A few years back, I wrote in this column the concern I had with consulting engineers being a commodity. At the time, I received several e-mails agreeing with the dilemma we frequently placed ourselves in as it pertains to being a commodity.

For as far back as I can recall, I have worked to build a business approach based on providing added value and have strived to stay away from being just one more price in the building industry. Each year, I preach about the importance of providing a quality product to a quality client while enjoying the process along the way.

Working together within our Building Solutions Group these past three years, we have been able to maintain this vision of how we want to do business. And each year, we strategically planned and tactically implemented our business plan based on past performance and a look to the future.

Time Flies

So here we are again two months away from a new year, and it is time to plan next year's business success. A phrase I have heard once and use today is: "No One Plans To Fail, But Many Fail To Plan." That never happens in my little world because I was taught early in my career to put my business plan to paper, and from there I can monitor, measure, and correct course on a quarterly basis. This month we will meet as a team and reflect back on how well we have done in 2005, as well as 2004 and 2003, and assess how we can do better next year. A part of our business plan meeting agenda will be:

  • Review current 2005 sales revenue plan.
  • Review our customer list and assess how well we have done at projecting this year's project opportunities with each of the clients we chose to do business with.
  • Draft a 2006 sales revenue plan itemizing the clients we want to do business with, and assign a budget value of sales revenue per quarter we believe to be achievable from each account.

Looking towards 2006, our vision is "what we hope" while our plan is "what we expect." By putting to paper the client list and tabulating our forecast for sales revenue, we will continue to monitor our success on a quarterly basis. Our data collection process will provide accurate information as to how well we are doing. Through monitoring and measuring, we eliminate opinions of how well we are doing and simply let the facts speak for them-selves. A benefit of this analytical approach is that we can also remove client prospects from our list of project opportunities. That is correct; we will remove a client prospect if we decide there just isn't a good fit between them and us. Heck, you can't please them, all so don't try.

Make A List And Check It Twice

Our annual business plan forecast is to first focus on repeat clients, followed by a select list on potential new clients who we believe value and appreciate our services. This second list we discuss in some detail to mutually agree on the prospect, such as what we have to offer for services, our quality process, past performance with similar clients, etc. The third client opportunity will be from pre-qualified RFPs, because we do recognize them as a source of business if we can do so with limited marketing effort, still recognizing that there are two types of RFP's: "low price wins" and "win based on best value (WBOBV)." We are usually interested in WBOBV but don't hesitate to turn down an opportunity to submit a RFP if we don't believe it is a good fit.

We understand that many clients are required to solicit requests for bids from multiple firms. It never hurts to obtain a select few proposals and decide on the best of the proposals. To do so, it is imperative for us to know the decision process and that the selection will not solely rely on the lowest bid.

Based on this format, we will proceed with a proposal recognizing that when we are one of three, we have a 33% chance of closing on the job, but with a sense that we could win this based on best value. Without that sixth sense on closure, we still consider it is our prerogative to turn down an opportunity to submit a fee if the RFP does not fit our vision or business plan.

In our annual meeting and quarterly reviews, we emphasize proposal closure and the importance of focusing in on the work we can win. We track our win-loss proposal ratio as an integral part of our annual business plan. Historically, writing a business plan, maintaining a business database, and monitoring and benchmark the plan will help next year's business plan be an improvement over last year's plan. ES