10 Top Tips for Contract Mobilization in Developing Countries

A poor Facilities Management (FM) contract mobilization is a failure from which an organisation might never recover.  In emerging markets, where concepts and knowledge of FM are immature or non-existent, the risk is all the greater.

Earlier this month, KEY convened a roundtable of its international FM team to share learnings.  The conversation gave rise to 10 Top Tips on how to get things right first time:


1. Go there (and be prepared!)

Throwing yourself in at the deep end is the best way of gaining the requisite understanding of your new market and potential partners.  Be warned though: the initial visit can be a culture shock, particularly in regions which are unstable or rife with corruption.  Our FMs spoke of situations where they were met by armed guards at the airport, who remained their escorts throughout their travels.


2. Gain understanding of the local culture

From tribal and religious associations through to the finer detail of etiquette and body language, our FMs cited where cultural insensitivity could have caused serious management issues.  An early grasp of the cultural context was considered vital for ensuring successful relationships, services, and implementation of equality and diversity policies.


3. Found partnerships on trust and transparency

In countries with little or no knowledge of FM, assessing partner potential is only achieved effectively face-to-face.  People have confidence in people, and first impressions matter.

They need to see an organisation which is open and with whom they want to work.  Look them straight in the eye.  Listen and watch body language carefully.  Do they have the level of professionality expected by corporate clients?  Are they honest about their business and weaknesses?  Are they a know-it-all or do they have the hunger to improve and see you as the opportunity to do it?


4. Do meticulous (and helpful) due diligence

Executed properly, due diligence involves a lot of information (touched upon in the figure below).  Nevertheless, when it comes to successful mobilisation, both God and the Devil are in the detail.

Nowhere is this more important than in partner evaluation.  You need to be certain they’re ethical, financially-savvy, EHS compliant and capable of delivering to corporate standards from the off.  Frequently, small organisations have just been doing what they do, with little interest in the formal process.  Due diligence represents an opportunity to help them organise better and develop their own Standard Operating Procedures, and for relationship building.

5. Get fully-up-to-speed with local regulations

Local regulations in developing markets often entail eccentric stipulations and inspections.  To avoid unpleasant surprises and a costly loss of reputation, be sure you have a thorough understanding of all policy and employment law relevant to your operations.


8. Explain and demonstrate what FM value means

Building confidence and collaboration with the local customer is vital, notably, if you are assuming responsibility for pre-existing supplier contracts.  This isn’t always easy.  Often they will perceive FM outsourcing as a loss of operational control and believe things can be done better and more cheaply their way.  Dealing with this requires a convincing service delivery model upfront, which shows how you will ensure compliance, cost saving, and create value through measurement and innovation.  More important still is to demonstrate a commitment to working together with them to ensure it works as they want it to.


7. Prepare excellent Communication and Governance Plans

Of all the documents involved in mobilisation, these are paramount. Ultimately, your success hinges on communication at every step, and the quality of your Service Level Agreements and performance measurement. Your customer will expect continuous information on progress and this is a great way to educate them on the value FM represents and brings to their organisation.


9. Understand the challenge and opportunity of TUPE

Local contracts often require TUPE, or the transfer of customer employees to your own business.  They may see their move from a prestigious international corporation into FM as a compulsory step down.  You need to be sensitive to their needs, understand their strengths and then find them new purpose.  Show them how they will become better within your business.

However, get the transition right and it’s a win-win for both of you.  TUPE staff often understand and care for the customer better than any supplier could.  There are many instances where KEY staff have seized the new opportunity to learn and have rapidly progressed their careers within the business, to become key individuals within the business.


6. Implement a thorough Action Plan

When it’s time for kick-off, getting off on the right foot is everything.  A lot of things have to be mobilised simultaneously: key staff and team, suppliers and service lines, equipment, processes and procedures.  If you’ve thought through the detail of every action, everything should work like clockwork and you’ll be free to deal with the unexpected should it occur.


10. Pay very close attention to performance at the outset

With any new enterprise, things are most likely to go wrong in the early stages.  You need to know the moment they do, and to take remedial action quickly and appropriately.  It is therefore essential you prepare and maintain a comprehensive set of performance measures.


We hope you’ll find these Top 10 tips useful.  Remember: if you fail your new customer, the likelihood is they’re only going to understand this later on down the line.  By that time it will take you twice as long to turn things back round, as it would have done to mobilise right first time.  Good luck!


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