Building contractor relationships

Comdain Infrastructure has secured a contract opportunity with Victorian gas distributor Multinet Gas, as one of the company’s preferred suppliers of operational and maintenance services on the network for the next five years, with the option of a three-year extension.

Comdain Chief Operating Officer Peter Coen shares with Gas Today the company’s tips for securing contracts and negotiating the contractor/asset owner relationship.

The tender process

Comdain was selected as preferred service provider for one of Multinet Gas’ two regions after a comprehensive, competitive market tender process.

“Multinet Gas commenced with an expressions of interest process in mid-2011. Five organisations were shortlisted and invited to participate in the Request for Proposal (RFP) phase,” says Mr Coen.

“The RFP required us to answer very specific criteria of questions on proposed methodology and business practises, as well as detailed unitised pricing and the formulation of a five-year budget. Through this phase, the Multinet Gas team assessed our collaborative nature in a number of interviews.”

Following six months of various assessment stages, where the tenders were finally whittled down again to only two organisations, Comdain emerged as one of Multinet Gas’ preferred suppliers.

Mr Coen notes that the process can be long, and that each step needs to be undertaken in great detail to ensure that both parties are informed of their responsibilities and duties under the contract.

The up-side of this, however, is the process of unearthing the opportunities that exist for increased performance and delivery of cost savings. Mr Coen says that a company that can demonstrate value-adding experience and a comprehensive skill set to the asset owner throughout the process is at a distinct advantage.

Walk the walk

Mr Coen strongly believes that Comdain successfully obtained the contract because it was able to demonstrate vision and value in alignment with that of Multinet Gas, and work collaboratively with the Multinet Gas team.

“Our practical objectives are quite different, but our underlying business approach and vision and ethos are quite similar and you can’t create that. It’s not artificial – you can’t just turn that on like a tap,” says Mr Coen.

“We are very much a relationship-based business that operates on a high level of communication with our clients and stakeholders.”

Planning and a focus on a strong core team were also factors in Comdain’s success, as opposed to focusing the company’s efforts on non-core opportunities, jumping from one opportunity to the next, and re-inventing themselves for each new client – a trap that Mr Coen says many contractors can fall into.

“We have a dedicated development team that allows us to monitor opportunities and to provide as much market data available as possible to our operational general managers. But it is our operational and delivery staff that are the real quality in any of our bids,” he says.

“When our people are in front of clients like Multinet Gas, they can see that there is genuine substance about who we are and what we can do for them.

“Because of our long heritage and stable environment, we have a good depth of senior people allowing us to manage succession planning in the organisation, which of course means that our middle management have senior mentors to impart a wealth of knowledge and customer service.”

Forging alliances for large tenders

Comdain also has, and will continue to, partner with organisations to co-tender for various opportunities. Introducing another company and another relationship to manage can make everyday business convoluted. However, when setting partnership criteria themselves, Mr Coen says that Comdain assesses any other partnership opportunity in the same way, by making sure the companies have a base of shared ideology to build on, which ensures everyone works toward the same objectives.

“We are only after partners who are of a similar mindset to ourselves, who have a similar ideology and philosophy to business. It has been proven a number of times that companies with opposing business philosophies who attempt to work within relationship-based contracts are disasters waiting to happen.”

Comdain will officially begin work with Multinet Gas in mid-2013.

For more information about Comdain Infrastructure, visit www.comdaininfrastructure.com.au

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