Politics, money, power and construction marketing: Understanding the interesections

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us capitol
Public sector work is a "horse of a different color" for marketing and business development
queens park ontario
the Ontario provincial legislature

Journalists thrive on stories that involve public policy confrontations, and debates and actions that lead to either legislated or court-mandated changes. These conversations can touch to the core of our industry and (more significantly to marketers) provide advantages or disadvantages to individual sectors or (in the most corrupt format) businesses. Things can take surprising turns. Often, the devil is in the deeply hidden details.

In two markets where I’ve been monitoring things closer than elsewhere, I’ve noticed how a coalition of industry groups co-operated to redraft the state’s rules on public/private partnership projects (the triple Ps), where government and private interests intersect. This story, which I will research and report on in North Carolina Construction News in the next week, shows the advantages of co-operation and cohesion — and mutual respect among different stakeholders and groups.

Two more contentious situations have arisen in Ontario. In one, subtrade contractors launched an expensive and (it seems) ultimately unsuccessful initiative to legislate prompt payment rules.The initiative seemed to be initially successful — with the introduction and initial approval of a rare private member’s bill — but when it came time to move the bill through the legislation, other interest groups spoke up and derailed the law. Now, the story will shift to possible amendments to the Construction Lien Act.

The second story relates to an initiative to create a self-regulatory organization for the skilled trades. In some respects, this seems like a good idea, but not everyone is happy and now the new institution will encounter its first really major test — the possible certification of general carpentry as a “compulsory trade” (requiring specific qualifications and tests, much like in most jurisdictions for plumbers and electricians.) I traced the story to an obscure “General Carpentry Trade Board” with eight members — four representing employers and four workers, at least one of who leads the province’s carpenter’s union organization. It seems the compulsory trade proponents waited until the employer representative became the board’s chair, then put forward their motion. The chair can only vote to break ties, resulting in a 4-3 vote in favour. The story continues.

Generally, these political battles are fought at the association and union level, rather than by individual businesses, so most business owners either accept the results, or dig into their pockets to fund relevant associations to advance their causes. Sometimes they set up ad-hoc coalitions. The smartest businesses bury little details in the draft legislation to create a win opportunity at the right time. If they are fortunate, they can even achieve something truly profitable — a legislated monopoly that overrides anti-combine or trust legislation or regulations.

You can view these challenges as a game. You can learn how to play by the rules, or you can set out to make the rules. (In rarer situations, you might even be able to create the game.) You might be playing with fire and a long-range strategy that could fail by moving things to the legislature or courts, but success in these areas may have far more impact on your  success than conventional business development and marketing initiatives. You can meld the two dynamics by engaging yourself with relevant client-focused associations and groups. I don’t think you will harm your business development/marketing initiatives by aligning with your clients in advocating for their interests and, if you engage with relevant client-based committees and groups, you’ll add to your relationship/connection power, and your ability to capture and retain new business.

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