Teams and personal service win out

One of the most intriguing aspects of the 9/11 events, from a management perspective, may have to be the renewed interest in partnerships and the trust factor associated with them. There is no other industry where this is more important than those relationships that deal with the government.

Trusted partnerships are in vogue and with good reason. Unless a business relationship is built upon trust, it is almost always destined to fail. Though it may seem that all government related contracts are rooted in dollars and cents, effort needs to be made to maintain the relationship and translate the initial contract into many more.

This is based upon common sense: you have to trust those with whom you do business, for a variety of reasons. There is the financial aspect—you need to know that you will get paid and that your company will get what it pays for. This is nothing new, at least to those with basic business knowledge.

The other side of the fence is that businesses, like the government, need to trust those who come in to work in their facilities, and thus gain access to sometimes secure areas. For instance, an electrical or mechanical contractor would most likely be given schematics illustrating entire buildings and the systems contained within. This is sensitive information, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. Because of potential security risks, organizations that give out vital information need to be completely comfortable with those to whom they release such documents.

Two classes

Another interesting aspect to government work is that there are two distinct classes in which a company would fall. There are prime contractors and subcontractors. Often, “large” companies end up being subcontractors since many government contracts are massive in size and go to major players such as SAIC and Unisys. Contracts with this type of pull and power are generally multimillion dollar, multiyear boons.

Because of this, companies that are accustomed to being considered prime contractors in their respective fields end up being subs to these mega-organizations. Therefore, they need to understand the importance of trusted partnerships and how to operate when in one.

If you luck into being designated as a prime, you had better make sure that you employ all available methods of selectively choosing your subs, since it is your reputation at stake. This reinforces the sentiment that you should be in business with organizations that you believe in and share similar goals and philosophies.

Team approach

Another method to establishing a relationship with a government agency is the team approach. This is when two or more companies join forces and present themselves as a unified front to a potential client. By promoting each other’s strengths, the team usually comes across as a strong competitor, mainly by ditching the notion that one company can be all things equally.

Though this option may not always work, the logic and reasoning behind it is something that everyone can draw upon. In fact, many take the “teaming” definition one step further and consider their relationship—even when it is a typical government/contractor one—and tweak it so that the two entities work together toward a common goal. Many of the feature profiles in this magazine focus on the team approach electrical contractors take to businesses in all types of vertical markets.

Procurement is just the beginning

Some may think that this sounds like a lot of talk and little action, but the government should be viewed as any other business, one that has limitless potential for future business, if managed properly.

Understanding the procurement and selection process involves some legwork. Many may feel that just submitting a bid on a project is enough, and that may be the case on occasion, but to truly delve into the government-contracting world requires more business savvy than that.

Who has not heard of or experienced butchers who knew how you liked your meat cut and pharmacists who knew the names and birthdays of your entire family? Such things are now considered a luxury, but they used to be commonplace, what many just simply called good business. Perhaps this resurgence of interest will bring this idea back to the forefront, where it should be. EC