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Business Development

Where many mergers fail, this one didn’t. Here’s why

Mergers and acquisitions are currently on the upswing in the A/E/C industry, and that activity shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. But just because it’s happening more doesn’t mean it’s happening successfully.

Depending on whose statistics you follow, the failure rate of mergers and acquisitions as a whole ranges from 70% to 90%, and the A/E/C industry is no different. There is no magic formula for success, but there are factors that will enhance your chances. In this issue of The Friedman File, we talk to two firm leaders about their successful merger—and the lessons they learned from doing it right (and from an acquisition that didn’t fare as well).

Know your potential match

While some firms go through extensive searches to find the right partner, Willy Stewart, P.E., and George Stanziale, Jr., ASLA, CLARB, of 200-person engineering, planning and landscape architecture firm […]

By | 2017-08-21T09:30:36+00:00 August 2017|Business Development|

What your clients want you to know about your next shortlist presentation

Shortlist presentations could be called “stress list presentations” for the amount of angst they cause A/E/C and environmental consulting firms.

The timeframes are short and the preparation is long. What’s worse is that many firms that do the hard work required (opportunity research and selection, prepositioning, and thoughtful, client-centered proposal writing) to routinely get shortlisted still struggle to win the big show.

How can you improve your win rate? In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re going to the source: your clients. In the numerous loss debrief interviews I’ve conducted on behalf of my clients over the years, I’ve heard many recurring themes.

(If you’re in the fortunate position of having plenty of sole source work or master service agreements, this intel can also help you make a stronger case for your ideas, internally and with clients.)

What clients see

  • Firms that have rushed their preparation […]
By | 2017-07-18T15:13:49+00:00 October 2016|Business Development, Case Studies|

Market research words to the wise

In this issue of The Friedman File, business partner Jerry Guerra of The JAGG Group shares his candid thoughts and advice on the much-debated topic of market research. Jerry is a skilled researcher, writer, and PR/communications specialist who has collaborated with me on many projects for architects, engineers and environmental consultants. —Rich Friedman.

In many A/E/C firms, market research is a wasted activity driven by ignorance, cursed by laziness and devoid of any understanding of where its true value lies. The inevitable result is a massive gap between the promise of an intelligent market research program that helps a firm succeed and grow, and the futility of the actual market research efforts that far too many firms pursue.

We pay for expensive online services, scour the business papers and trade journals for long-range leads, hire ex-government employees to identify and harvest opportunities, sit through economic […]

One firm decided to change how they pursue work. Here’s what happened

One of my goals in sending The Friedman File is to spur new thinking about ideas and practices to move your firm forward. In this issue, I’m shining a spotlight on a firm that’s having great success in redesigning how they do something critical: pursue new work.

While the degree to which each A/E/C or environmental consulting firm participates in the competitive procurement process differs, this story has lessons for those that struggle with effective knowledge sharing, identifying and developing leaders, and cultivating a firm-wide business development (BD) culture. And that’s the majority of firms I’ve encountered in my years in this industry.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the firm highlighted is a client of Friedman & Partners, and we recruited the principal interviewed. I have no doubt that you’ll take away valuable learning from their experience.)

When it comes to pursuing new work, the […]

By | 2017-07-31T14:01:55+00:00 February 2016|Business Development, Case Studies|

Culture matters: is yours ‘CYA’ or ’embrace the problem’?

It’s often been said that you can tell a lot about a person by how they handle adversity. In my experience, this is also true of A/E/C and environmental consulting firms. The strongest firms out there are those who are not only prepared to respond when things go wrong, but welcome and create the opportunity.

After years of seeing this play out, I know one the best things that you as a leader can do for your firm is to instill a culture of viewing problems as opportunities. In this issue of The Friedman File, I’m going to share two examples of how it’s done.

Perils of the CYA culture

Should a problem — such as a project going south — really be embraced?

In some firms, the mindset is that no news is good news, or what we don’t know won’t hurt us. Firms like this […]

By | 2017-07-12T14:28:56+00:00 December 2015|Business Development, Case Studies|

Is commoditization a problem? Or a potential opportunity?

