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Compete to Win

17 September 2008

As the construction of facilities for London 2012 begins, the service providers of all sizes have the opportunity to bid for the business opportunities arise. Lucy Jeynes explains how this project is a real opportunity for the FM sector to take part

NOW THAT THE 2008 OLYMPICS IN CHINA ARE FINISHED, it brings home to us that the London Games
are now a mere four years away. The concepts and ideas are crystallising into realities, the visuals and
‘artist’s impressions’ are starting to rise from their foundations, in a part of the city that appeared to have been abandoned for good.

Since I wrote my first article on the Olympics, focusing on the procurement policies (PFM July 2007 Everyone’s Olympics) two significant things have happened.

Firstly, the political climate in London. Much of the thrust of the bid, with its emphasis on business benefits, particularly for small and medium sized enterprises and minority-led companies was driven by the previous Mayor Ken Livingstone and his influential equal opportunities advisor Lee Jasper. Livingstone and Jasper are now long gone from City Hall and the new Mayor, Boris Johnson, from the other side of the House has so far tended to emphasise cost control when the topic of the Olympics crops up.

The second change is the economic climate. We see daily in the news now about job losses in the construction sector. The London 2012 Olympic Games is, however, one project that won’t be going onto the back burner with the market and the government changes.

The Circus is coming to town, and there are all sorts of ways to get a piece of the action. The two high-profile organisations at the top of the Olympic tree are the Olympic Delivery Agency (ODA) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). Universally referred to in their abbreviated forms, the ODA is responsible for the development of the Olympic Park whilst LOCOG is responsible for the running of the Games themselves.

Most of LOCOG’s funding comes from sponsorship deals and commercial tie-ins, with the internationally recognised brands such as Coca-Cola featuring large on the list. The ODA and its supply chain is the area of opportunity for those of us operating with a turnover of below £250m or so, and is the element of the Games that is funded from public coffers.

The ODA in delivering the Olympic Park has stated that it intends to be a ‘smart and thin client’. In plain English this means that the ODA will not place all of the contracts in its own right, but will operate a sophisticated tiered supply chain with only a relatively small number of direct first-tier suppliers. It has a particular philosophy about how this supply chain will work, stated at length in its procurement policy.

The policy is designed to achieve significant business and legacy benefits and is based upon the learning of previous successful initiatives, both from the Games in Atlanta, Athens and Sydney and also from closer to home. The procurement policy states that beyond the obvious factors of time and cost, quality and
functionality, other important issues must also be taken into consideration for all contracts involving ODA spend. These are safety and security; equality and inclusion; environment and legacy. They state that procurement will be transparent, fair and open to diverse suppliers such as SME’s and black, Asian and minority ethnic enterprises.

My team and I have been running workshops for various business support agencies to help smaller firms gear up. When I talk about these procurement aims there is ‘wry laughter’ and a comment that goes
something like “we’ve heard this kind of thing below, but the same big firms get all the contracts, they’ve already got their suppliers in place and guys like us won’t get a look in. It’s the same old story”. I’m very pleased to report that the same-oldstory is changing and here’s how.

The ODA has developed a dual way to convert its aims into actions – starting with placing an obligation on the whole of its supply chain (not just its direct-tier suppliers) to follow the aims of its procurement policy. And not just with ‘motherhood and apple-pie’ statements that has so often been the way in the past. There is a specific obligation, cascading through the supply chain to create and open up opportunities and go
beyond existing suppliers and partners. Every firm in the chain is expected to demonstrate its compliance with these obligations. Unlike some previous initiatives where the demonstration of compliance might be trickery, word-play and the manipulation of a few statistics as much as anything else, this time around there’s a specific process, a mechanism to be used: the Compete For System.

Compete For is the product of deep and smart thinking and is likely to be the first of many such initiatives across the public and indeed commercial sectors in the future. It’s a ‘supplier matching system’, essentially like on-line dating for business. If you are interested in selling your goods or services into the undeniably gigantic Olympic spend, you complete an online profile and register for e-mail alerts via the ‘supplier activity centre’. The system will match opportunities to your profile. You can also look at other opportunities advertised – useful for the first few weeks (you can always adjust your search and can also adjust your information at any time) in case you decide you need to tweak your search profile.

Companies in the ODA supply chain can use the system to demonstrate that they are indeed complying with their obligation to open up their supply chain (commonly with a designated £% attached to this contractual clause). The beauty of the system is that buyers select their criteria and the database brings up matches in order of ‘score’ (how closely suppliers meet the stated criteria). At this stage the suppliers aren’t
identified by name. The buyer can deselect companies before any further information is required saving time and effort for both supplier and buyer. The de-selection process is carefully managed to ensure a fair and equitable process.

