Really, the game is stacked (and you win, ethically, by getting the work right)

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algonquin project
The Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Centre and Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship (IELCIIE) at Ottawa's Algonquin College is being designed and built through "single source" contracts

In the previous blog post, I reported on a project where a $44.9 million project had been “single-sourced” to an architect and contractor.

The story gets more interesting for anyone concerned with AEC marketing upon a bit of research and you can see the resulting Ottawa Construction News article here describing the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Centre and Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship (IELCIIE) project at the local Algonquin community college.

College staff corrected me when I originally interpreted the project as a “sole-source” contract.  No, they said.

Sole sourcing is typically referred to when a selected vendor is THE ONLY (his emphasis) vendor that could provide a particular service or product. Single source is typically used when a specific vendor is selected to provide a service that could also be provided by others.

In other words, there were others could quite well have done the work, but the college picked — without any competitive process — which contractor and architect/designer to use.

Now, this is about the most public of public sector projects you can imagine.  It is funded largely with federal infrastructure funds. This is a public, not a private, college (The college used its own reserves and a small provincial government contribution to complete the funding picture. Colleges in Canada are constitutionally regulated and primarily funded by provincial governments, so much of the funds from the college’s own budget would have originated provincially.)

Second, although undoubtedly there was some urgency in procuring the work, and there is no suggestion of any unethical behaviour, the college indeed handed the work on a silver platter to its chosen contractor and (interestingly) two architectural firms in a joint venture. The architectural joint venture had worked together on one building, and the general contractor on another. In this case, in other words, the design and construction team for the fast-track project was assembled by the client, not the result of a joint proposal or some sort of outbound marketing initiative.

college groundbreaking
Official Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Algonquin College Innovation, Entrepreneurship And Learning Centre and Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship
Oct 12, 2016 (PHOTO: Jana Chytilova)

Think about it. You are sitting in your office, and the local college out of the blue calls you and says something like this: “We want you to prepare a proposal for a major building. You are the only architects (or contractor) we are inviting to make the proposal. Of course, be fair in your pricing — we reserve the right to decline it if you are out of line.”

How would you feel?

I think this is like hitting a marketing and business development home run — a major public project, without competition, which will convert to revenue quickly, and without a cent of pre-marketing effort.

(And I imagine how it will feel in the offices of the also-ran organizations who were teamed with the respective architects and contractors in previous jobs.)

The secret sauce here: The college’s facilities management staff enjoyed working with the AEC organizations they selected to work on the new job. They were satisfied 100 per cent with their handling of the previous assignments and they had confidence the team would get it right on the new job, with fair pricing and reliable service delivery.

I think this example clearly validates the importance of focusing your marketing initiatives on your client experience and satisfaction on your current projects.

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