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Posts Tagged ‘Subcontractor’

I recently met with the head of an architectural firm who is trying to ‘re-invent’ himself due to the need of the particular specialty of design in which he has built his practice has pretty much disappeared. As we discussed various options, I could not help but to be reminded of one of the very first architectural clients I ever had.

This contract was to help develop a business and marketing plan for a very accomplished architect who was one of three partners of a well-known regional firm. For some reason, he decided to go out on his own with a new firm and start from scratch. I have a saying I have often repeated and will again now, ‘In all my years of being in the A/E/C industry, I have yet to meet an architect, engineer, contractor or sub, who started their own business because they wanted to be in sales.” This client may have been the epitome of that.

After we completed all the research and legwork for the business plan and after getting to know him, his goals and vision for his new venture, we began working on his marketing plan. I soon realized he needed some coaching on sales and marketing as that was going to be one of his main functions.

Following along the old line of, “The best way to appear sincere is to be sincere.”…I am a big believer that no one should be able to sell a company better than the owner. No, I am not saying owning a company suddenly turns one into Jeffrey Gitomer or Zig Ziglar but there is a lot to be said for being the one who has their ‘name on the door’ and their reputation at stake when marketing the goods and/or services of a company they own.

As we finished the marketing plan the last part of my contract was to help him with his presentation of why an interested party should hire his company. Since he was out of state, we decided we would meet at a restaurant on his next trip through Atlanta and role play the following scenario. I would be a businessman looking to develop my own office building and he would be the third architectural firm I was considering. Pretty simple.

After we met, ordered dinner, chatted and caught up, it was ‘show time’! I reached into my briefcase, pulled out his marketing package and went into character. “Joe, I appreciate you meeting with me and have to admit, I am very impressed with your brochure and portfolio. As you know, I am looking to develop a 20,000 square foot building and am trying to select an architectural firm that will be able to help me with this goal. Tell me why I should consider your firm.”

(Long pause…)

After what seemed like minutes, he finally looked at me and said, “I can’t do it.”

Not only could he not make a presentation on the how’s and why’s someone should consider his firm, he could not even make a ‘pretend’ presentation.
Granted, not everyone is cut out for sales, which, as a business development sales and marketing consultant is good news for me. However, I believe everyone in every company is in sales in some shape or form. So, after my client confessed his ‘stage fright’ we discussed techniques that would work for him and he left happy and not as concerned about his next presentation.

The reason I share this with you today is lately I have been inundated with calls and emails from people who, because of the economy, find themselves looking for new opportunities. I can sincerely tell you that I have a real heart for people in this situation as I have been there before. We all thought we would retire and die with CMD (Construction Market Data), my former employer, and when I got the message that I had a meeting with Human Resources in five minutes and just a few hours later, I was walking to the parking lot with a cardboard box of personal items and 13 years of memories, I too had to ‘re-invent’ myself.

My father is full of sayings and one that sticks out to me is ‘Can’t never could.’ The meaning of that is the shortest lesson in believing in yourself. There are many examples of people who came to greatness through a path they never dreamed. In today’s tough economy, these people are not necessarily looking for greatness, just a way to earn a living.

I will close with yet another saying I picked up along the way which I have found value in more than once. “Man can live for about 30 days without food, for about seven days without water, for about eight minutes without oxygen but not for one second without hope.”

I know it is easy to toss out a ‘hang in there’ to someone who seriously needs that one connection, that one lead, that one contact that will lead them to their next opportunity but if you are one of those people or know someone who is, whatever you do, don’t say, ‘I can’t do it.’ At least not where I can hear you. I know things are genuinely tough out there for many, many people but as long as one has hope, there will be less ‘I can’t do it’ mindsets.

