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Five Minutes With…Nigel Cope, Co-Founder & CEO, COINS

Five Minutes With…Nigel Cope, Co-Founder & CEO, COINS

The use of information technology within the construction industry is changing rapidly, says Cope.

In a nutshell, what does COINS do?

Construction Industry Solutions (“COINS”) is a market leading, global supplier of software solutions to the entire spectrum of construction, real estate and allied industries.

With construction industry in the UAE estimated to grow strongly this year, do you see your business growing too?

COINS has shown strong growth over the last three years internationally, as well as here in the UAE. In the last three years of trading, international turnover has increased by 65 per cent and now accounts for over half of the company revenues, resulting in our winning the 2014 Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade category.

What is your company focusing on this year?

We believe that the use of information technology within the construction industry is changing rapidly driven by an acceptance that strong commercial and project control is required for the contracts that are being carried out. A construction company can no longer rely on a generic finance system, where data is often late and inaccurate. We see a move towards the Cloud, whereby construction companies only need an Internet connection to use a system, rather than have to concern themselves with server infrastructure, security and resource investment.

We see that the adoption of Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) will continue to gain momentum and be used in all phases of a project. We see that interoperability between systems – such as client, planning and collaboration systems – will continue to be vitally important.

The days when people have to visit their offices to collect data or participate in business processes are coming to an end with the increasing general use of mobile devices, such as smart-phones and tablets, giving people access to information anytime, anywhere. This is another clear focus area for COINS and we are investing significantly in our mobile offerings.

What new products will your company launch this year?

COINS will continue to add functionally to its main product offering, COINS Open Architecture (abbreviated to “COINS OA”) as well as localisation and supporting legislative changes. For example, we are about to announce our ‘next generation’ HR & Payroll and FM & Service modules. We continue to look to grow our product offering, organically and by acquisition, where we see synergy and where the new product offers value to our customers and to the construction industry generally.

Will you be expanding into new territory?

COINS is in the process of establishing an office in Qatar and will open other offices in the region where required.

Was your firm badly affected during the crash in Dubai market during 2009? If yes, what strategy helped the company recover?

A number of our international customers had been using COINS in the region for several years prior to 2009. I know that they were badly hit, like every company has been. I first visited Dubai in 2008, around the time of the crash, and became a regular visitor because we sensed that companies could be encouraged to make investments in software like COINS to enable them to become more effective, efficient and streamlined coming out of the recession. COINS has had a permanent presence in the UAE for less than three years, so we were not as exposed as some other businesses. COINS is a very resilient business, with half our revenues coming from annual licence fees. This is very important for our customers, as it means that we are well protected from economic swings.

What are the biggest challenges for UAE businesses in your sector?

Probably the biggest challenge facing the construction IT sector is the construction industry itself! When things are slow, investment in IT tends to be very considered, and people buy on price rather than value. People generally tend to be able to get their heads around investing in recruitment or plant and machinery, but they struggle when it comes to spending the right amount for the right software. Then of course, when the market is buoyant, companies are often too busy building to look at improving their processes and systems.

What are some of the obstacles that construction software firms such as COINS face in the GCC?

I think what I have just said above applies throughout the GCC. We have learnt a lot about the GCC construction market in a relatively short time. Listening and reacting positively to the needs of the market is absolutely critical. The labour force employed by contractors in the GCC tend to be large and therefore having a very strong construction specific Human Resources & Payroll package as part of the offering is very important, as is having robust commercial and project management solutions, in addition to procurement and finance.

Will you be hiring this year?

Yes, later in the year.

What’s your leadership style?

Well, that’s interesting because I’ve never really analysed my leadership style. My son Patrick, who works at COINS Middle East, says I’m a paternal leader – hardly surprising, I suppose! I’m definitely more democratic and supporting, than autocratic and controlling. I once read that a transformational leader is someone with integrity and high emotional intelligence, someone who motivates people with a shared vision of the future, and who is typically self-aware, authentic, empathetic and humble. People tell me I have those qualities.

What makes the perfect employee?

There is no substitute for intelligence and hard work. First and foremost the perfect employee has a passion for improvement, for team play and for delivering value to customers. Beyond this, I like employees who engage holistically with everything we do, including the activities of the COINS Foundation.

Define success in five words…

Three words: Exceeding stakeholder expectations!

By “stakeholders” I mean shareholders, customers, employees, partners and the communities in which we operate.

Three tips for becoming the boss…

From a very early age, I was encouraged to set up my own business by my father (who was a farmer in the UK), so it was something I always knew I would do. People sometimes seem to be lucky in getting the right breaks, but if you work hard, with integrity and keeping your wits about you, you generate your own luck. If you have a dream or a mission, I would encourage you to follow it; if you don’t, it won’t happen.

When I’m not at work I like to…

Work!! Seriously, I am always “on duty”, as it were, but I do love to spend time with family and friends. And I’m a fan of most sports, particularly football, rugby and cricket.

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