Working in Turkey

4 min read

Twenty five years ago, Turkey’s primary export was textiles and more than a third of all of its exports were sold directly to Germany. 

Today, the country has transformed its economic outlook, becoming a leading exporter in a range of services – including construction. Less than 10% of its exports go to Germany and despite a huge growth in the sector itself, textiles now represent less than 20% of all exports. 

Part of that expansion and diversification has come from construction, Regionally, Turkish construction companies deliver a huge number of strategic construction projects – particularly in Iraq, were Turkish construction firms represented 74% of the sector in 2013.

I have spent much of my career working in international construction, from Russia to the Middle East and now in Turkey. As the regional construction hub for much of the Middle East, the Turkish construction sector is an attractive market for UK consultancies to enter – but one that brings its own challenges. 

Mace moved into Turkey in 2010, part of our wider international expansion plans that now see our 6,000 staff deliver construction and consultancy in more than 40 countries across the world. 

Following several years of political uncertainty, Turkey’s construction sector is currently in a state of flux, with some sectors – such as hospitality and hotels – beginning to grow again, while others, such as residential, are suffering from oversupply. 

International investor confidence is beginning to build again, albeit slowly, and soon we could see some new development and investment. With that in mind, some companies may be considering a new entry into the Turkish market. I’ve outlined five key things to be aware of below:

It’s a fast moving market

In some regions, clients can be very cautious about moving forward with projects until all of the funding and design is in place. In Turkey, the opposite is true – clients and contractors want to move quickly, and are often prepared to push forward with projects when the design is not yet finalised and funding may not be certain.

As a consultant moving into the market, you need to be conscious of this, both in how you pitch yourself and in how you work with other partners and clients. You need to be able to work in a more fast-paced environment and with less certainty than you might be used to in the UK, Europe or elsewhere. 

Local clients know what they want 

Due to the huge expansion of Turkey’s construction sector, many of the local development clients are often either directly involved in the construction sector outside of Turkey or are local contracting companies themselves. 

As a result – when compared to other MENA construction sectors – they are a very educated client base, with high expectations around technical services and delivery. They often use international expertise only when they have to – if they are moving into a new sector or building something that requires technical skills they haven’t yet had to develop. 

Highly capable local supply chain

The mature construction sector in Turkey also means that there is a highly developed local supply chain, with a great pool of available resources and companies that are used to building projects quickly and to a very high quality. 

Although this is obviously a benefit for project delivery, it also makes it harder to stand out when offering project and cost management solutions to the market. International norms around quality and delivery are already being met in Turkey, and so it can be much harder to distinguish your services against local companies. 

A straight forward place to do business 

Unlike some other markets in the region, there are few concerns in Turkey around payment or the reliability of contracts. Although people tend to drive a very hard bargain, once contracts are signed and projects are running, I have faced few issues securing agreed payments. 

Although public sector contracts are not hugely accessible to international companies – partially due to the very developed local contractor market – it is possible to work with local partners to secure major public sector programmes and projects. 

Global appeal

Beyond the experienced local client base, much of the available work is driven by global firms who use Turkey – and specifically Istanbul – as a regional corporate hub. 

Regardless of the wider economic movements in Turkey, many global firms will always need a base in Istanbul, and so provide a reliable real estate market that is cushioned again other issues. 

Those clients are looking for third party international consultants to bridge the gap between their requirements – around things like governance, reporting, cost management – and local ‘on the ground’ delivery. 

By providing them with a direct link to local, experienced resources and an international outlook that can work across borders, there is huge potential for international consultancies to help deliver projects. 
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