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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The BCA's growth in a changing environment!

The Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) has come a long way in its development as an organization in The Bahamas. Within one short year, great work has been done with regard to growing the organization's revenue; winning a pioneering Grant Project aimed at strengthening The BCA's Training Programmes; developing its lobbying mechanisms to be more effective; and growing the BCA's revenue and membership all in one swoop. It is progress well noted and something that other non-profit organization's and for profit organizations can take sharp example from.

When I first met the then President of the BCA Stephen Wrinkle and his Executive Director, at the time during a stint I had as a Consultant with The Inter-American Development Bank for their Multi-lateral Investment Fund, both men were at their wits end with regard to the amount of opportunities for advancement for Bahamian Contractors. The BCA, having been an organization since 1952 and since Mr. Wrinkle's leadership within the past two and a half years since we had first met, not much had changed over those last 50 plus years with regard to the overall participation from Contractors; the level of administrative and economic impact the BCA had as an organization; the tools, systems and programmes that the BCA used as an organization; and the support from the broader public with addressing issues such as corrupt contractors; and assistance with regard to legislation and regulations that would work to boost the industry as a whole.

What’s even worse as an organization like the BCA, it was branded as being an elitist organization catering only to the big contractors, leaving the small and medium sized contractors out of the process. While sentiments to this effect may be little misplaced, much has been done to instil confidence in other quarters of the construction industry that felt that they have been left out.

When writing a project that would correct these deficiencies within the BCA and work with regard to making the necessary adjustments in the private sector, we focused on three key areas; the commercial relevance and viability of the BCA by increasing membership and participation, which meant that smaller contractors and medium sized contractors would have to be more involved in the process; creating a training programme for the trainer of trainer’s and Contractor’s alike so that smaller contractors did in fact have a chance to participate in large projects, once the proper training and skills assessment and market requirements were assessed; and increasing the lobbying power of the BCA by formalizing the international partnerships of the BCA and strengthening national partnerships in a concentrated manner.

After those first meetings with the BCA, the IADB and myself, and after having left a template for a project for strengthening the BCA on the table ready to be approved, I had disengaged from the IADB and then after such the BCA and I started a working partnership in a number of areas. The first of which was that one of the major stumbling blocks in the way of the BCA was the issue of developing a credible business-relay to the public and vested stakeholders that it was in fact ready to make the move into becoming a more effective association for all members.

The second major stumbling block was that the BCA’s revenue points were weak, and the prospects of raising revenue relative to what was doable on the ground was also weak as to what was envisioned by their governing board.

The third major issue was that the BCA had not the technical expertise on the ground to pave the way for them obtaining the Grant from the IADB, or for that matter obtaining and securing funding from the Baha Mar Development Team for more funding for training for contractors to be able to get better contracts from the works being done at Baha Mar and elsewhere.

What happened since mid-2010 to mid-2011 was nothing short of phenomenal. Not only did membership increase by over 450%, we also increased revenue by nearly 1200%, without taking into account the Grant Funding from the IADB, by applying basic marketing and follow through fundamentals, even in the face of a newly started, competing organization in the New Providence Contractors Association (NPCA) that has gained much traction within the industry and have also garnered public sympathy for their plight.

As simple as it sounds, contractors knew of the BCA, some even took part in BCA events in the past, but many of them were unaware that the BCA was an organization that they could have joined and let alone make more effective. Through my tracking, more than 3 of the 5 contractors contacted over the course of the 12 months I was surprised that none of them knew that they could become legitimate members of the BCA and 4 of the 5 contractors didn’t know exactly what the BCA did, even though they had heard of it or in fact participated in BCA events in the past. This indicated to me that even though they had heard about the BCA before in the past, they were unaware or have never been contacted fully on the benefits of joining the BCA.

What’s even more exciting about the recent developments with the BCA is that the IADB project will increase membership exponentially through one of its components, as well as put in place the framework for The BCA Institute- a full scaled, market sensitive training programme for anyone who is interested, not just contractors or persons in the construction industry.

Another critical achievement that has given value for members of the BCA is the creation of an interactive website, which allows BCA members to post their own work to their profile spaces, allow for consumers to rate the contractor of their choice and send reviews, as well as allows the regular news and updates on the construction industry in The Bahamas. Some contractors have already notified the BCA that they have been contacted for job offers through the website and have in fact won contracts.

Apart from the lobbying in the media, the BCA was able to capitalize on major developments in The Bahamas and it is part result to the credibility the office gave to support the lobbying efforts and being able to demonstrate that the BCA was not all about talk, but it was about doing.

While I personally had no hand in the training initiative or the planning of training initiatives with the Baha Mar Development Team as I moved on to other projects that required my direct attention and having completed 80% of my plan, the initiatives on the ground at the BCA, tripled by the inputs from the IADB Grant, are more than exportable and can be used as a template for partnering organizations to invest in.

The turn-around was a fantastic experience and one that should be an example for other organizations looking to grow, take advantage of their opportunities and develop as an entity that serves the public good!
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