Humility, but also pride

Jul 16, 2018

The collective achievement of any given AEC firm is oftentimes shared only with prospective clients during the proposal process, and that’s a lost opportunity.

Every few years, I find myself working closely with our corporate services and marketing personnel to compile historical information relevant to our pursuit of a key contract opportunity. On occasion, these requests require us to demonstrate our skills, in terms of our experience, with certain types of projects within a specified period of time. Most recently, I was working on a submittal in which we were asked to demonstrate the depth and breadth of our skills in regard to several remedial technologies.

The fact is, every time I go through this type of exercise I’m reminded of what our organization has amassed in terms of its resume, and it’s impressive. I trust the same can be said for each of your firms, as well. But, here’s the problem. I think the day-to-day demands and activities within each of our offices often prevent us from seeing the true picture, in a corporate sense, of what we have become. I believe that’s probably the case for most junior or even mid-level personnel whose primary role is production oriented, or those staff housed in remote offices where the work might not be all that diverse.

In my firm, there’s a sentence I often insert into our larger proposals that speaks to how many projects we have performed across the many continents on which we have worked. It’s pretty incredible when I stop and think about it, and I trust each of you reading this knows of similar-type statements being used to describe your organizations. But, here’s my point. Statements like these aren’t hype; they reflect what all of us have accomplished corporately in our respective organizations. So why are these great collective achievements seemingly relegated to proposals or statements of qualifications and not plastered throughout the meeting rooms and hallways of our organizations?

Yes, humility is a virtue. But a little pride is crucially important in business, too, and reserving these statements of accomplishment exclusively for the benefit of a prospective client is a lost opportunity, to say the least. As incredible as I find these accomplishments to be at my age and position, I can’t help but think of how motivating it might be for a new hire to hear about them, or how inspiring they might be to someone whose perspective of their organization is otherwise limited to the day-to-day realities of the projects on which they are engaged. As someone whose responsibilities include business development, I also wonder how knowing these types of facts might bolster the effectiveness of elevator speeches, introductions, or social marketing in general.

In her book How to be Profitable & Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn writes, “If we want to be happy and profitable, we must reject humility as a deterrent to achieving values and embrace pride.” That said, I encourage each of you reading this article (young and old), to take a few minutes sometime to (re)read some of your firm’s project profiles, peruse the resumes of your senior staff, or review one of the larger, more comprehensive proposals your firm has recently issued. What you will see is your firm’s corporate reflection – your reflection – and I think you’ll agree it’s something of which to be proud.

Marc Florian is vice president for Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., a professional consulting, engineering, and scientific services organization serving clients and markets throughout the U.S. and on four continents. He can be reached at

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