1. Strategize and form relationships
Entering the US market during a recession, in a climate with fewer project prospects and declining prices, has been Conalvías’s greatest challenge in achieving brand recognition, Jaramillo (pictured above) says. So, from the start, the firm considered it critical to map out decision-making responsibilities and a detailed business plan.
“It is of utmost importance to clearly identify markets and activities through which competitive advantages can be gained, as is identifying opportunities for strategic alliances within the selected market,” Jaramillo says. “[Creating a foundation of trustworthy suppliers and subcontractors] has been the formula for success we have employed for more than 11 years to expand internationally to gain strength and compete in the markets of Panama and Peru.” The company has set out to repeat that tactic in the United States.
2. Hire right
Its field staff is Conalvías’s major asset throughout operations. “We strive to create groups of people who are committed to an overall philosophy of quality and to the company’s promise to deliver,” Jaramillo says. In addition, each staff member must not only have expertise in his or her area of focus; he or she must have the desire
to grow and evolve professionally, too.
The complexity of Conalvías’s projects demands a variety of personnel with specific skill sets. For example, an ongoing $5 million road expansion of State Road 35 in Lakeland, Florida, requires specialized personnel and equipment to widen the existing highway from four to six lanes across a three-quarter-mile stretch. The year-long project, commissioned by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), includes roadway, drainage, signage, lighting, and paving.
3. Seek financial security
Every contractor has unique needs, and a healthy bonding capacity helps meet those needs.
“We have found bonding companies to be great allies when evaluating projects,” Jaramillo says. “We consider them our strategic partners in evaluating opportunities, and we feel very comfortable with their support and with the trust that they have instilled in us.”
4. Keep credentials current
Although accreditation varies across borders, maintaining the proper credentials with different agencies helps keep an open door with potential partners interested in collaborating to develop projects.
“Accreditation is a critical step because each country and each state within the United States—as well as each government or business entity—has specific qualification criteria which must be met adequately and opportunely,” Jaramillo says.
5. Follow up diligently
The work doesn’t just stop once Conalvías submits a bid for approval. “Following up on bids is a mandatory daily activity for the growth and consolidation of the business,” Jaramillo says.
Even before establishing operations in Florida and Puerto Rico, Conalvías monitored, from Colombia, all the projects that were in open bids or were within the five-year scope of different businesses. This helped the firm identify opportunities, risks, and prospective associations.
6. Bid actively
Bidding is an involved process, and the outcome depends on the time and effort invested. Conalvías worked arduously to win a bid at Big Cypress National Preserve, a site of roughly 720,000 hectares about an hour west of Miami. The bid was for a recreational area with parking, piera and boat ramps, and entrances and exit ramps on I-75 with boat access.
“Whenever we decide to participate in a project, we conduct technical, economic, and financial analyses in detail to guarantee the best-value offering to our clients,” Jaramillo says.
One of Conalvías’s latest wins is the widening and repaving of State Road 688 from Seminole Lake to Ranchero Boulevard. This FDOT project includes improvement of signage, pavement, drainage, lighting, and utilities, and it runs on a 1,150-day schedule. Through the pursuit of such opportunities, using time-tested strategies, Conalvías is cultivating its international platform—and it plans to grow its US division to represent 30 percent of its future revenue. ABQ