Collaborative post – may contain affiliate links
Public-private partnerships are all the rage these days. And the fact that they are so popular should come as no surprise: both forms of economic activity have things that they’re good at, and areas where they need improvement.
Take the public sector, for instance. Public services have a reputation for being inefficient, slow, and low-quality. And while some of this might be stereotyping, there is undoubtedly a lot of evidence the public sector is not nearly as efficient. The public sector just doesn’t have the same motives as its private sector counterpart to provide high-quality services at low cost. Inevitably, some aspects of its public-facing operations suffer.
The private sector isn’t perfect either. Private companies have a reputation for putting profits ahead of the needs of the wider community and employees. Firms operating to make money often don’t care about the social ramifications of their products and are instead more interested in shareholder bank balances.
Public-private partnerships are a kind of “middle road” that hopes to take the best (but not the worst) from each sector. The idea of PPPs is to meld public-sector objectives with private sector efficiency, creating a world-beating combination.
Thanks to the popularity of public-private partnerships among policymakers, there are growing opportunities for firms to work with the public sector as partners. Doing so effectively can be highly profitable, but you also have to know what you’re doing. Working with a municipality is very different from working with a regular supplier. The local authority is just as interested in the effects of your services as they are in providing excellent value for taxpayers.
So how do you work effectively with the public sector as a private enterprise? Take a look at some of these ideas.
Consider Taxpayer Value For Money
When pitching to a private business, your focus is almost exclusively on how you can help improve their bottom line. Although the public sector gets paid no matter what, they still want value for money for their stakeholders – in this case, taxpayers. Taxpayers can exert significant influence on local authorities so it can help put your company at an advantage to point out how your particular product or service represents good value to local constituents.
For instance, suppose you have a software product that will help the local authority process emergency telephone calls more efficiently. The software costs money, obviously, but you could provide evidence – perhaps from other local authorities who have already bought the product – that the total cost of taking calls falls using your software. Falling costs represents good value for money for taxpayers and doesn’t threaten the livelihood of people already employed by the state.
Offer Planning Assistance To The Local Authority
Local authorities and municipalities often don’t have the in-house expertise to put into operation major new projects. Instead, authorities rely on the dynamism and “can-do” attitude of private entrepreneurs.
As a business leader, you’ll need to take the lead on projects, organizing surveying for municipalities as well as creating project timetables. Remember, the people you’re working with in the public sector will not have much experience working to strict project deadlines or undertaking new construction projects, so you need to be there, offering support and guidance. You can help give your public sector partner peace of mind by regularly reviewing progress and providing essential updates. Also, don’t forget to indulge their bureaucratic sensibilities with a healthy dose of attention to regulatory compliance. That sort of thing will send them wild.
Get A Payment Schedule In Advance
Although it’s called a “public-private partnership,” you still fundamentally rely on taxpayer money to fund your assistance, even if you end up selling something to customers at the end of the project. Because of this, it’s important to get a promise for payment in writing that’s legally-binding before committing to a project. Public officials have been known to change their minds about paying companies in the past if new politicians get elected, and so you want to make it as hard as possible for them to back out once committed.
Take your service-level agreement to a legal specialist and make sure that you get paid should the political leadership at the local authority change.
Advertise Innovative Ways To Provide Public Services
Although incentives don’t work in the same way in the public sector as they do in the private, you do occasionally get people who really want to make a difference to their constituents’ lives. These people are an opportunity for businesses, thanks to their forward-thinking ability and willingness to try new things.
Businesses, therefore, should advertise ways of providing public services in a better way. Marketers should try to win the support of the people and influential local politicians to put their products into effect. Just putting your ideas out there can act as powerful leverage, showing people that there are better and cheaper ways of doing things.
Although lobbying has a bad rap, it’s an essential part of the political process and something which can engender rapid change, if used in the right way. Private companies that lobby tend to get their ideas across better and are more likely to sign lucrative contracts with the public sector. Yes, you may have to compete with other firms for taxpayer dollars, but the rewards and status can be substantial if you win.
Lobbying is also about creating connections. You may already have a public-private project underway in your particular municipality, but you can use your network to attract new business and projects in the future.
Give The Public Sector What It Wants
Politicians ultimately want to stay in power for as long as possible. Smart private companies know this, and so they pitch the products in such a way that convinces political leaders that they stand a better chance of making it through the next round of elections. Of course, as a private company, you can’t promise anything, but you can talk about how your services will improve the lives of constituents, and how they will thank their politicians in due course.