Pardon me if I sounded a bit maudlin with this post but I truly love what I do, I truly enjoy seeing people build new business and truly enjoy helping others as best I can. If you are, or a friend, relative or neighbor is close to saying, ‘I can’t do it’…don’t stop…shoot me an email and I will send you my ‘New Opportunity Starter Kit’ which is really nothing more than a list of ideas, links and a short outline of ideas I have developed through the years. Because we do recruiting for the A/E/C industry, we get all kinds of calls from our friends or neighbors when someone is looking and though they are usually not a good candidate for our clients, the blueprint for finding something new is quite transferrable.

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working and had more hope than they had ‘I can’t do it.’

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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This really is not so much a continuation of my last posting as it is a follow up discussion answering a few of the questions I received.

For those who read my last offering, you are aware that it was part of a unique ‘blog blast’ that I was privileged to have been a part of…six A/E/C marketplace bloggers all writing on the same topic, the perfect CRM.

My own take was to approach it from the perspective of using a CRM to manage leads, prospects and customers for building new business. I gave a little background on my history of working in the construction information business for 13 years and seeing how companies use and ‘misused’ the leads they purchased.

Allow me to steer off topic for just a bit and address the subject of paying for leads and say that Reed Construction Data, McGraw-Hill’s F.W. Dodge Reports, Construction Wire, CDC News, etc. are all good at what they do. I have used or consulted with companies using all of these and more and the main point I would like to make is that as helpful and useful as these leads are, the chances of their ‘uniqueness’ are slim to none. What I mean by that is, chances are, dozens and in some cases hundreds of your competitors are using the very same leads.

The difference is how one utilizes the information in those leads. Very much the same way I could play Phil Keaggy’s guitar or hit a few balls with Tiger’s driver, but the results would be much different. It is the old ‘where do you put the fulcrum for your lever?’ idea.

Now, on to the questions:

Q: How do I get ‘buy-in’ from my employees who I know are going to resist a new CRM system?

A: Well, there is always the “I am the general, you are the private, I out-rank you so do it!” approach, which I do not recommend as the initial presentation. This is simply nothing more than following the old business adage, “If you get them to help plan the fight, the less likely they are to fight the plan.”

This will require a much better understanding of what a CRM can do that your future users. This is where you, the boss, play the role of the consultant with your sales reps as your client. Most CRM’s are customizable and have more features than the average user will come close to using. Start by asking what their challenges are in tracking prospects, making sure you follow the shortest path from ‘stranger’ to loyal customer. Get their input from the beginning, hold round-table discussions, let them participate in the sales presentation from the vendor.

Q: We have employees all over the country, what challenges should I be aware of before implementing a CRM?

A: Easy…standards! This is what I call “Making the ‘Big-Mac’ taste the same.” What I mean by that is, if you buy a Big-Mac in Albuquerque, it will taste just like a Big-Mac you would buy in Atlanta. Make sure you develop standards for entry and use that are easy to understand and help you reach the goals you have set for implementing or upgrading your CRM.

Q: What do I need from a CRM?

A: This is a very open question but important because, depending upon one’s knowledge of and understanding of a CRM, it can be very easy to over or under buy. I worked with one company that spent several hundred, thousand dollars on a system that would take a lead or prospect information and weave it through their accounting, human resources and operations.

The system is very, very robust and if used properly can save a company tons of money. However, in this case, it was the equivalent of trying to kill a fly with a stick of dynamite. A good sales rep can make any CRM look like the best thing since penicillin so spend some time and effort understanding what you need and how you will use it before you begin your purchasing process.

Q: What is the biggest mistake a company makes in investing in a CRM?

A: Believing that purchasing a CRM is a ‘silver bullet’. I have said it before that the purchase alone of a CRM is much like the purchase of a ‘Bow-flex’…the purchase alone will do nothing for you. What will make a difference is the effective and continued use of one will.

In closing, I will admit that all of this plays well into my ‘healthy level of OCD’. And, yes, I admit that when it comes to discussing CRM’s, data standards, feature comparisons, execution plans, etc. the real inner geek in me comes alive but that is because of all my years in business, I have seen fewer programs that can help a company build new business and grow than a well-executed CRM system.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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Trying to define the perfect CRM is a lot like trying to define the perfect vacation, a perfect suit or a perfect meal…so much depends on so many qualities such as one’s goals, size and tastes.

