One comment in particular that stuck in my mind was when Ben said that when he looked at all the other businesses with booths at the conference, he "didn't see competitors, he saw potential partners". It struck me that this was indeed an enlightened attitude and one likely to provide a greater chance of survival in a highly competitive market than simply trying to be the last man standing.
He went on to say that there are some things that they know that they do very well, but others things that others can do better. By sharing a project and partnering with someone who does a great job of the things that they do less well, they create win-win outcomes. The client wins because they get the best possible job in all areas by those best qualified to do them. The consultants each get at least a share of the work in those areas that they are best qualified to perform in and the reputation of the "team" is enhanced by the successful outcome, hopefully leading to further work.
To some extent the mining industry has imposed this type of partnering on consultants for some time. As a client I have, on several occasions, selected consultants to work on a study based on their excellence in a particular area of study and I see other study managers doing the same thing.
There are undoubtedly consultants, such as Wardell Armstrong who I represent in Australia, who have the capability to manage all aspects of a study having assembled a strong team with expertise in every area of a study. However, much of the work that Wardell undertakes represents only a portion of a particular study or project. That portion may be different for each particular study, for example for one study it could be the resource statement, another hydrogeology and others geotechnical, mining, metallurgical or environmental and social.
The point however, is that they have a mindset of partnering just as Ben was advocating. Of course in most instances they were only asked to quote on and undertake a particular portion of the work but they readily accept this as part of their business model.
In the short period of time that I have been associated with Wardell Armstrong they have demonstrated their preparedness to partner with other consultants and at short notice too.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine Dan O'Toole, Managing Director of Pitt & Sherry a Tasmanian-based multidisciplinary consultancy, contacted me to ask if Wardell Armstrong would be interested in partnering with them to submit a proposal for a portion of the work, on a project in Uzbekistan. For a variety of reasons the time frame for submission of the proposal was extremely short (five days).
Wardell quickly agreed to participate and completed the required input into the proposal within the allocated period.
Again it was the attitude shown by Dan that caught my attention. His approach was that whilst they could do much of the work, they recognised that the did not have the necessary skills in some areas but that Wardell did, and they also needed assistance with fieldwork and Wardell has an office in Almaty Kazakhstan, that could provide support for the project.
Dan's view was that it was better for them to have an opportunity to secure a part of a project rather than none at all. By partnering with Wardell Armstrong he gave his company a chance of securing work that otherwise they would have been unable to tender on.
I think that Dan's logic is impeccable and I believe that it is the way that businesses need to think and act into the future if they are to survive and prosper.
One is seeing the development of partnering occurring in many areas of industry and commerce. Only today Boeing announced a partnership with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) whereby 737’s built in the US will be assembled and painted in a Chinese factory. It appears that as part of the deal the Chinese will also be buying 300 Boeing aircraft worth $38bn. To my mind this shows an adaptation by Boeing to the shift in economic power around the globe and a strong desire to survive in an ever-changing market.
Meanwhile I note that the head of Boeing's largest union has criticised the move as has Donald Trump, saying that it will cost US jobs. I would strongly suggest that those two gentlemen have their heads in the past and are unable or unwilling to imagine the future and adapt accordingly. Far from costing US jobs it is, at least in my opinion, a strategy most likely to ensure that Boeing and the jobs that it provides are secured into the future.
So the next time that you run into someone in the same business as yourself, don't see a competitor and try to make a hasty retreat, but see a potential partner and spend time getting to know them and the skills that they might bring to a partnership.
DRA Global: http://draglobal.com/
Wardell Armstrong: http://www.wardell-armstrong.com/
Pitt & Sherry: http://www.pittsh.com.au/
Boeing Story: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34344067