In strategic business planning, the focus is on profit driven by technical proficiency and adaptability.

Over my 45 years in the building industry, I have averaged a company change every 6.5 years in my quest to learn more about this business, which encompasses design engineering, estimating, TAB, commissioning, design-build (D-B), construction management, facility management, and integrated project delivery (IPD). So while some are asking when I am going to retire, I’m busy working out my next business experience, which is to provide strategic business planning (SBP) to proactive technical firms (engineers, third-party TAB and commissioning consultants, and D-B and IPD companies) who want to be leaders rather than followers. My new venture is to provide an engineer-led, product-by-product menu of business opportunities. Think of it as a menu of services to choose from at a fixed fee per product. You say you never heard of such a service? That’s good, because that means I won’t have any competition - at least to start!

My approach to this SBP strategy is significantly different from traditional business development (BD) groups. First, my focus is directed to those technical firms (engineering and construction) striving to be proactive in their business specialties and not waiting around for request-for-proposals (RFP) to be sent to them, as well as to several other competitors.

I’ve documented approximately 20 engineer-led SBP products that proactive/technical firms can embrace along with their regular services. I also know from experience that engineer-led services can be considered to be recession-proof, so you could say my SBP is sustainable.

SUSTAINABILITY

How is my new venture sustainable? Well, when the economy is good, design engineering, commissioning, and third-party TAB services are in demand, so here await specific, engineer-led project opportunities (read the October 2010 “Tomorrow’s Environment” column for more info).

But the challenge in good times is to stay the course and not be drawn into those easy to-respond-to RFPs which come back to haunt the firm as they “follow, not lead” and accept lower engineering fees due to the commodity environment of RFPs.

As you see the economy dropping off, my SBP shifts its focus towards energy conservation, deferred maintenance, and energy retrocommissioning, as ROI will drive the engineer-led opportunities. Here is where technical firms outshine the competition because the projects are mostly high-performance engineered solutions. None of the less-technical firms are positioned to be strong competition in a downturn economy, so why should they lead? Think about it. What type of firm is qualified to complete energy conservation software programs? A proactive technical firm.

The third type of SBP is those projects that just don’t care what the economy is doing, such as troubleshooting problematic systems, master planning, and end-of-useful equipment service life. A good example of this SBP relates to concerns about global warming, where speculation has it that 50% of all LEED®-certified buildings by 2020 will be LEED EB - and who is better positioned to facilitate these technical-driven opportunities but those firms with a strong resume of energy auditing, retrofit, and O&M experience?

For you to understand the difference between my SBP and BD, you need to go back and read my February 2009 “Tomorrow’s Environment” column. The problem I have with many BD professionals is that they don’t usually know the product’s process when advocating their firm become proficient in a specific product. And yes, what we do in the building industry is categorized as a “product.” To be successful in delivering a product, there has to be a process. Based on my experience, I believe BD professionals need to include the means to succeed and for their own education to assist in developing the tools to succeed and not simply advocate, “We should do this.”

My SBP approach is to craft every BD (product-by-product) venture to include product and potential clients by industry, pros and cons list for this product initiative, BD process flow diagram, and potential partner(s) where needed.

Product tools in the following categories include a business plan, PowerPoint of the product and process, documents to perform the initiative, performance benchmarking and reporting, script the personality/job description needed to lead the product delivery team, and client maintenance procedures for continuous client satisfaction.

A side benefit of my SBP venture is that I will have more time to write and share my 45-plus years of experience via my Building Smart Software business which, until now, was more of a hobby than a full-time commitment. I also think this idea of providing technical SBP services on a product-by-product basis to the building industry is unique and long overdue. This approach complements D-B and IPD methods of completing the project for building owners.

So this year, I am anxious to continue having fun while sharing my D-B and O&M experience with those committed to delivering client satisfaction via engineer-led leadership and IPD of technical solutions rather than waiting for an RFP to arrive. ES