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April 1, 2015 | 4 Tips To Make You The Perfect Local Partner

As Investors are crossing international borders, the big global solar companies are often looking for partnerships with local firms to navigate the ins and outs of a new location. This direct investment in the newly emerging solar markets takes many forms, from finding reliable subcontractors to joint development and M&A activity.

As a local firm, what can you do to make yourself more attractive to these companies? Here’s a checklist of basic requirements:

• If you’re not a solar contractor already, be prepared to show how your skills will translate.

Are you a roofing contractor? A home builder? An electrician? Then you’ll need to show specifically how the skills and/or infrastructure of your current business extrapolate into the solar market. Be specific. Vague promises about knowing how to do something will not win the job. Just because you’re a multimillion dollar electromechanical company doesn’t mean you’re a suitable — let alone bankable — subcontractor for solar AC/DC work.

You’ll have to demonstrate a working knowledge of all the components and how they fit into an overall system. A thorough knowledge of local building/electrical codes will put you at an even larger advantage.

In addition, ensure your team has the proper solar certifications, especially if you plan on being part of the construction side.

Remember, international investors are not looking to provide you money to train your team. They are looking for a company that can do what they need them to with no fuss. Before you even consider pitching an international company for their business, invest in your workforce and get them solar-certified.

• Highlight your track record of meeting accepted international standards.

It’s one thing to say you understand how to meet international standards like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or International Organization for Standardization (ISO) compliance. It’s another thing to prove it. Make your books entirely transparent to your future partner and the regulators who oversee them. Understand and adhere to the OSHA regulations. Get ISO certified. These standards show a level of professionalism and competence international investors are seeking.

• Leverage your professional network.

If you’ve worked with in-country partners (especially legal firms or marketing companies) who loved your work, ask them to write letters of reference. You’d be surprised how far up the list of potential partners it will move you. Most often, the two place international firm will look for advice:

1. their local embassy
2. the legal or accounting/tax firm they’ve been referred to by their counselor advisors.

If you want to receive referrals, this is the key. And if you’re transitioning to the solar industry from another trade/service, be sure you are telling your professional-services providers about the intention. After all, they’re great sources of referrals, and it’s a win-win — as you get the business, so do they.

• Don’t try to impress the company with inflated claims about previous projects.

Don’t forget: The investors you’re talking to may have a better understanding of the players in your market than you think. International companies do their due diligence long before they start their local- partner searches. So don’t talk a big game if you can’t back it up.

None of these pointers will guarantee international investors will choose your company to be their partner in the market. But ignoring these simple suggestions will guarantee the investors won’t even give you a first look.