Using What You’ve Got

Aug 18, 1997

Opportunity is all around us. A lot of how successful you are depends on how you see things. The fact is, most A/E/P or environmental firms could do a better job cashing in on assets they already own. Here are some examples of ways firms are doing just that: A 200-person engineering and environmental consulting firm has started an on-line training institute that provides a wide range of environmental health and safety training to employees of client organizations, no matter where they are or when they want it. This is an innovative concept for gaining additional revenues not directly tied to man-hours. It capitalizes on knowledge the firm already has (how to train their people) and enhances their image in the marketplace—if you provide training, you must know what you are talking about, right? A 25-person environmental and geotechnical engineering firm is doing original research on how their clients are handling specific types of environmental problems. They then feed this information back to their entire group of clients and potential clients. As a result, their image is enhanced as the collector and disseminator of this type of information, and they gain insight into client needs that none of their competitors has. A 90-person landscape architecture and land planning firm looked over its previous hotel and resort projects to determine exactly how much pool and deck area each had relative to the number of guest rooms. Once again, this information not only helps them sell work, because they clearly have lots of experience in this area, it also helps them do the work better. A 3,000-plus person engineering, construction, and environmental firm is planning a national conference for their clients in a particular market sector. Tired of trying to get their professionals on the agenda for professional association meetings where they can be one of five panelists in a break-out session, this company decided they wanted to do it themselves. And why not? They have people on their staff who have helped plan these events for the professional associations they belong to. They have experienced speakers in their professional ranks. They have a database of clients and potential clients to invite. A 200-person engineering and architecture firm has decided to turn some of their in-house computer and financial talent into a profit center. They have performed consulting engagements for other firms in the same business, sharing what they have learned about linking multiple offices electronically and how best to extract information from a BST accounting system. A 12-person architectural firm that specializes in office work discovered that even though it wasn’t something that they set out to do, they were being drawn into phone system design and installation. Instead of just directing their clients to vendors they liked, they decided to get into that business and do the design and installation themselves, creating an all-new profit center. An 800-person A/E/P firm hired a full-time strategic planner. After discovering that their clients needed the same services that this person provided in their own firm, the decision was made to market strategic planning directly to their clients. This allowed professionals from the A/E/P firm to form relationships with the top-level people in their client organizations, which, of course, lead to more work in their traditional service areas. These are just a few examples of capitalizing on the opportunities out there. I continue to be bullish on the long-term future of the A/E/P and environmental consulting industry, not just because the world population is growing and somebody has to design the roads, buildings, bridges, utilities and other types of infrastructure that a modern society needs. That’s important, but there’s another reason. We are quickly evolving from a task-oriented business to one that is relationship-oriented, leading many companies that started out as traditional A/E or professional services firms to completely reevaluate what they do. And that “reevaluation” is planting the seeds for a brighter, more enduring long-term success as we transform our companies into broad-based consulting and information management businesses. Originally published 8/18/1997

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.