Today’s Blog is a little different in that I have been fortunate to have been asked to take part in a joint effort to address this topic along with a group of my fellow A/E/C marketplace bloggers. (See Post Epilogue)

I will address my point of view from a perspective of working with companies in the commercial construction arena and with a background in lead generation and CRM consulting. Bear with me just a moment while I bore you with a bit of my resume that will, I believe, flavor my offering from a somewhat unique perspective.

The first 13 years of my career, I worked for a company called ‘Construction Market Data’ which became ‘Reed Construction Data’. As a company, we gathered project data by calling on architects, owners, developers, general contractors, municipalities and more. We entered the data into a proprietary database which was actually a very elaborate CRM.

At any one time, we would be tracking literally tens of thousands of project leads ranging from the time a building was nothing but a glimmer in a developer’s eye, through the various stages of design, the bidding process to finally announcing who was awarded the major sub trades.

In tracking a construction project through this timeline, we would include such key roles as the owner, the architect, the structural, mechanical, electrical engineers, bonding information, bid date and time, plan and addendum availability, size, scope, structural details, etc. In other words, a lot of data was attached to a ‘single entry’.

During my tenure at CMD/Reed, I was in charge of training every researcher and sales rep on the ‘in’s out out’s’ of how we gathered data, developed relationships with our sources, how the data was entered, stored and retrieved. Near the end of my time there, I was responsible for managing our national accounts which included pushing the data to their CRM systems and making sure they used this data to their best ability. Our accounts would range from small subcontractors to multi-billion dollar corporations paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for these leads.

Now with that painful review done, I will fast forward to today and share that I make a fair portion of my living consulting with companies on their CRM system, particularly as it relates to their sales and marketing, and have seen many companies under/over shoot the mark in their quest for the perfect CRM.

I have written about the importance of leads for building new business before and today’s topic goes hand in hand with managing past, present and future pricing opportunities. While a CRM has many, many features and benefits, I am more specifically concerned about using it to build new business.

When I am consulting with a client on how to manage their CRM, the first thing I try to get them to understand that investing in any CMR system is much like buying a Bowflex™. Buying the Bowflex™ does not get your body to look like the guy in the commercial but rather the continued and effective use of it does. In other words, buying a CRM is not a solution. How you use it is.

A CRM system is nothing more than a tool and it will be most effective when the particular needs of a company are woven into the ‘routine’ of the end user. Software is not the only part of a successful CRM system.

Whether one knows it or not, every single company in America has a current CRM system. It may be nothing more than, on the low end, index cards, filed by date for when to call a prospect/account all the way up to an enterprise wide system that integrates with accounting, production, finance, fulfillment, etc. costing several hundred thousands of dollars

To find the perfect CRM, a company needs to clearly define what it wants to accomplish by upgrading their current system. Often, a business does not even know what questions to ask and can often be mesmerized by bells and whistles that look great during the presentation though offer very little real value as far as meeting their specific goals.

When compiling one’s ‘wish list’ or even better yet, designing your ‘plan and specifications’ for your CRM consider the following, each of which could deserve an entire blog:

• Budget Reporting • Analytics Goals • Training • Expandability • Integration • Security • Success Factors • Data Storage • Implementation Plan • Marketing • Measuring ROI • Support • Data Entry Standards • Data Import • Back Office • Mobile Access • Customization • Forecasting • Pipeline Management

And more…

In short, I believe the perfect CRM system does not exist but there are some systems that are more ‘perfect’ than others. The key to finding the more perfect solution is to understand what you want from this investment.

This is a topic near and dear to my business heart and I am nowhere near a skillful enough writer to address this topic entirely in one blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and maybe we can carry this discussion further. In the mean time, I encourage you to read what my colleagues have to say on this subject via the links below.

