That was the ultimate question asked during the II Congreso Internacional Contract Madrid. Held between 5 and 6 May this year, the event represents a growing trend towards more interactive fairs and conferences in which information, networking and discussion forums take an important position. As a result, this still new phenomenon was attended by many in the broader sector, from leading architects and designers to important constructors, developers and agents.

José Ribes Bas, CEO of Inmobiliaria Rimontgó, David Mor and José Martínez Medina, director and chief designer of JMM Muebles, were among the prominent delegates from Valencia, reporting back from a trip that has confirmed their belief in quality, innovation and flexibility. Indeed, though the topics discussed during the two-day schedule carried such headings as: “Tendencies, strategic management and competitiveness in contract” and “Design management: concept, emotion and profitability”, the underlying message was that especially in challenging times such as these only those companies that are able to successfully adapt to changing conditions will flourish.

New strategies for success

In bringing together 500 of Spain’s leading tenders, architects, designers, equipment suppliers and indeed thinkers, the conference, officially named the II Congreso Internacional del Contract y la Arquitectura, analysed the latest tendencies in design concepts, technical innovation and above all contract management. In this, the focus was especially on identifying strategies for success, from product and service innovation through to competitive costing, successful project management and the winning of contracts not just locally but abroad.

The desire to explore new formulas and delineate markets that can be further developed reflects not so much the idea that the old ways don’t work, but more that the Spanish construction sector is at a crossroads in its development and in need of new impulses to take it to the next stage. While the Spanish market will continue to provide ample potential for growth well into the future there is the recognition that Spanish companies have the expertise – and to some extent the need – to offer their services more aggressively on an international scale.

Innovation and adaptability at the heart of success

The need for innovation, both in concept and on a technical level, was stressed by speakers such as Claudio Bertozzi, of Technogym, who said that “we have to innovate continuously”, in his case through the harmonising of design, function and innovation of his product range and supporting services. Birgit Zondler of the German family-owned GEZE, likewise brought it down to a basic philosophy of approach: “Quality, service and innovation are the three pillars of your company.” As manufacturers of a diverse range of construction-related products they pride themselves on technical innovation that serves the needs and wants of the market. To achieve this requires a level of connectivity with the market that is still relatively new to the technical sector.

Saint Gobain La Veneciana is another company that hones its technical innovation and subsequent product development to a sound knowledge of markets needs and trends, thus giving it a strong competitive position in emerging growth segments. A fine example of this is their latest range of window cladding that allows digital images to be projected onto the façades of buildings with pixel-perfect resolution. Where larger firms such as these have the resources to focus on innovative new products that hopefully take the market by storm, smaller firms have to rely above all on the quality of their service. As Isabel López says: “Smaller companies have to be bolder and take greater risks to differentiate themselves and compete with larger firms, but when successful they do have the ability to stand out from the crowd more.”

The two days in Madrid provided a lot of information, exchange of ideas and material for thought, as well as inspiring messages at a time when we all need to be at our sharpest and most creative, not just in the work we do but also in finding ways of adding to our services and products, improving them, offering them at more competitive prices, winning new contracts and, having secured these, managing projects effectively and maintaining profitability whilst producing the kind of work that speaks for itself. Quite a challenge…