Cofely and Cheshire West & Chester Council – Collaborative Working

In January 2015, Cofely, a GDF SUEZ company was selected to form a new joint venture company with Cheshire West and Chester Council (CW&C) to deliver customer and integrated workplace management services. We were appointed from a shortlist of three, after CW&C members considered and discounted the in-house retention of services or comprehensive outsourcing to the private sector.

Over 300 Council employees transferred to the new company, whose initial responsibilities included customer services and business operations as well as cleaning, building maintenance, and energy compliance services across the Council’s estate.  In addition, the new business also supports wider social commitments through establishing a Community Interest Company (CIC) that reinvests a percentage of profits into the local community. There is also a heavy investment in learning and development through at least 65 apprenticeships, 20 graduate placements, and 1,000 hours of work experience opportunities for local young people.

The Council and Cofely agreed ambitious growth plans for the Joint Venture business, with the potential to migrate further Council services into the company as well as plans to trade with other public and private sector bodies. The total turnover of the joint venture is expected to be in excess of £200million over ten years.

“…Coming together is a Beginning, keeping together is Progress, working together is Success…”  (Henry Ford)

Our Approach

Collaboration has always had a strong presence in Cofely’s FM delivery and we understand fully how contracts are often won and lost in how customer relationships are managed, particularly at the start of new ventures.

As a team of FM Professionals entering a new environment, perception and first impressions are critical.  A common mistake is to come across as “bullish” or “the all-knowing expert” when it comes to introducing new ways of working or “favourite suppliers” into a well-established contract.  Early engagement with key stakeholders is fundamental in learning about different management styles and growing relationships to gain trust before critical decisions are made, often in high pressure situations.

During the mobilisation period before launching the FM services across CW&C, we played an important role in the way we approached the JV – in terms of understanding the client’s requirements and being flexible and sensitive to the incumbent supply chain – to ensure minimum disruption and a smooth transition on Day 1 and beyond.  A key factor here was listening to the client and the existing supply base to understand where any operational issues or client preferences should be considered and proactively managed.

The Cofely mobilisation team brought together colleagues from our Procurement, SHEQ, Commercial, Sustainability, and Innovation departments, to facilitate a Supplier Workshop leading up to the contract start date. This 'Meet and Greet' session for the c. 50 suppliers and members of the JV included an introduction to Cofely and our staff, a presentation on our company background, and a Q&A session that was open to all who attended.

Our aims were to:


  • Collaborate successfully with the other partners within the Joint Venture
  • Create a neutral platform for mutual benefit with business partners from all parties included
  • Define roles and responsibilities to improve decision making processes
  • Introduce value-add activity, mitigate risks, and share resources and responsibilities
  • Build better relationships that lead to improved results.

The Workshop acted as an impartial medium to raise any queries or concerns felt by the suppliers or client staff. This helped to put minds at rest that we were there to act in a strategic partnership and reach every operational decision through the right questions being asked to the right people.

We provided a good spread of interpersonal skills within the team we selected to interact and meet with client management during mobilisation stage, and our confident and personable people ensured effective two-way communication.

We also consulted client management at various stages when constructing the supply chain for the Cofely-managed element of our Joint Venture, to ensure any client-specified suppliers were recognised and on-boarded to our suppler system in readiness for the start of the contract.


Acting on lessons learnt from our unsuccessful bids or re-bids, and from our peers and key suppliers are extremely valuable and help to steer us in new and challenging directions.

CW&C is recognised as a successfully mobilised contract, with the complex and multi-layered supply chain solution, and our open mind-set and collaborative working approach to total FM delivery.

Combined with mutual respect, a clear understanding of requirements, flexibility to changes in strategy and having emotionally intelligent employees who are willing to go beyond their comfort zone to deliver sustainable FM solutions are all significant contributors to our successful FM partnership.  

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