Are rail companies really ready for the next Control Period?

The calm before the storm is beginning to fade in the rail industry, as we begin to get set for Control Period 6. The real question though is whether or not rail companies are ready for this inevitable spike in industry activity.

Have companies built well-forged relationships and meaningful connections which are crucial for the next stage of revolutionising rail? Will these relationships be capable of delivering projects in a collaborative and effective manner?

As the Managing Director of one of the industry’s leading networking companies, my focus is on providing industry support for those who need it most.

The goal? To strengthen the relationship process in an effort to speed up the tender stage of sub-contracts and packages.

Lessons to Learn from Previous Control Periods

The rail industry is always looking forward to new developments, particularly in the face of a new Control Period and the influx in funding that accompanies it. But we shouldn’t forget to also look back. What we can learn from previous control periods can help us to better prepare for what’s ahead.

It’s clear to me that the industry often finds itself stuck in two phases – with companies perpetually in a state of limbo – between the completion of projects and the beginning of others. It’s as though these companies draw a mental line between the two periods.

The lesson to learn here is that the control period framework exists as just that – a framework.

While formal processes such as the tender stage will begin at a set time in the framework, it doesn’t have to stop your firm from being active and making progress. The term ‘control period’ is adopted by the industry to segment the progress, funding and objectives of a given timeframe. This is contrary to what many businesses find themselves believing, that it’s a sign that a break in activity is needed.

In fact, failure to act in these in-between stages can be damaging to a company’s mentality. In the worst-case scenario, it can have ‘real’ consequences for your business, leading inactive business to see a decline in their sales and become unsuccessful in the next tendering process.

What should you do instead? While it’s normal for the availability of work to decrease before a new period starts, in the interim you should focus your energy on long-term activities like planning, scheduling and networking.

How to Make Sure You Maximise Your Time

The majority of companies adopt a defeatist attitude that’s not helpful in achieving your business goals. With thoughts such as, “well CP6 starts in a few months, let’s just hang in there until then” you’ll rarely ever find yourself as the winner of sought after contracts.

Instead, these ‘quieter’ periods should be looked at in a whole different light. The time gained from not working on a physical project can be spent on devising long-term strategies and company development plans.

Much like each control period is created, your company should have its own framework for success.

How do I know this? In my SME background, I’ve assisted the delivery of various major projects across the North West. I’ve had the opportunity to view the internal cogs of many businesses, most of which just focus on getting their next portion of work ‘over the line’.

It’s no surprise that these companies never grow.

Those that do invest time into planning, forecasting and thinking about company development and sustainability do benefit.

Why Networking is an Effective Practice

You can split your time meeting with individual clients but networking is a way to effectively speed up the process.

Of course, meeting on a one-to-one basis is sometimes more appropriate but an afternoon spent networking can end with countless contacts in your pocket. If done strategically, this can be an effective way to maximise your chances of winning work.

We call this practice ‘organic networking’ where genuine conversations are shared and a stranger is turned into an advocate of your brand and its services.

Here’s why you should spend time on ‘organic networking’:

  • Forge real relationships with a quality audience – Your job is to seek out events that attract a ‘quality audience’. In terms of Control Period 6, you want to enter a room full of the professionals in charge of issuing work. Networking is worth your time if the event manages to attract qualified leads.
  • Increase your credibility and chances of endorsement – Building a personal relationship with industry figureheads is much more effective than connecting with them on LinkedIn. The chances that they will endorse you, advocate you and ultimately choose you will all be higher if you’ve sparked a genuine connection with them in a physical meeting.
  • Give your business long-term financial stability – You’ll no longer be a ‘wild card’ or the ‘best out of a bad bunch’. Genuine relationships – where each party views the other as credible, reliable and trustworthy – boast a long-term vision where the chances of being awarded work year on year are increased.

How Do I Ultimately Win More Work?

Companies that develop this type of mindset don’t simply eliminate work from their schedule, they replace work in the ‘field’ with social networking opportunities.

Plenty of planning should go on behind-the-scenes as you devise long-term plans and these should then be carried out at reputable industry events.

In short, that’s why I transitioned to a career in networking as I saw an opportunity to further support the industry. Unlike most networking companies, Millian Events is a corporate events provider with real industry experience and passion for its people.

Are you ready to invest in your company’s future? See our calendar of events for the upcoming year to be one of the few businesses that don’t stay stagnant when it matters the most.