I am a civil engineer who’s thinking of leaving my job in a construction company to try private contracting. Can you suggest how I can develop the network to succeed in this business? How do I participate in bids in, for example, the Department of Public Works? Privately, I have built three structures: the first is my own home; another for a friend, and a third for a sister’s grocery store.
First of all, you have to form and register your own company. It does not matter if it’s a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. The important thing is to have a legal personality that will enable you to participate in biddings and enter institutional markets for the construction business.
Many big institutions–public and private–have their own contractor accreditation schemes. Request for an appointment with the heads of bidding committees and ask how you might be able to break in. Usually, they would require you to submit your own portfolio of accomplished construction projects. Better if you have pictures to show. Best of all, the edifices you’ve built–no matter how few–should be able to stand close scrutiny, as they now stand.
How are you as a networker? It seems to me that aggressive and patient networking is the way to go for “struggling” contractors. Of course, putting up a network is not a simple as it sounds. You have to patiently, constantly, and deliberately meet people and approach institutions. It means developing contacts that would lead you to more contacts.
The obvious starting place for networking is your own social circle. Start with your community. If it is a growing village or barangay, so much the better. Are you active in your homeowners association? What about civic associations like the Jaycees or the Rotarians? Are you with religious communities like Couples for Christ and Marriage Encounter? Members of the Iglesia ni Kristo church, for example, are well known for taking care of their own.
While you’re at it, start tracing your school chums, your fraternity brothers, your barkada (gang) during your heydays. They have grown up, like you, with their own families, affiliations and networks. Join reunions. If you are not yet with a group, consider joining some, the better to disseminate your business card and reputation around. It will also help to join contractor’s associations. Make the acquaintance of your local government executives; look for a go-between. In the Philippines, the “padrino” (patron) system still works, you know. Subtly ask for chance to be of help in the infrastructure projects the LGU is undertaking for the community. Then build up the relationship. Find bridges to your mayor, your municipal/city engineer. All of these can be wellsprings of prospective construction projects.
There is a Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) as well as a Philippine Constructors Association (PCA). Consider signing in as a member so you can learn from the pros and avail of training and other business development programs they may have for members.