When the economy was in high gear, several engineering and management firms didn't have time to stop and thank their clients for all the business they had been sent their way. There were too many due dates to meet and too many documents to produce. Time was of the essence.

Now with a slowdown in the building industry, these companies still don't have time to stop and thank their clients for the business they have received in the past year(s). Again, time is working against them as more work needs to be booked. The monthly and annual projections need to be met and spending money now will impact the bottomline at the end of the month.

It's About Building Relationships

These issues are very real, and businesses can't take lightly the cost of entertainment. At the same time, and whether the economy is up or down, it never hurts to stop and say "thank you."

In this industry, building relationships between you and your clients is really a nice part of the process. Aside from authorization to proceed, submitting progress documents, the final report, and/or the project schedule, professional relationships that can come out of doing business with other individuals can be their own reward.

Another way to look at this business is to say money isn't everything. Providing a project that works, a job within budget, and a report completed on time all have value. Client satisfaction, and the knowledge that they chose the right firm for the right application, is also value worth celebrating.

In addition, the individuals you meet and the business problems they face are also of interest. Solving problems can be an inherent benefit of the engineering and management firm. Plus, seeing the issues from the client's perspective can be an integral part of the educational process.

Our firm has held a "client appreciation day" each year where we join our business associates to have some fun and food. It also allows us "stop and smell the roses" as we sit around for a few hours with many of the people with whom we work each year. In addition, it allows us to introduce our clients to each other. Frequently, these introductions can lead to client-to-client networking of their own.

Giving To Get Back

In this business, as well as any business, work needs to be fun and rewarding. Our industry should make time to enjoy the moment every once in awhile. We need to show our appreciation for the business we received and the confidence clients have had in us. Client appreciation day is one way to do it all.

So how do you get to enjoy this special day? First, it is nice to spend some time enjoying the other side of business, the side where both you and your clients can take pleasure in a few hours without an agenda or meeting minutes. Also, you get to better understand who your client is and what are some of their interests outside of the office.

It is within this comfortable venue that the client will mention something about our business that we brought to their project that we sometimes take for granted but has been the main reason why we are asked back again to help them on future projects. It isn't unusual to learn how much more you have in common with them than you may have thought.

From the client's perspective, it gives them a chance to get to know you a little better outside of the business environment, where you both can discuss issues and topics unrelated to work. Last year we added another way to show client appreciation as we introduced the concept of making a specific contribution to our chosen charity in the name of the client for each project we receive a "job authorization to proceed." Since Sept. 11, 2001, the spirit of giving has been elevated to an all-time high. We believe our policy, established prior to that fateful day, simply reinforced the company's focus to show "customer appreciation" while contributing to a great cause. At the end of the day, we all win! ES