Getting involved with industry associations and other helpful organisations is a great starting point for building government business networks and getting found.
One of the questions that we at Mia hear most frequently from our SME clients is: “How do I get found by Government, or by larger companies doing business with Government?”
There are of course many ways to do this and we’ve written plenty of posts about how to differentiate and raise the profile of your business through bids, proposals and direct engagement. But there are plenty of indirect methods as well, none less effective than that tried and tested activity of business networking.
So how do you grow your government business networks?
One of the first things we recommend is to leverage the networks and influencing organisations that are already part of your industry sector.
There are many industry associations, for example, that have been formed with the specific aim of supporting companies in their sector. They also work to represent the interests of your sector (and thus your company) to Government.
Being a member of these industry associations can provide you with valuable opportunities to network at events that the organisation has designed to assist their members engage with Government. Further, the more active the role you play with this association, the greater the visibility for your company and the greater opportunity to meet and engage with the people in Government who you need to know and who need to know you.
Examples of these associations include the Master Builders Association and the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).
Many industry associations also hold annual conferences that bring together suppliers and clients in their sector. These provide an avenue to understand future opportunities and to showcase your capability and point of view in a way that can help you stand out.
Similarly, there are commercial conference organisers that provide similar opportunities. An example is the upcoming Victorian Major Projects Conference (4 and 5 September), where government agencies will be briefing participants on a wide range of infrastructure projects and priorities that will need private sector involvement.
There is also a range of other bodies that provide valuable opportunities to meet senior government representatives (and their colleagues) in informal environments. These bodies generally hold functions, such as lunchtime or breakfast briefings, that are a great way to learn about government priorities and policies, as well as grow government business networks. Such bodies include the Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA) and the Trans-Tasman Business Council. In addition, many local governments have their own business associations that provide similar events and opportunities.
Industry Capability Network
With a focus on supporting SMEs, there is an organisation called the Industry Capability Network (ICN). ICN is a not-for-profit organisation, owned by the federal and state governments, that exists solely to act as a business network connecting Australian SMEs to business opportunities and opportunities to partner with larger companies.
ICN offers an online database and a network of business consultants to bring together government projects and Australian businesses.
The online database, the ICN Gateway, allows businesses to share information about their skills and experience to help them be found and selected to bid for government business. Government project managers run 12,000 supplier searches a month, using the Gateway’s sophisticated capabilities to review the 70,000 listed suppliers. Larger government suppliers also use the Gateway to find the right local subcontractors.
The ICN’s business consultants work closely with Government to share advance information about upcoming contracts, often through localised events and project briefings.
On a larger scale, the ICN also runs periodic industry briefings, such as the Gippsland Major Infrastructure Industry Briefings held in June. These briefings gave government organisations an opportunity to share information about millions of dollars of upcoming infrastructure projects.
The overall aim was to support the Government’s goals of using local suppliers, supporting SMEs and regenerating the hard-hit Gippsland and LaTrobe valley regions. The briefings were held, free of charge, in the Gippsland towns of Drouin, Morwell and Sale and attended by literally hundreds of local businesses of all sizes – as well as key representatives of several government agencies.
This is just one example of the help that the ICN gives to local businesses and SMEs who want to grow through winning Government contracts.
Remember, Government (and the public sector more broadly) represents a massive opportunity for businesses of all sizes. Governments, in turn, have a mission to support Australian businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), by procuring goods and services from them.
To make the most of this you should be using as many of the available external resources that you can. Industry associations and government business networks are a vital tool to have in your kit bag.
2 comments in this article
Nice article David. I would also advise people to attend industry events that are likely to involve appropriate government buyers or influencers. Examples include IPAA and FSTGOV events. These generally cost money to attend – and even more if you host a table but can be worth it in the contacts you make.
Great point Paul, thank you for leaving the comment.