During a recent meeting of the AGC Business Development Forum, members discussed the various hurdles from this past year. As the conversation shifted from the obstacles to important lessons, it became apparent that the topic my fellow BD Forum members were sharing would be beneficial to the entire AGC community.
For instance, the discussion initially centered on the impact left on construction projects and how certain states had differing policies related to the pandemic. These different approaches forced companies to expand their project management, communications, and IT services. One mainstay of the discussion was customer interaction and service.
The first thing that struck me after the meeting – we all had one hell of a year, which was reinforced when I read Amanda Miller’s article on Ideas.Ted.com. The article, titled ‘Why you should play a game that imagines your company’s demise,’ focused on the idea of breaking from old ways and forcing change. The article’s topic, dark, yet very illuminating, put the BD Forum conversation into very specific context. Mainly, businesses were forced to think differently and each of us overcame quite a bit.
BD Forum member Blaine Beckman, president of F. A. Nunnelly General Contractor went on to share an instance that I am certain resonates with others. Many firms assign an individual to handle an account and put all their efforts into nurturing the relationship between that individual and that account. What happens if that account manager leaves the company for a position with a competitor?
Blaine shared how F. A. Nunnelly proactively manages this scenario. A major aspect of business development is the maintenance of current client relations. Every client portfolio should have a well thought out written plan, detailing several personal relationships between one client and the firm. Rotate each client between a minimum of two teams or two account managers and make sure that executive management is keeping in touch with clients on a regular basis to ensure client satisfaction is being achieved.
Being proactive strengthens client confidence. Combined with a balanced relationship plan and clients are poised to remain with your company when the next project is ready to move forward.
Other topics were discussed in our meeting, yet one of the most impactful topic was weather surprisingly. Across the country, people and businesses were finally embracing the ‘new normal’ of remote work and video-based meetings. Then, Mother Nature decided that a global pandemic wasn’t enough.
Many southern states were impacted in late January and early February 2021 with plunging temperatures, rain, and snow. Texas in particular was hit hard and not prepared.
Many businesses went days without power or suffered water damage, and many were not prepared. Jolsna Thomas, The Rosendin Foundation’s president shared her experience in our conversation and then followed up with steps for an emergency preparedness plan. She referred to the Red Cross’s website and she was instrumental in The Rosendin Foundation establishing the Rosendin/MPS Relief Fund to help employees obtain supplies when locally they may be difficult to procure.
In light of the challenges, Jolsna shared several takeaways that went beyond business development. It is important to plan in advance for your business in the following areas. With your executive leadership or emergency crisis management team, discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies. Be familiar with the natural disaster risks in your community and surrounding areas.
- Identify roles and responsibilities and how each will work together as a team.
- If separated, identify two places to gather (right outside if fire) and designate an offsite shelter if forced to evacuate.
- Identify a third-party contact to act as a relay person for communication as phone lines and cell towers may be down in the affected area. This contact should be in another part of the country, if possible, and provide that person’s contact information to your team for easy reference.
- Practice emergency drills.
Another weather-related story was shared by Blaine Beckman. His company, based in San Antonio, felt the wrath of Mother Nature due to bursting water pipes. Frozen pipes led to a flooded office which destroyed paperwork, office equipment, and IT/Server equipment. In a year that saw such an emphasis on employee safety and mobility, frozen water may have caused the most damage. Blaine encourages companies to ask several questions:
- Does your firm have emergency plans in place with personnel assigned to leading a response to events that potentially lead to major utility outages?
- Do you have a protocol to protect your critical data and infrastructure?
- Is your data backup storage off site?
What started out as a year focused on employee safety and efforts to balance the P/L sheet ended with us all attentive to physical damage. Admittedly none of us could have predicted a global pandemic or substantial snow in Texas. Yet one word continues to come to mind – preparation.
As leaders and managers, we must continue to challenge ourselves to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. While this is true for any business development related topic it is clear that this past year went well beyond the traditional challenges.
If there is one positive thing we can take from this past year, it is the opportunity to help others and to reach out to our clients and show them the value of the relationships our firms provide beyond day-to-day business.