In short, when it comes to investing in, and trying to find the perfect CRM, measure twice, cut once.

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Post Epilogue

The Perfect CRM is a series of essays by industry experts on the topic of client relationship management tools. Each expert draws upon years of experience to outline their vision of the perfect CRM system. This exercise provides you with new insights into what works, what doesn’t work, and what you should consider when implementing a CRM system.

The experts include:

Ford Harding, Author of Rainmaking – 2nd Edition (http://www.hardingco.com/blog/)
Tim Klabunde, Author of the CRM Chapter in the Marketing Handbook for the Design and Construction Professional (www.Cofebuz.com)
Bernie Siben, Author of A Horse of a Different Color: Marketing in the Public Sector (http://builtenvironment.blogs.com/)
Bobby Darnell, Former Director of National Accounts at Reed Construction Data (http://buildingnewbusiness.com/)
Mel Lester, Owner of the Business Edge (http://www.blog-bizedge.biz/ )
Matt Handal, Contributing Editor of SMPS Marketer (http://www.helpeverybodyeveryday.com )

Visit these sites to read each experts take on the perfect CRM.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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I have a ‘malady’ that I have suffered with for many, many years. Nothing serious at all but nonetheless, something I struggle with on a monthly basis…I subscribe to more magazines than I can possibly read. I am to magazines what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. However, though I do not read each issue in its entirety, I will not let one go until I have had a chance to go through each and every page.

Why the obsession with magazines? It is more of my obsession with ideas. While I do indeed read a good portion of the articles, I will view each page, looking for some new website, blog, company, service, software, etc. that can be an advantage to me and/or my clients.

In a recent issue of a construction magazine, I noticed a clever ad that showed your ‘typical’ general contractor standing on a job site surrounded by ‘text’ mentioning all the many items he was responsible for juggling and thus begging the question, about who has time to shop for insurance.

I mention all of that to make the following point. Part of what we do is exactly that…we do the research and due diligence for some of our clients who are too busy to find out if they are actually using ‘the latest and greatest’ or getting the most bang for their buck on certain goods and services.

I am currently working with one company as they evaluate their project management system. In doing so, as I was spending some time performing my daily ‘LinkedIn’ ritual, I came across a contact for a company that had a new system that intrigued me. I checked out their website, found it promising enough to inquire for more information.

The representative for that company wrote me back and said the best way to explain the system would be to do a walk through via an online presentation. I agreed and we set up a date and time.

The next thing I know, I receive and email from someone representing the company, but not the sales person whom I had set up the demo. Their email simply read:

Good Morning Bobby. I took a look at your web site and your company isn’t a fit for what we are looking for to be part of XXXXXX XXX. Sorry for any confusion and I will be cancelling our go to meeting today.

In a word: Aamazing!

This company, who offers a project management solution, decides to do its due diligence after setting up a presentation.

I write back with:

XXXX,

No worries.

I was going to view your system for one of our largest clients, a retail service, construction and facilities maintenance provider.

They currently have 300 full-time employees coast to coast and do national rollouts and projects for retailers and did work in all 50 states last year.

They have been using XXXXXX and we are looking a XXXX XXXXX as an alternative. I very well may have misunderstood what your system can do.

Best of luck…

It did not take long for me to receive the following email:

Ok I didn’t know that. XXX is out today…, so I had very little information on this. Now that you mentioned your client I feel we should keep the meeting. If you want we can do it earlier too.

Sorry Charlie! If that is an example of how you manage your prospecting, I cannot imagine I would be impressed with your project management software and even if I was, I cannot imagine I would be impressed with your customer service. ‘Ready, fire, aim,’ is never a good way to do business.

Now, before you write and tell me I am cutting off my nose to spite my face, understand that if there were just three project managements systems out there, I would not be so quick to dismiss this one. But I did my due diligence before I inquired and wanted to view their system so this was not just a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction on my part.

