Be yourself and win

Mar 11, 2019

In business development, many missteps can be traced back to a lack of understanding and acceptance of who we are.

The late great Chris Cornell wrote, “You may win or lose, but to be yourself is all that you can do,” on his band Audioslave’s hit song, “Be Yourself.” Upon release, the rock tune connected on a deeply personal level with people around the world. At our core, we know that being true to ourselves is the first step in growth and true transformation. Professional services firms could benefit from taking a page from Mr. Cornell.

Most minor and major missteps in the course of business development at professional services firms can be traced back to a lack of understanding and acceptance of who we are. This goes beyond the crucial and often forgotten SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis into the deeper territory of our collective consciousness – essentially a living, breathing pillar of our culture. Marketing professionals are in a unique position to steer conversations into business-savvy transactions – who are we and what do we want to accomplish?

  • AEC professionals are problem solvers by nature. This presents a wealth of positive junctures but can also prove to be a challenging trait. For starters, there is a primal urgency to decipher any dilemma presented to them. The issue is not if we can do the work, but rather have we done this before and are we the right firm to do so? Are we going after carefully groomed leads or are we implementing a shotgun approach? Beyond that, if we are developing or maintaining long, healthy business relationships, referring work will go a long way with both clients and colleagues.
  • Personal often trumps comprehensive when talking about capabilities. Our fellow technical gurus are somewhat constrained to narrow comfort zones. Have you ever witnessed the painful scenario of a geotechnical engineer trying to explain the firm’s capabilities in vapor intrusion? We all must learn two rules of thumb:
    • Let’s do our homework and truly learn what our firms have to offer.
    • It is perfectly fine to tell a potential client that you will have an expert contact them to discuss their issues in detail.
  • Let’s embody being a “consultant” and facilitate the effective pairing of client with practitioner, even when it is not you.
  • Most vision and mission statements are fill-in-the-blank exercises. Try this out: Read the statements from four similar firms – go ahead, take a few minutes and do it. How about that, eh? You can copy/paste them into any of the websites, include them in any of the firms’ branded collateral and, for the most part, everything stays intact. Why not avoid the traps of doing things like they have always been done and craft statements that are unique to who you are? Be yourself!
  • Some work for the strategic plan instead of developing a plan that guides them to win work. So, you ended up with a beautiful document with nice grammar, no typos, detailed key performance indicators, pristine growth percentages – congratulations? The exercise should not boil down to completing “a document” and instead it should “document” a sincere look at the firm’s current reality and how it informs an effective path forward to achieve success.

Author James Altucher wrote, “Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.” The best prescription in our quest to avoid going too deep into the wrong forest is to accept what we see in the mirror and trust that we can use the right tools to effect positive change. Now, go forth and rock. And be yourself!

Javier Suarez is the central marketing and sales support manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.