Years ago, when I was responsible for managing a branch office, we had a “customer appreciation day” where we would invite clients to the adjacent golf course for a round of golf and then walk back to the office for an outdoor barbecue. I found the experience a great break in the schedule with everyone having fun (cell phones had to be shut off).

While at another company, I helped facilitate an annual office cleaning day where we would stop work for the day and everyone would clean the entire office, throwing away a lot of stuff (before recycling) that had accumulated during the year. At lunch, the CEO, the president, and I would grill up a variety of food over two-open pit fires. That, too, was a fun time and a good break from the day-to-day work schedule, allowing people to stop and enjoy the moment and enjoy the company of their co-workers.

I believe most, if not all, companies invest in entertaining their clients, and many will also invest in entertaining their employees on occasion, so why don’t clients have a consultant appreciate day? Oh, sure, many will say that they don’t have the budget for such a cost and, of course, there is the threat of a potential for conflict of interest. Certainly the purchasing department will raise that second concern, but let’s think about this a little more before we say it can’t be done.

How about if the theme was changed to “Invitation to Our World?” Wouldn’t it be educational as well as fun for clients to let down their guard and open up their place of employment to repeat consultants to share how business is done with the focus for (my discussion here) on design, construction, and O&M topics?

Sure, it will take preparation on the client’s part to develop individual open forums on these three topics, but here would be a great opportunity for the clients to showcase how business is done at their facility. Many of the clients I have worked with in the college/university institutions, health care, pharmaceutical, and industrial communities are nationally recognized, with each having their annual conferences where venders are invited to participate (e.g., APPA, ASHE, ISPE, and IFMA), but I’m thinking these gatherings would be site-specific.

Here is my vision of how an Invitation to Our World day would go, based on the provider being a hospital and the invited consultants being HVAC engineers and mechanical contractors:


• Sign-in (not registration)

• Introduction of all participants (no key speaker)

• Departmental forum:

• Operational day-to-day challenges including infection control

• Maintenance day-to-day challenges

• How construction impacts day-to-day O&M

• How design will eventually impact day-to-day O&M

• Buffet lunch

• Closing comments (informal wrap up of Our World discussion)


Sounds crazy and unrealistic? Maybe not. Owner organizations recognized years ago the need to get the message out to other owners, as well as consultants, contractors, and other vendors about their mutual issues and concerns, so why not offer a site-specific sharing of information at an informal get-together? In a more relaxed setting owners can share their past experience along with what their future concerns will be, nature of their business in the years to come, and how funding impacts their decisions on whom they do business with in the coming years.

The difference between an annual open registration conference and the individual site invitation is the opportunity to hear what your client’s day-to-day activities are and how consultants have helped make things better or not. With a less formal atmosphere, the discussions can be more relaxed, and the owners can share what they see as the challenges from the past to the future over some equally less formal food and drink. Just like design engineering and construction methods are routinely changing, so do the day-to-day procedures that owners experience. Sure, budgeting and funding influence building and infrastructure decisions by all, but what are those core issues that create cause and effect within the facility?

At the end of the day, everyone will have had fun and be better educated about this specific facility’s planning, construction, and O&M daily events. Just think of it as integrated project delivery without a project — more generic introduction to how things need to work to make the client’s day go smoothly. And remember, if things can go more smoothly for the owner, then their clients, the patients, should have a better experience while in that specific health care facility. Think about it: most patients arrive sick or injured and under a lot more stress than any consultant/client stress-related issue.

When the consultant is educated about the client’s related day-to-day problems, then the Invitation to Our World will be time and money well spent. And a couple of side benefits will be that you had fun that day, and you learned something you probably didn’t know about your client. ES