Consultant (and professional engineer) Doug Reed (fostergrowth.biz) has outlined a simple approach to encouraging/growing business development initiatives among AEC practitioners that combines simplicity and effectiveness in one package.
His approach: Set up with the accounting department billing/time codes for relevant business development activities, whether these be new client prospecting or (more significantly) relationship-building with potential and current clients.
This approach solves the biggest problem in encouraging business development work among AEC practices, where the most important measure of success often reflects to billable project time. The question: Why should a project manager, engineer or architect spend time socializing or attending conferences with clients when these activities turn into dead time or, worse, overhead business expense?
Yet, Reed points out in a podcast interview with Matt Handal, the professional service providers already have the tools at hand to track productivity time activities, and can — over time — measure the effectiveness of encouraging/fostering a business-development mind-set throughout the organization.
The accounting system already exists, he points out. The consultants and staff members who would use it already enter the time codes for their billable work. So how much extra effort really is required to add codes for business development activities, and then to watch what happens over time from this work.
Reed says soon enough (of course allowing for the longer-lead times in many AEC project/RFP opportunities), volume grows, sales increase, and the practice escapes some of the worst aspects of the industry’s boom and bust cycle.
Managers can observe and follow the BD initiatives, charts and spreadsheets on the accounting software will show the progress, and then (without excessive complexity, because, after all, these will generally be larger projects), the practice can track the root source and profitability of the work that results from the initiatives.
The highest value of this system, Reed indicates, occurs with existing clients. “Individuals can see what they sell, and use that discipline to move forward.”
Consultants working on current projects tend to move beyond just focusing on the project meetings, traditionally billable, to other activities with their current clients where they can build/enhance relationships and learn about or even create the opportunities for future work.