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20 July 2018
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A NATURAL EVOLUTION

Interviewee: Dean Wetteland, MD, Norse Commercial Services (Norse Group)

Issue: Norse’s approach to joint ventures

p16_Dean-Wetteland


6 November 2017 Dean Wetteland, MD, Norse Commercial Services (Norse Group)


What has been driving Norse’s flurry of joint venture (JV) activity?

It’s grown quite a lot over the last 10 years. Our consistent organic growth is linked to the Norse approach and culture. That is one of honesty, openness and flexibility. A lot of competitors hold people to long-term contractual rights, but we offer an option that is more flexible. There are declining budgets in the public sector and we offer what I call a true partnership model. We offer an alternative to what is usually considered the old conundrum of ‘do we provide in-house or do we outsource?’ The difference we offer is the commercial approach to the services we have but we allow our partners to retain control of their critical frontline services.

What are Norse’s plans?
The demand from the shareholder gets greater; when they see good results they want more. The Daventry deal begins next year and there’s two or three other potentials for next year, but what is important to us is winning the commercial contracts. That’s what gives us the commercial ethos and ideas, innovations in the market. Then we can benchmark ourselves against big competitors to know that we are still efficient, and bring those skill sets into the JVs. The first six months of this year have been successful in terms of growing our commercial contracts, which is a sign of the ambition we have got. We have really invested in that side including a new business development director because we know how important that is. Over the next three years I see a minimum growth of 25 per cent [for Norse] and that’s going to include a mix of JVs – the dominant bit because they are worth a lot of money – and the commercial contracts, which are fundamental to the ethos of this business. 


How did the JVs originate?
It has been a natural evolution. Norse was set up 29 years ago in the days of compulsive competitive tendering. Norfolk County Council set it up to moderate the market. The first JV was a new way of partnership working and what we have is 29 years of experience where we have been able to define our model, gain some invaluable experience, clearly made one or two little mistakes – I don’t deny that – but we have learnt from them. We have experience of running what I class as a true partnership and those years have turned it into a real cost-effective partnership model with strong core local values. 

What has been driving Norse’s flurry of joint venture (JV) activity?

It’s grown quite a lot over the last 10 years. Our consistent organic growth is linked to the Norse approach and culture. That is one of honesty, openness and flexibility. A lot of competitors hold people to long-term contractual rights, but we offer an option that is more flexible. There are declining budgets in the public sector and we offer what I call a true partnership model. We offer an alternative to what is usually considered the old conundrum of ‘do we provide in-house or do we outsource?’ The difference we offer is the commercial approach to the services we have but we allow our partners to retain control of their critical frontline services.


What are Norse’s plans?

The demand from the shareholder gets greater; when they see good results they want more. The Daventry deal begins next year and there’s two or three other potentials for next year, but what is important to us is winning the commercial contracts. That’s what gives us the commercial ethos and ideas, innovations in the market. Then we can benchmark ourselves against big competitors to know that we are still efficient, and bring those skill sets into the JVs. The first six months of this year have been successful in terms of growing our commercial contracts, which is a sign of the ambition we have got. We have really invested in that side including a new business development director because we know how important that is. Over the next three years I see a minimum growth of 25 per cent [for Norse] and that’s going to include a mix of JVs – the dominant bit because they are worth a lot of money – and the commercial contracts, which are fundamental to the ethos of this business. 


How did the JVs originate?

It has been a natural evolution. Norse was set up 29 years ago in the days of compulsive competitive tendering. Norfolk County Council set it up to moderate the market. The first JV was a new way of partnership working and what we have is 29 years of experience where we have been able to define our model, gain some invaluable experience, clearly made one or two little mistakes – I don’t deny that – but we have learnt from them. We have experience of running what I class as a true partnership and those years have turned it into a real cost-effective partnership model with strong core local values. 


What mistakes have been the greatest learning experiences?

After every JV we ask ourselves whether we communicated OK. Should we have spoken to a certain group of people in a particular way at an earlier stage to get them engaged? So next time we try to do that and they may not be interested… so there’s a flip side! But we learn for next time that we should engage with the relevant groups of people, have more open forums and as time has gone by we have got that mobilisation and transition to be successful and it works.  After every JV we ask ourselves whether we communicated OK. Should we have spoken to a certain group of people in a particular way at an earlier stage to get them engaged? So next time we try to do that and they may not be interested… so there’s a flip side! But we learn for next time that we should engage with the relevant groups of people, have more open forums and as time has gone by we have got that mobilisation and transition to be successful and it works.