Imagine you own a landfill company with several key municipal contracts coming up for bid in the next year or so. What do you need to do to keep this business and ensure that those contracts get renewed? Has your company been a good corporate neighbor, or have complaints piled up with the rubbish to haunt your contract renewal efforts?
The answer is not as simple as sending a note to the municipality requesting an RFP to pursue contract renewal. You need a long-term plan to identify political weaknesses in communities you currently serve and develop strategies to build support in other key market communities as well.
Let’s assume that all planning is political. A political campaign approach helps to identify what needs to be done to win a landfill contract in the first place. Once the contract is won, however, next you must win and maintain community support for daily operations. Ultimately, you also need a strategy on how to retain key waste disposal contracts and build new business.
Due diligence is the first step in developing a renewal strategy. For your company to retain the contracts it already holds, it’s vital to research and develop a long-term political outreach strategy plan focused on the major contracts facing renewal in the coming years, potential new business and potential threats from competitors.
The plan has to provide you with a detailed strategy to increase the likelihood of winning renewal of key contracts. The research has to outline any action items that can build support for you within each community where you already work. It will identify current political weaknesses, and will provide timelines to deliver accomplishments to ensure your renewal effort is on track.
A political audit in key communities will provide information regarding how political leaders view you and your operations and identify where political or public relations outreach is needed.
Going back to any work first undertaken to win the contract, it’ll be necessary to research and outline strategies for developing lists of supporters in each community. These strategies may include direct mail, social networking and door-to-door outreach.
Research with your staff, local elected officials and key community activists will help develop the political plan to understand your strengths and weaknesses and know your opponent.
Every client we speak to about an existing contract likes to say how much they have donated to the local baseball team, Rotary Club and mayor’s re-election campaign for years. But these well-intentioned efforts don’t hold as much value in today’s political environment: city budgets are stretched and all elected officials are looking for ways to cut them. As good as you may be, most elected officials see your service or product as a commodity — something just as easily replaced by just putting a different company’s name on the garbage truck.
As part of this research, your staff may also need training on best practices for developing and growing community support to meet your company’s long-term strategic goals. The most fundamental aspect of having a good relationship with your community is an open line of communication. Having a designated person who the neighbors can call with complaints and compliments is an easy way to avert a great many problems. This person should be aware enough to respond to every question and complaint that may come in within 48 hours.
The worst possible outcome would be that they tell the city, county or local reporter that you did not even respond to their question or inquiry. A call back will be noted and appreciated even if the resident doesn’t get the resolution they sought.
Such a liaison helps you to stay on top of your daily operations and leverage existing assets to strengthen your ties to the community. And don’t underestimate the influence of your drivers. They know the neighborhood residents personally and have the most direct relationship with customers.
There are small simple steps that can be taken that will positively increase your visibility in the community and enrich your reputation as a good corporate neighbor.
Jay Vincent is chief business development officer and business practice leader for the waste industry for The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Jesse McKnight is executive vice president for The Saint Consulting Group, email email@example.com