Thinking beyond New Years resolutions — When business (and construction marketing) plans fail, and succeed

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There aren't too many brighter marketing ideas than developing an effective referral program

tower of visionSoon, we’ll be past the point in January when New Years’ resolutions fail. Regular gym-goers know the scene. Things are relatively quit over the Christmas holiday season, then become incredibly busy the first week of January. By week three, things return to normal.

Of course, sometimes we achieve our resolutions and make crucial changes. Often crisis provides the catalyst for new perspectives. We are jarred out our habits and complacency and get things done. These radical shifts can be helpful, but many of the most important changes require deliberation, patience, and long-range commitments. You won’t suddenly win major RFPs for large projects by panicking and responding, desperately, to every public RFP or tender proposal. The architectural, engineering and construction business development and marketing cycles should be measured in months, even years, rather than weeks or days.

This year, my business will focus on the life-cycle transition from centralized ownership (me) to employee-led leadership. I’m 61. There aren’t plans to retire, but I expect by year’s end we’ll have the program in place to start the orderly transfer of the business to the employees and some key contractors. I’m not sure yet how the process will unfold, but know it is happening – and has started with a new level of open-book management – including allowing the employees to see business operations data that they wouldn’t have expected to see before.

We’re redesigning our model, moving to a style that combines more independence with more direct “accountability”. I’ll put that word in quotes because it is something of a buzz-word, but to me, it relates to the trade-off for openness. You can’t bury things under the covers; you can’t rationalize expenses and business decisions with a self-serving aim; but you can (and should) be prepared to invest time, resources and where necessary cash in longer-term objectives, while ensuring the business remains profitable in the short-term.

Most businesses I know with a planning and business management system complete their planning in the fall, and the execution starts in the New Year. There’s nothing wrong with this approach – and there are good arguments for a planned rather than seat-of-the-pants approach to business. But I think we have to watch for rigidity and “Since we’ve always done it this way, we’ll continue to do it the way we’ve always done it” attitudes.

We’ll test these attitudes in the next few months. The general vision of change has been decided, but the specifics are still unclear. And of course there is another cliché that resonates: “The devil is in the details.”

I certainly think many AEC businesses would benefit by thinking/rethinking and evaluating their marketing and business development systems. There are many opportunities right under your noses. These won’t be resolved through desperate rush measures, but can be achieved through decisive action, planning and (most importantly) the discipline to implement your plans.

Here, I can probably help you in guiding your direction, with years of experience and insights, a few published books, and a network of experts in different areas of the marketing and business-development space. If you are an advertiser in our publications, these consulting services are without charge and if you are not an advertiser, well, you might decide either to invest in some advertising (and receive the added benefits) or just seek out the advice.

You can make the coming year a prosperous and successful year for your business. Take the first step.

Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He publishes a daily blog at www.constructionmarketingideas.com, and has written two books on architectural, engineering and construction marketing, available at amazon.com and other retailers, and through the blog website. He can also be reached by phone at (888) 627-8717 ext 224 or by email at buckshon@cnrgp.com.

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