Success stories

Infrastructure: Tips for the international business from Lombardi

"Look for local staff. And be patient.

Interview with Fulvio Besseghini, Area Manager Latam and Head of the Argentina Branch at the Lombardi Group on choosing the right market, dealing with public clients and the importance of consortia.

Underground power plant with turbine and construction workers; the project was planned by the Lombardi Group
Underground power plant with turbine and construction workers; the project was planned by the Lombardi Group

What criteria should suppliers use to select their target markets in the infrastructure sector?

When selecting target markets in the infrastructure sector, various criteria should be taken into account. Ideally, the technical and quality level of the supplier matches the corresponding demand of the target market. The market should also be willing to pay the appropriate price for this offer. I advise Swiss SMEs to examine the chances and opportunities of market expansion and diversification that actually exist. Furthermore, a stable legal system in the target market is extremely important, especially if the projects don’t just involve studies. In addition, insurance issues should be clarified in advance. And finally, the cultural match must be right and there should be people and contacts you can build on and trust.

How did you succeed in partnering with a consortium or EPC contractor?

In the case of the Lombardi Group, it is important to clarify that with regard to EPC contracts, the partnership that was established is a subcontracting relationship. In fact, engineering services are usually only a small part of the projects, especially as regards costs, even if they have a high value in terms of controlling the time and cost risks of the project. The change from a partnership to a subcontracting relationship also ensures that the engineer takes an independent approach to the project. Partnering with other consulting firms is usually done through mutual "due diligence" and usually starts with a small and short assignment. The Lombardi Group has built strong partnerships worldwide, which it continuously adapts to market objectives.

How do you deal with public sector clients?

The Lombardi Group's clients typically come from the public sector. The public sector's approach to infrastructure projects can be quite different depending on the country and target market. Country risks, legal frameworks and transparency are usually issues that the Lombardi Group looks at when an opportunity or contract with the public sector is in the offing.

Financing: What needs to be considered, who is responsible for which areas?

As a consulting firm, we are not involved in the financing, although we usually assist financing companies, banks, multilateral companies, insurance companies in the evaluation of projects as well as project sponsors and developers in the presentation of the concept or planning during the financing project.

As a Swiss SME, how are you able to compete with foreign competitors or local companies?

As an international company, the Lombardi Group attaches great importance to diversity in general and to the different approaches our competitors take. We basically try to analyze and learn how to deal with a certain situation - or not, as the case may be. Technical and strategic competition is always a fair process that can improve our approach to a particular market. Foreign competitors might have an advantage if they enter a particular market or country at an earlier stage. Local companies usually cover a wide range of requirements. Partnering with a local company that serves the purpose and meets our ethical standards is always an interesting option when it comes to a challenging infrastructure project.

What are the strengths of Swiss SMEs? Which Swiss technologies, knowledge and offerings are particularly in demand in foreign target markets?

Based on the global experience and history of the Lombardi Group, Swiss SMEs excel above all with regard to quality, experience and availability and support in the operation and maintenance of infrastructures. In terms of Swiss technologies, know-how and offerings that are particularly in demand in foreign target markets, high-tech probably deserves special mention, but also engineering services, including operation and maintenance, building information modeling and the long-term assessment of infrastructures.

What regulatory and logistical specifics need to be taken into consideration?

Regulatory and logistical specifics can vary geographically and depend on the market concerned. This should never be seen as an obstacle. However, sometimes it takes time to understand the rules of the game and adapt the Swiss approach to something different, including bureaucratic complications.

What cultural or geographical specifics need to be taken into account?

Cultural diversity is usually not a big problem for a Swiss-based company, but again, a certain amount of adjustment time needs to be taken into account. It is important to know people you can trust. S-GE and the local Swiss Business Hubs, for example, have always supported us very well.

What basic advice would you give other Swiss SMEs for a successful market entry?

Try to maintain the level of quality whenever possible. Also, be fastidious - not every opportunity is suitable. Look for capable local staff and most importantly, be patient.

How was S-GE able to help you in this case?

We see S-GE as a strategic partner when entering a foreign market. We have already participated in a number of economic missions organized by S-GE: What we appreciated most during these missions was the professional way in which the institutional meetings were handled, as well as the significant boost we received from the space and the opportunities that arose for us as a participating company. We will certainly continue to consult S-GE for first-hand information on our current and future target markets and attend their regular meetings and roundtables for this purpose.

Stay tuned!

In our detailed dossier for Swiss companies that offer infrastructure products and services, we provide information on opportunities in international projects and how small and medium enterprises can realize them.

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