wright, those offers will continue to flood in. 'There is a lot of potential interest, but in the private sector you have to demonstrate quickly the value you can add, ' he says.

But with the combined expertise of Rowsell and his partner, former Agency supply chain manager Gary Wright, that shouldn't be too hard. Rowsell himself is certainly quietly confident.

'At a time when the Office of Government Commerce is providing less advice and when the fees of a large management consultant can be very frightening, there is a lack of affordable, skilled resource willing to advise in a pragmatic way, ' he says.

But was it hard to move on after working on some of the most exciting projects out there, including the Newbury bypass, the Second Severn Crossing, the M25 widening and the M6 Toll?

'I have worked on a series of interesting and challenging projects, but it was time to move on and spread the word - across the UK and worldwide, ' he says.

'Korea, New Zealand, the US, all see the UK as leading the way in procurement, ' he says. 'I very much hope to be engaged in the international market.' Partner Wright has already been working with some 'continental' contractors eyeing Britain.

But Rowsell is not deserting the UK. Local authority clients are likely to provide Rowsell Wright with its core business, and UK contractors are also on his radar.

'I would love to still get out on site. That's where it reminds you what it is all about. And it is not just seeing the engineering, but also seeing how the relationships have changed on site. And the only way to find that out is to be there.'

Q&A Steve Rowsell

Career highlight: Working on the Newbury bypass, not only because of the protesters, but also because it was the rst highways project to use partnering from the outset.

Career lowlight: A couple of months after the Newbury bypass opened, the porous asphalt surface started breaking up. I had to do 15 media interviews standing by the side of the road in the pouring rain to explain that we were going to have to close it for repairs. Every interview started with: 'Are you going to resign Mr Rowsell?', and by the end I rather felt like it.

Scariest moment: Being confronted by a farmer with a shotgun on the M6 Toll site.

Thing I would save if the house was on fire: My golf putter - we have a love-hate relationship.

Best hospitality offer turned down: The offer of a whole week on a boat at Cowes was hard to top.

Fascinating fact: I was the local surfboarding champion in my youth in the West Country.

Biggest regret: I have three daughters who are musically talented, and I'm not!

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