Partnering – An Opportunity to Extend Your Reach
The focus of this article is strategic partnering for small A/E organizations to compete in the Government Services AE Sector. The right strategic partnership can transform your business, increasing visibility, credibility, and sales.
In the mid-1990’s, the landscape of Government A/E Services Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts changed. Many agencies, like the USACE and NAVFAC, moved toward larger IDIQ design contracts to attract consulting A/E’s with increased capacity and specialized design capabilities. The larger firms were capable of meeting the bulk of requirements with in-house services, making them more attractive. To counter this, Luckett & Farley (a much smaller “large firm”) sought strategic partnerships to fill ever-expanding capacity and specialized design service requirements for these opportunities. The Government sector also began to aggressively utilize the design-build method of acquisition about this same time. This opened a whole new world of opportunity and partnering scenarios for A/E organizations. Today, this area of Government A/E Services opens the door for many more opportunities. Our experience has taught us that there are several key considerations in successful partnerships. Here are some suggestions for A/E firms seeking partners for design IDIQ contracts. These could easily apply to Design-Builders seeking A/E and trade partners for their pursuits.
Find and create joint value --- When seeking Government A/E Services contracts you will need to demonstrate relevant expertise with a portfolio of prior experience and a previous working relationship with strategic partners. Successful and long-lasting partnerships are built on the core of one or more strong joint value propositions. When considering potential partners, first understand and articulate the extent of value the partnership provides to the customer. Next, evaluate what each company receives from the partnership and how these fit within each other’s overall strategy. Strive for a win-win partnership and avoid one-sided agreements. Balanced relationships tend to be much more important than legal contracts If you are seeking a team partner for a Joint Venture (JV), seek partners with complimentary services capabilities where they have best-in-class expertise. If you are simply pursuing an opportunity as a Prime, then you might want to round out your team with a cadre of specialized firms. Ideally, with either a JV or a specialized partner, you would demonstrate a prior working relationship.
You have to start to build this relationship somewhere, building a portfolio of prior partnership experience requires strategic planning. Looking for opportunities on existing projects to engage potential long-term partners in a meaningful way is one means of doing this. As partners that understand their joint value proposition, each will present their organization to potential customers in the best light and demonstrate what they jointly bring to the table. In this way, the customer sees the team as a cohesive unit operating in a unified manner to fulfill their needs and joint opportunities become more likely.
Build Respect - Partnering relationships between service providers in the Government Services sector can be viewed in much the same way as you might view a personal relationship. Partners need to get to know each other and develop mutual respect before more complex activities can be tackled successfully. Partners must have respect for each other’s individuality and trust in protecting each other’s interests. Each partner must be willing to share in up-front cost to secure the work. There must be mutual skin in the game. Conversely, each partner deserves to share equitably in the rewards of success.
Develop Trust - Without trust, the partnership will most likely fail. A respected partner deserves your trust. The trust in a partnering relationship can cover many areas. Be honest and transparent about expectations, similarities, and differences. You must each be able to trust that your partners are putting forth their best effort to achieve the goals of the team and that open communication is possible to ensure alignment. Your partner’s professionals are their assets that they willingly bring to the team. You partner because you bring different strengths to the team and trust is built by genuinely seeing differences as strengths, encouraging creative challenge, fostering diversity, and collaboration.
Luckett & Farley’s move to Strategic Partnering
At Luckett & Farley we determined that just having individual professionals with strong credentials would not be enough when our clients expected the best. To enhance our ability to compete, we began to seek out Partners with specialized expertise, similar goals, and corporate values and bring them onto the team on an as-need basis. Over time, we found ourselves going back to these expert consultants on a regular basis and developing long-term “partnering” relationships. Employing the Partnering Principles discussed above has allowed us to build the comprehensive team that allows us to compete for Government A/E Services that we might not otherwise be able to pursue.