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Sat 26 Jun 2010 04:00 AM

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Against the run of play

Welcome to the last week of H1 2010. How was the first half of the year for you, asks Stuart Matthews.

Against the run of play

The first half is almost over and so far, it has been pretty grueling to watch. As it comes to a close, people have already started using the phrase ‘after Ramadan' and it's going to take some stellar individual performances to turn things around.

Strong leadership will be called for, observers will be on the look out for a spark of talent or ingenuity, and above all, performance will be judged by results.

It's still a few weeks before we will see the financial results from listed companies in the construction sector. Some will make for grim reading. Others will offer more hope.

We all know it hasn't been easy. Go-slows on site, tight cash flow and commodity prices that are up and down, all show any recovery will be a stuttering affair. Whatever emerges though, there will be an opportunity to take a few tips from those that have done well, against the run of play.

Performance against the odds is what will distinguish the outstanding players.

The kind of performance I mean was just described to me by a man who tells me he's secured around 40 million dirhams ($10.9 million) worth of construction supply contracts in the last 12 months. It's not a massive amount, but for a relatively new, medium-sized business, it is pretty good going.

The decisive factor isn't his product, which is good, but far from the only solution - an annoyingly fashionable word for product - in the market. The winning factor appears to be his company's agility and its willingness to adapt. Partly that is down to the company's new position in the region. But, after it found it was going to market with a product no one wanted, it was prepared to try something different earn some market share.

While the product itself looked like a winner, nervous contractors were unwilling to take chances and try something new. The solution was for the company to diversify its range of activities. It set up a small-scale contracting operation, to prove the product would work and provide reference jobs for those nervous contractors. Several completed jobs later and a new business, with a new product for the region, has survived and thrived, while others continue to struggle.

Team agility and having the courage of their convictions made the difference. The company's backers supported the product with investment and expertise. They also took a bold decision to grow and diversify, at a time when others chose to shrink. The decision paid off for this operation.

It is not the only one and first half results will provide us - investors, customers, clients and suppliers - with an excellent view into the workings of other top performers.

It is easy to post good figures in a boom. Doing the same when there is less money about is obviously tougher, so there has to be something special going on to attract attention.

Financial figures that show gains are a good start. But somewhere among all the numbers will be an occasional stand out player, using talent and courage to go above and beyond the expected results. The market will be watching to see who they are.

Stuart Matthews is the senior group editor of ITP Business' construction & design tiles.

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