Business Mirror reported online yesterday that the Philippines was going to allow foreigners to build infrastructure projects worth at least $1 billion, as the country doubles its spending on roads, ports and bridges.
Given the country’s committed infrastructure investment target of P404 billion (US$9.2 billion) for this year, increasing to P824 billion – or 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) – in 2016, there is little doubt that this provides a fantastic opportunity to Australian companies.
There is also little doubt that this situation should provide significant work opportunities for Australian-based law firm major projects and infrastructure teams. So what should these teams be doing now to try and capitalise on this opportunity?
First of all, the business development manager of your major projects team needs to team up with your library/knowledge team to ascertain exactly what projects are in the pipeline. A good starting place would be the Philippines Department of Public Works and Highways website.
Once you have determined what projects are in the pipeline, you then need to try and ascertain the project delivery model that is being looked at. For example, is the government trying to use a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model (currently in vogue across the region)? Or, is a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT, BOT or BOO) platform more likely?
Having determined the project and the likely delivery method, next you need to see if you have the relevant expertise in the firm. If you do, the question you need to ask is which side of the deal transaction this experience comes from – government or private contractor?
All of this information should help the firm decide if they are going to target this work and, assuming it is, who the firm is going to target (and keep in mind that some may try and target both sides).
So now we know the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ and also the fact that we want in. Next step action is to profile the expertise and experience of the individuals and firm – and to alert the relevant targets, where we feel comfortable that we can, that we want in on the deal.
Keep in mind that projects of this size can be massive and it is highly likely you are going to need to profile more than one expert.
Profiling actions here need to be in thought leadership and marketing. So if you want to be in on the deal, you will need to get your lawyers writing great blog posts, tweeting information, writing articles for publications (preferably in local publications), attending seminars and industry events and presenting at seminars and industry events.
You may also need to do a little thinking outside the box here – as it is highly likely that a lot of law firms will be trying to profile in the same space (most likely using newsletters that will not entail them having to leave their desk, let alone the state or country!). By way of example: one law firm that was targeting PPP work in South East Asia gave a presentation to the relevant country’s government on how PPPs could be structured locally. Another worked with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBICI) on best practice funding arrangements that could be taken to governments, investors and project developers.
What is worth noting is that most, if not all, of this positioning work will not be billable – so a business development commitment from both the team involved (partners, lawyers, etc) and their overseers (practice group heads, managing partner, finance team, etc) will be crucial.
In the meantime, the Marketing team need to be working with Design to come up with lovely brochures and collateral that the lawyers can handout as and when appropriate.
Next, your team should be building relationships with key players and influencers at the targets. This means sending the ‘STATOY’ (Saw This And Thought Of You) emails whenever something interesting around the project is in the press. It means scheduling weekly, monthly telephone calls. Whatever it is that needs to be done in order to get the relationships in place and build on them, do it!
Finally, schedule meetings with your core project teams. Make sure these meetings occur more often the closer you get to the project kick-off time.
And always stay on top of what is going on – because you don’t want to invest all of this time and effort on this business development effort only for the RFT (Request for Tender) to sit in the contact partner’s email in-box while s/he is away on holiday and to miss the opportunity.
And for those of you who go for it, happy hunting!