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2010 Olympics and business gold

The new 2010 Commerce Centre – its carpet newly laid and walls freshly painted – is charged with a big job: ensuring BC companies earn as much 2010 business as possible.
“There’s a perception out there that business opportunities around the Games tend to flow to large companies. I think that a lot of that is driven by the fact that the sponsors of the Games tend to be large companies. But that doesn’t really tell the story,” says Ken Veldman, manager of business connections with the 2010 Centre, in an interview at the Centre’s Robson Street office.

The Centre is a provincial government agency within the Ministry of Economic Development. “The province is investing $600 million in these Games, and they see it as an investment. It’s all a matter of return. Return is a function of BC businesses getting involved.”

Veldman says that previous games have shown that a lot of the big contracts beyond the capacity of a small business can be handled by an alliance of small businesses or by small businesses subcontracting into larger companies.

“That’s where the opportunities lie,” Veldman says. “Some international firms might win a large signage contract, but the reality is that they’ll be looking for all kinds of subcontractors to be able to print those off. They’re not going to be printing them off on one press, say in the US, and then shipping them up here. They’ll be dealing with probably hundreds of small contracts around BC to fulfill the job.”

The 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, were an excellent model of success.
“They did a really good job of levering this economic benefit. Eighty percent of the contracts were won by Australian companies. The companies they (the Australian equivalent of the 2010 Commerce Centre) dealt with won over $1 billion in contracts.

“Perhaps even more impressive, in 2001, when you’d expect those same companies to have a down year because the Olympics weren’t around, they actually doubled their revenues again. That’s where the real value lies – in developing those relationships.”

The dollars being injected into the local economy include:
• $2 billion from VANOC’s budget
• $2 billion from sponsors, national Olympic committees, and visitors
• $3 to $4 billion in major infrastructure projects, such as the Canada Line and the Sea to Sky Highway upgrade.

“From a one-time shot that’s a pretty big injection, and I think it will stretch the capacity of Vancouver. There’s a lot of very good one-time contracts to be made,” Veldman says. “That being said, the real value is going to be in the long-term: the contacts, experience, and exposure the companies gain.”

One difficulty encountered at the Torino, Italy and Athens Games was that incoming companies looking to work with local companies had difficulty finding them, which resulted in a lot of companies bringing in their own people and shipping in a lot of their materials, Veldman says. “We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen here and that it’s easy to do business.”

How does a business get in on the Olympic action? One way is to bid on the procurement opportunities that are listed on the 2010 Commerce Centre’s website. Procurement is the formal process that usually involves making a bid to provide a service or good.

Demystifying the procurement process and talking about what companies need to know about winning a bid, is part of the Commerce Centre’s mandate. Centre staff have delivered 115 workshops across the province in the last year and a half.

“A lot of small businesses haven’t been exposed to the formal procurement processes, which is a growing way of doing business in the public and private sector,” Veldman says. “It’s a process that’s not about who you know, but about what’s written in the proposal.”
What advice does he have for businesses seeking to secure a bid? “You shouldn’t be thinking ‘What new product can I invent for a one-time shot.?’ It should be about, ‘Where am I going anyways and how can I get there more effectively using 2010.’

“The Games last for 17 days. Think about where you want to be in 10 years and what partnerships you want to develop and what kind of market growth you want to see and then think about how you can use the many angles of 2010 to help you get there.

“One of the realities is that when you’re dealing with the Olympics, the one parameter you can’t change is timelines. When VANOC is picking a supplier, it wants to obviously deal with people who have experience in doing certain things and who have confidence. So when you’re bidding, you want to bid on things that you have experience and strengths in because that’s how you put your best foot forward. In general, VANOC doesn’t want to be dealing with start-ups. Anyone whois dealing with a certain timeline doesn’t want to be dealing with startups.”

While it’s a great opportunity, it’s not an easy opportunity either, Veldman says. “There are companies from all over the world that want to take advantage of this. We’re the home team, we know how to do business here – that’s our advantage.”

Preparing a successful request for proposal (RFP) for VANOC takes time and careful consideration, according to local writer Lori McNulty.

“The proposal has to be tailor-made to be successful,” says McNulty, 41, who put in a successful bid this winter and will work on writing and editing contracts for the 2010 Olympics. Her name is on the list of winning bidders on the Commerce Centre’s website.
“It’s best not to be intimidated by the process. Consider it as you would any request for proposal (RFP). Just be aware of this client’s status in the global community and their profile on the world stage.”

Taking into account the international scope of the event and its multicultural nature is critical. So is having empathy for the client’s point of view.

“Do your research. Keep in mind the various audiences that VANOC needs to reach through its mandate. I made sure I knew where they were going and how I could best respond to their needs. You need to be really clear about how you can help them realize their vision through the skilful application of your services and experience.”

McNulty, who has extensive writing background in journalism, creative writing, and marketing, initially saw the call for the writing and editing bid on VANOC’s website last fall. She immediately checked out the RFP’s mandatory requirements. “If you satisfy the mandatory requirements, and can draw on your experience to fulfill all additional requirements, then give it a try.

“You need to be sure you want to go for it. You’re sacrificing a lot of time that you could be giving to existing clients. It might take a week to prepare a stellar RFP—that’s a lot of hours not devoted to your own business. I would not have gone in without knowing that I had lot of experience in their areas of interest.”

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