So just how seriously are the big firms taking these contractual obligations? Actually they’ve realised that now it’s for real – and also there’s a more sophisticated understanding these days that corporate social responsibility could start right here on the doorstep. The CLM construction consortium with overall responsibility for building the Olympic Park has appointed Ruth Brothwell to head up its engagement with smaller suppliers. Ruth is a serious player in this field, having previously headed the LDA funded Supply
London programme for several years. This programme helped thousands of London SME’s and BAME's become ‘fit to supply’ and has matched millions of pounds-worth of spend from the GLA group (Greater London Authority, Transport for London, The Metropolitan Police, The London Fire Brigade, London Development Agency) with new, small suppliers.

Supply London is just one of several programmes that are confounding the cynics who delight in saying that ‘something like that could never work’. Things like this are working already! Another great example is the iCam Supply Initiative. Started by the London Borough of Camden to ensure that local suppliers got a look-in on the Arsenal redevelopment (using in that case Section 106 planning obligations to ensure the creation of these opportunities), it is now a joint programme with LB Islington working to create opportunities for local suppliers in the King’s Cross central redevelopment which will include, amongst other things, a redevelopment of the Station, a new campus for the University of the Arts (including Central St. Martin’s College of Art) and a new HQ building for Sainsbury’s. In the past two and a half years, iCam Supply has helped the local companies it works with win over £15m of business via over 400 tenders.

So, Compete For and its Olympic opportunities are potentially too significant to dismiss. For many companies who already have good links with the firms further up the supply chain, this database can bring additional opportunities from other firms you don’t know so well. For companies who want to get a foot on the bottom of the ladder of that multi-billion pound spend, this is exactly the place to start. The first step it to make sure you are ‘fit to supply’.

This means you need to have the appropriate insurances in place to demonstrate your company

● has suitable policies in operation for health & safety, quality, equal opportunities and environment and sustainability;

● has financial standing appropriate to the size of the contract;

● and finally, obviously, the appropriate skills and experience and can evidence this with references.

Once you are ready to register, be prepared to donate a couple of hours to doing this properly and completing the process. Not the most exciting morning you’ll spend, but essential as companies who haven’t completed their registration will not be considered for contract opportunities.

The organisations advertising their opportunities on the Compete For system so far include, as you would expect, the ODA, LOCOG, the London Development Agency, the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority and a number of other publicly funded outfits. However, these opportunities are already outnumbered by those from the (principally so far) construction firms including Balfour Beatty; Edmund Nuttall; McNicholas; O’Keefe; Skanska and Sir Robert McAlpine. Firms like PCubed and LLynch plant hire on the next step down the supply chain are also advertising too.

What sort of opportunities are coming up? Obvious contracts such as demolition and site clearance, aggregates, scaffolding and iron pipe have, of course, featured. But at least half the opportunities are not specifically construction related and include, for example, occupational health; delivery of daily papers, film production and outreach advise. Given that it’s free of charge, it’s therefore worth any size or type of business registering if you’re interested in being a part of the London Olympic, however small.

We often like to say that FM is never considered until the last minute, and there’s likely a suspicion that the Olympics will be no exception. Those of us that haven’t yet registered for Compete For have already missed out on contracts for engineering project management; supply and installation of handdrivers; air-con servicing and maintenance; and catering and two office cleaning contracts. Some of these are small contracts (often as this stage, to site offices) that can be the ideal first opportunity for a smaller firm to have a “first date” with one of the bigger players. The smallest opportunity I’ve spotted so far has been for the supply and servicing of one sanitary bin.

If you’re based outside London, it’s still worth registering as the database will later contain opportunities in support of the team training camps and practice venues that will be spread across the UK. In the Midlands where I’m based, 20 such facilities have already been earmarked for this. Later, as the buildings go
up, will begin the advertising of the operating FM contracts both for the period of the Games and for the
‘legacy’ period afterwards. Many of these contacts will be tendered and placed in the usual way – but only a proportion. Those most suitable for medium sized to smaller firms will be advertised on the Compete For

Register for Compete For
news about the Olympic Park
registration for Compete For
Supply London programme
iCam Supply
(Everyone’s Olympics – Lucy Jeynes July 2007)
(Start Running Now – Paul Forrest Oct 2006)

● Lucy Jeynes is Managing Director of Larch Consulting, She has been helping companies large and small train up to become fit to supply the Olympics:

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