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Profile | Perfect Circle

Perfect Circle is winning work for itself and regional consultants as it manages local government consultancy work for Scape.

By definition Perfect Circle is an SME  A start-up even. That it is a limited company formed as a JV between engineering giants Aecom, quantity surveyors and smaller consultants Gleeds and Pick Everard makes it something of a hybrid.

And that it wants to hand over around 30% of its up to £350M of design work to other consultants makes it quite extraordinary.

So what is it exactly? It was set up in response the framework opportunities offered by Scape Group, the public sector procurement body.  In 2016 it won the right to be sole-supplier for Scape’s five year Built Environment Consultancy Services framework (BECS) 2021.

Management consultant

It is effectively a management consultant, set up to manage workload secured through the BECS. It allocates this work to what it calls its principal supply partners – Aecom, Pick Everard and Gleeds – and other consultants, usually SMEs. The aim is to help Scape ensure that money is spent locally and that local labour is used where possible.

It is a big deal. Scape is perhaps not that well known in the infrastructure sector, but across its range of frameworks – covering everything from regional civils contracting to building services and property maintenance – more than 550 public sector organisations are currently using its sole-provider frameworks to deliver a huge range of projects. The BECS framework is one of the biggest, worth up to £350M and covers services including project management, quantity surveying, building surveying, commercial surveying, architecture and design services, civil and structural engineering, highways consultancy and engineering services and strategic asset management.

That is a decent chunk of consultancy work but well within the capabilities of the principal supply partners to deliver. The need to share comes because Scape’s frameworks have challenging key performance indicators (KPIs), largely built around delivering social value – Scape is, after all, owned by six local authorities delivering services to any public body in the UK. And that means there are key performance indicators for amounts of local spend, local labour usage and local SME engagement.

Limited company joint venture

“There won’t be many incorporated, limited company JVs in consultancy. But we have got to hit our KPIs. That’s what our board is set up to focus on,” explains Perfect Circle chairman and Pick Everard managing partner Duncan Green.

“Perfect Circle doesn’t employ anyone,” he says, explaining that he and his fellow board members are seconded in but draw no salary. “We then use our principal supply partners or the supply chain to deliver,” he explains.

And there is plenty of opportunity for the supply chain here. “We are driving for 30% to be done through the supply chain and we are driving for schemes where no principal supply partner is involved,” he says. That’s up to £120M of design work that Perfect Circle is putting up for grabs.

And those KPIs are designed to make it a pretty good client, especially when it comes to payment.

Easier for SMEs to get involved

“We think this is an easier way for SMEs to get involved in major schemes, by being our supply chain,” says Green.

“We are working on all the major projects and working on them through us means they get paid because we are continually monitored on it,” he adds, referencing the continual challenge in the industry concerning payment and retentions. Perfect Circle, like all Scape framework partners, has KPIs on prompt payment and is forbidden from indulging in the practice of retentions.

And there are some really key opportunities coming up.

“Over 1,000 public sector organisations will have signed up to Scape this year,” observes Green. “It provides for all big public sector clients.”

Clearly, all such major clients are more than capable of running their own procurement processes and setting up their own frameworks. And of course, for major works, most If not all do.

Cracking on quickly

But for smaller jobs, or where there is a need to crack on quickly, Scape is increasingly seen as a great route to market – the procurement is done and, with Scape’s sole-supplier policy, clients do not even have to agonise about picking a winner. It is proving popular.

“Highways England is now choosing to use us on the Lower Thames Crossing for its ground investigation works,” says Green. “We’ve had our major commissions; on High Speed 2 (HS2) in particular,” he adds, where Perfect Circle has won work on enabling works.

Green says its work on HS2 is going to be particularly attractive to regional civils consultants.

“We’re doing a lot of the utility diversion work. It will be a really good opportunity for the supply chain to get involved as we move up the country doing service diversions,” he observes.

“A national programme like HS2 offers Perfect Circle a great way to use local consultants in the supply chain. It’s local spend with a large percentage going to SMEs.”

Which is exactly what Scape is looking for.

Private sector work a bonus

But Green is not limiting his sights to public works, which under the terms of the European Union’s OJEU procurement process will ultimately be capped at £350M of commissions. Private sector project work is extra.

“We’re also looking to diversify. Very much,” says Green.

“We see the opportunity to use the supply chain in public and private sector projects,” he adds, citing Manchester Airports Group, which has awarded it a place on its civils design framework.

“We’re on the framework and all the opportunity that comes with it,” he says.

“So we are now looking actively where we can offer clients all the KPIs that Scape contracts put in for private clients who have a conscience, who do want suppliers to get paid on time.

Good year one

All this confidence is built on a good year one. More than 300 commissions and 132 clients were the headline numbers in the consortium’s first year of delivering projects.

Clients include local authorities from across the UK, schools, universities and colleges as well as central government and national infrastructure schemes. The team has also delivered projects in housing and health as well as arts and leisure schemes.

And as an example of supply chain involvement, Perfect Circle is working for Somerset County Council delivering Avalon Special School alongside six local SME sub-consultants as well as bringing in specialist surveying, arboricultural and geotechnical consultancy.

Pick Everard has proved to be the master at understanding the KPIs and in particular the social value KPIs,” says Green, thanks to previous work with Scape. “What was also important was how quickly Aecom and Gleeds learnt the language.”

Another real focus in year one was aimed at another Scape KPI – training and skills.

“During the first year we have placed real emphasis on training and skills, offering employment opportunities as well as working with our supply chain; the benefits are tangible,” says Green.

“Effectively we’re a start-up company that is now winning some major commissions,” he reflects. You can’t say fairer than that. 

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