O P I N I O N
For many leaders, business development resides outside their core competencies and comfort zone, to their firm’s detriment. Mastering business development
L eadership of professional service firms calls for three primary components: strong technical expertise, a set of values consistent with the organization, and an ability to attract and retain clients. Having worked with AEC leaders for many years, I have found that they have little difficulty finding and building technical expertise. Similarly, they can achieve alignment with firm values so long as the firm has clearly defined them.
The problem arises with the third component: business development. Broadly defined, business development means marketing firm services to new and existing clients, then winning the engagement. The firm economic model relies upon it, and its importance will increase as we navigate another recession. However, for many leaders, business development resides outside their core competencies and comfort zone, to their detriment and the firm’s. BUILDING BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXPERTISE. To build business development expertise, consider the following five building blocks: 1)Learn the business of the business. AEC professionals love what they do, i.e., design and deliver beautiful and functional buildings. They will
invest countless hours making that happen. Not so much the business of the business. Many express not only ignorance of how firm economics work, but lack of confidence that they can learn “those numbers.” Without mastering them, however, they will have a hard time negotiating profitable client projects. Financial training for nonfinancial managers in the AEC industry should move from a nice-to-have to a critical investment. If the training is not in-house, follow up with further education tailored to the firm’s business. 2)Overcome fear of business development. In the words of one young engineering leader, business development is scary because “it’s a new territory
See JULIE BENEZET, page 4
THE ZWEIG LETTER AUGUST 17, 2020, ISSUE 1357
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