Everywhere I go, it seems, I’m privy to what is becoming a never-ending debate: whether A/E/C and environmental consulting services are becoming commoditized. In this issue of the The Friedman File, I want to explore this topic in a different way.

First off, when we say the industry is becoming commoditized, what do we really mean by this? Is it a perception that clients see firms and services as identical except for the price? Is this true, and if so, is standardization always a negative thing? More important, is this ongoing debate on whether we are in a race to the bottom helping — or hurting — the industry?

Dan Rowe, president of 95-person Treanor Architects (Lawrence, KS) doesn’t think it’s helping. “I think our industry’s preoccupation with commoditization has turned into a crutch for some firms,” Rowe says. “It’s an excuse for losing and a […]

By | 2017-07-18T15:19:39+00:00 April 2015|Business Development, Business Strategy|

Dialing for dollars: outsourcing lead generation

As you know, new business development (BD) is critical to success. First, I’ve never come across a firm that has a repeat work rate of 100% (I want to hear from you if you do!). Second, to provide advancement opportunities for emerging leaders, you must develop new client and project opportunities.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this is getting your foot in the door to begin the relationship-building process. Doing so can be challenging and frustrating for even the most seasoned BD professional. That’s why some firms employ outside lead generators to place the often-dreaded cold calls.

Does it work? Let’s explore.

The Business Case

Any regular reader of The Friedman File knows I’m not a fan of cold calls (see The Death of the Cold Call: May it Rest in Peace). In a nutshell, cold calls typically yield a low ROI and thus have a high […]

By | 2017-07-18T15:20:28+00:00 January 2015|Business Development|

Business development training: the real scoop

I’ve seen a surge in interest for business development (BD) training in the past year or two since the economic rebound. I believe this surge results from two primary factors:

  • The financial reality that while most firms are still watching their overhead dollars like a hawk, there is more discretionary money available to fund training initiatives that were put on hold during the recession.
  • A reluctance by some firms to (re)hire full-time business developers. Many were let go during the downturn, and some firms have never filled this role. In their place, many firms have doubled down on building a firm-wide BD culture and bolstering their existing seller-doer culture.

In this issue of The Friedman File, I address the long-standing debate about the efficacy of BD training and provide advice on how firms can maximize their return-on-investment (ROI) from training initiatives.

Any discussion of BD training […]

By | 2017-07-18T15:22:07+00:00 September 2014|Business Development|

Value: the A/E/C industry’s biggest blind spot?

The Friedman File readers know the importance I place on asking clients and prospects probing questions — whether it’s to:

  • Learn more about their organization and role, their greatest challenges, and trends and drivers impacting their success
  • Determine how they define and measure value from a firm like yours
  • Identify who they view as your most potent competitors and why
  • Assess how you’re performing on a project
  • Better understand why you won or lost a recent project pursuit

In this issue, I want to focus on a key area — eliciting client feedback to enable your firm to assess the value you bring to the table. As a strategy consultant to the A/E/C industry, I see far too many firms struggle with determining and articulating their differentiators, benefits (not features!), and value. All too often, expensive off-sites are held where principals, marketing staff, and […]

You lost. Find out why!

In the business development realm, it can literally be the $1 million question: “Why did we lose this project?”

“We’ve been scoping the opportunity well in advance of the RFP, and we thought we were well positioned.”

“We knew the competition and thought we’d answered the questions, ‘Why us? What value do we confer?’

“We thought our presentation was solid.”

To learn more about why you lost, you attempt to gather feedback from your prospective client. And that’s where the wheels come off for the majority of A/E/C firms that don’t have a steady stream of sole-source work.

Anyone who’s conducted a loss debrief knows how difficult and inherently awkward they can be — for you and for the prospective client — if not done well.

Why Debrief After a Loss?

I’d like to think that firms attempt to conduct loss debriefs at every opportunity. However, this is not the […]