It’s Summer – 90 Days to Firm Fitness!

Business Development, Business Improvement, Operations, Planning
This time of year the magazine racks and online health sites are chock-a-block full of advice on how you can get yourself (and your body) ready for the summer beach season. [A lifetime of bad choices can be reversed in just five minutes a day]. Yes, it’s a tired cliché. But it's also true that as the weather warms up, we soon turn our attention to the out-of-doors, and the external motivation of looking good at the pool or on the course. Similar thing with the company. Now nearly at the year’s midpoint, it's a good time to reflect on just what is going on (or not) with business performance and progress against our expectations. And it’s also the right time to make adjustments in our plans, to get the firm…
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What Are You Measuring, and Why?

Business Development, Business Improvement, Operations, Planning
No doubt about it, measurement is popular today. At seminars and conferences, and in the management trade press, the subject of metrics is everywhere. The idea of quantifying business performance (and managing investments in business improvement) is very attractive - especially to technical types who strive for accuracy and precision in their work.  It's a compelling objective. Moreover, measurement is also important to business focus.  There's good sense in the old truism that “what gets measured, gets done.”  (And it’s clear that the opposite is true as well: objectives desired but not measured usually don’t happen – or happen well enough). Many non-technical managers (for example in Marketing, Sales, or Human Resources) too often soft-pedal rigorous measurement.  In a business environment where proof counts more than faith, this is the…
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Content and Promotion – Today’s Recipe for Professional Business Success

Business Development, Business Improvement, Planning
In my view there are two main ingredients to professional services success. If I label these two as "technical competency" and "client relationships" few would disagree. These are terms that professionals commonly use and are comfortable with.  But both of these descriptors are passive, referring mainly to achievements already attained. Of course technical competency is important to business (try succeeding without it)! But isn't competency something that you and the firm already have? And client relationships? All will agree with the high value of existing client relationships, but these are also (by definition) already achieved. Even the most talented of business developers appreciate unsolicited, inbound calls from satisfied customers. Suppose instead I use different descriptors for the two ingredients, namely "expertise" on the one hand, and "marketing" on the other.…
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Your Competition – Is Who?

Business Development, Business Improvement, Operations, Planning
Can you (and others in your firm) accurately identify and describe your competition? In my experience (with hundreds of organizations and thousands of professionals) the common answer is no. Truth is, most professionals don't spend enough time focusing on the competitive context of their business. Competitors they do know (the handful of firms seen at pre-bid meetings, conference sessions, or discussed in client conversations) represent only a small part of the story. Still, properly assessing the full range of competitive threats is a must to fully appreciate the market, and to plan for a purposeful and distinctive response.  Here are four main sources of competitive threat: Known Competitors – While most professionals can name a few of their more obvious direct competitors, they often misunderstand these organizations and their strength…
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Lost Opportunities and Long Term Success

Business Development, Business Improvement
I recently lost an opportunity to another consultant.  It’s always painful.  Frankly it doesn’t happen all that often that we’re in direct competition with other advisors. Greater are the threats of the status quo, fear of change, and general complacency in the client organization. Our strongest competitors are the client acting alone, or worse, not acting at all. Losing a new project opportunity, and more importantly a new relationship opportunity, always disappoints.  What’s more, I’m usually caught off guard - I just don’t see it coming.  (I know this doesn’t make sense. We’re not going to win them all, and we certainly can’t (and shouldn’t) take on every project that crosses our desk).  Still, in truth, I believe that I should get them all.  That’s because I believe in myself,…
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AEC Business Development – A Role, Not a Title

Business Development, Business Improvement, Planning
Have you ever thought about business development in the firm, using a simple equation like this: But if it’s this simple, then why - when you ask, plead, or demand the effort of others - does it rarely work? The answer lies in two parts.  First, it’s wrong to believe that “sales calls” will lead to prospects. It's occasionally true – but most often not.  Initial calls with existing or new clients track first to leads – our one-way ideas and desires.  These leads must be further nurtured and developed before they become true prospects – opportunities where the interest and desire to move forward is mutual (two-way). Second - and the point of this post:  it’s wrong to think that all members of the team can (or should) pursue…
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