Selecting the best nuclear power plant vendor isn’t easy.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of third-party companies out there you could potentially do business with and no shortage of horror stories to go around.
Examples are endless where jobs don’t get finished on time or worse yet with poor craftsmanship and three times over the proposed budget.
So, whether you’ve experienced this as a hiring manager or not, I’m here to help you make the right choice on your next nuclear power plant vendor hiring decision, regardless of which vendor it is.
Let’s get started.
Nuclear Vendor Hiring Tip #1: Do Sound Research
The best way to figure out whether or not a nuclear plant vendor’s service is first class or coach is to reach out to your peers that have already hired them. Don’t be afraid to ask for references.
If you don’t know anyone from the utilities the vendor has worked for, reach out to your coworkers. It’s likely your nuclear department managers (Training Manager, Ops Training Manager, Outage Managers, VPs, etc.) and senior managers will know someone from the site the nuclear vendor has provided as a reference.
Reach out and talk to those references. And don’t just speak to the people they refer you to. Try to find managers and leaders that will have a different perspective.
Finally, just because a vendor did a great job last time doesn’t necessarily mean that will continue. Don’t develop a cognitive bias for hiring just because they did a great job for you previously. Do your homework and try to find references from their most recent contracts to determine the current state of the service level they provide.
Nuclear Vendor Hiring Tip #2: Get the Proposal Ironclad Before Signing the Contract (This Includes the Dollar Figures)
If there’s one thing that will kill a relationship faster than a fast neutron, it’s expectations that aren’t met. Sure, it’s one thing to be flexible and to understand each other’s needs, but it’s another thing entirely when something that should be in writing is not and those expectations are missed or not met. And there’s a lot more than just hurt feelings that can result from this type of mistake.
I’ve seen 9-figure main condenser replacement projects cost 3x more than expected simply because the numbers weren’t worked correctly on the front end. Sometimes this is a result of the vendor underbidding a project intentionally just to land it. In other instances, it’s a result of poor financial planning and cost estimating. Either case is avoidable with a little due diligence. Some other areas of a proposal that are important to get clarification on are:
- Project Deliverables – be specific
- Invoicing Milestones – when payments will be made and what triggers them
- Project Assumptions – Here’s your chance to make your expectations clear and to understand the vendor’s ability to deliver the support required
- Fixed Price vs Time and Materials – what’s more important to you, both have their advantages and disadvantages
- Details – ask for specifics on where the numbers came from. Make sure the assumptions are clear on how many hours per week the supplemental staff will be working, how many resources will be provided, what’s the start date, the end date, travel costs (and where those costs came from). Attention to detail here is important.
Nuclear Vendor Hiring Tip #3: Shop Around
This tip is a little obvious. But all things being equal you’re going to want to know if there are multiple vendors that provide the same service. Look into them. Get multiple quotes. Seek out multiple references regarding their recent work history. Follow Tips #1 and #2.
If your internal policies require something to go out for competitive bid then follow the process, but don’t hesitate to shop around even if you aren’t required to enter into a competitive bid.
Nuclear Vendor Hiring Tip #4: Meet Their Leadership Team (COO or his direct reports at a minimum)
Here’s the thing. Every company, regardless of industry, rises and falls on the shoulders of leadership. If the leadership is lacking, every action or process that occurs below those individuals (including processes, systems, procedures, behaviors, and otherwise) will suffer as a result.
If the CEO of a company is dishonest, you can almost guarantee that problem will be amplified the further down the chain you go.
If the President of a company is lazy and doesn’t follow through with their promises, you can be assured most of his direct reports will behave the same way…and on down the line.
By meeting the nuclear power plant vendor’s leadership team and getting to know them you’re going to get a pretty good picture about how the company operates as a whole.
It’s probably reasonable to assume a CEO that lacks integrity is running a company that’s willing to do things such as underbid on projects just to get the bid.
It’s probably also reasonable to assume leadership that allows problems to persist will also permeate into the work their organization performs once a contract is executed. Make sure you take the time to have your best “people readers” get on a call with the vendor’s leadership team you’re thinking of hiring. You’ll learn a ton just by asking the right questions and taking a few minutes to get to know them.
Nuclear Vendor Hiring Tip #5: Trust Your Gut
Sometimes you are going to get almost a sixth sense about hiring a particular vendor. It’s ok to question it and chalk it up to superstition, but in the end if you can’t figure out whether or not it’s a good decision, the best default is to just say “No.”
Saying “No” will ensure you don’t get stuck in a contractual situation you weren’t ready for. It also minimizes the corporate and financial risk on your company if you can’t reach a place of clarity and understanding.
Remember: always seek clarity, and always seek to understand. If you are unable to achieve clarity and understanding then do not proceed in the face of uncertainty. It’s likely your utility may even use this concept in its Nuclear Excellence Model as it relates to hiring supplemental personnel.
At the end of the day, if you simply take a little time to properly screen your nuclear power plant vendor it will save you a lot of heartache. You will end up in a good place: the work done on time and in budget.
If this article helps your utility in selecting a nuclear vendor, make sure you comment below. If you’re looking for a nuclear power plant vendor to help you with your training needs, make sure you reach out to talk to one of our leaders here at Accelerant Solutions. We’d love to learn more about you and see if there’s a way we can help.
Interested in learning more about our Training Innovation software and how to automate your training program revision process? Click here to visit our Nuclear Training Innovation page!
About The Author
Jason Lee Smith
Jason Lee Smith is an Executive Projects Director for Accelerant Solutions: Jason possesses 20+ years of nuclear experience specializing in Operations, Training, and Performance Improvement.