Granted, in today’s economy those in charge of building new business may be tempted to set up as many appointments, presentations, meetings, etc. as they possibly can, but a little qualification before the appointment is, in my opinion, much better than after.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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Remember me? I use to write a blog on this site with some regularity but it has been a while…

Fortunately for me, we have been busier than a one-legged cat trying to bury a mouse on a frozen pond which is the only reason I have not been here more often. So, when it has been a while between posts, you know I am ‘drinking water from a fire hose’, work-wise.

I have been getting a lot of calls and emails from people, which I enjoy getting, just tossing and bouncing around ideas that may help them build new business. I am spending more time in airports in the past few months which, especially during the summer, means I am spending more time waiting on planes. This is not all bad as it gives me a little extra time to reply to such inquiries. I even hopped back on LinkedIn’s Question and Answers section to do a little posting and replying, which brings me to today’s topic.

I had a meeting this week with a new client and the topic was, if you can imagine this, building new business. As we were talking, his enthusiasm was obvious as we talked about his marketing and business development plan.

As we discussed the technical side of pricing…you know, plan acquisition, estimating, submittals, lead management, etc. I shared with him my thoughts on the time line between when any entity moves from being a ‘total stranger’ to a ‘paying customer’ and how our job is to make that time line as short as possible.

I am a big believer that the offerings of ‘Social Media’ can help in that endeavor. The question that I took time to answer on LinkedIn was responding to the question:

‘Have you used Twitter successfully to promote your business?’

My reply was, in a word, ‘Yes’. I give some specific examples of how Twitter has helped me generate revenue.
Just like this blog, I use to ‘Tweet’ all the time after being one of the early naysayers about Twitter. However, I have learned that while there is nothing magical about Twitter, it is simply a tool to allow others to get to know you, or your business, a little better.

For the very curious follow this link to my full answer: http://tw9.us/dp

Now, the point of this blog is not to promote Twitter, Facebook, Fastpitch, etc. but rather to emphasize the concept that while the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the best line between ‘stranger’ and ‘paying customer’ is the shortest line.

I am a big believe in that you help yourself create the shortest line by breeding familiarity. Allowing prospects to get to know you as a person as well as getting to know you as a representative of your company.

Allow me to once again quote Jeffrey Gitomer and if you do not get his free weekly ‘e-zine’, sign up as soon as you are done reading this.:

“All things being equal, people buy from people they like … and, all things not being equal, people still buy from people they like.” (www.gitomer.com)

How do you get someone to like you? They have to get to know you. Social media is nothing more than a way to promote you and/or your business. However, if you are already active in this type of promotion or are in the beginning stages, remember to budget your time accordingly and to never confuse activities with results.

In closing, I want to offer something that I do for each new client. My favorite business magazine is ‘INC’ as I not only learn from each issue; I get inspired by the real stories of entrepreneurs as they churn the wheels of commerce. Each new client gets a free one-year subscription to ‘INC’ and I would like to offer the first person to email me a free subscription as well.

Thanks for reading, keep on keeping on and let’s do all we can to turn this economy around.

Have a great week!

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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When I first started writing ‘Building New Business’ my goal was to make it a weekly offering but it did not take too long before I realized that was a bit ambitious. The amended goal was every other Thursday and then…as often as I could.

The reason so much time has passed since my last post is things are slammed on this end…which is good. Also, when I started this, I was in the middle of a six month streak of not having to set foot in the airport. That streak is now over and I am writing this waiting to board yet another plane.

In the time since my last offering, I have been up to my neck in alligators but still have enjoyed the calls and emails I have received with people asking a question, wanting to bounce round an idea or just to ‘talk shop’. I always enjoy and welcome such inquiries.

The reason I am entitling this ‘Thank You’ is because I sincerely want to express my gratitude to those who find time to read my blog. I do this out of my unbridled, unapologetic and unashamed passion for capitalism and the free-enterprise system. Being able to share that same excitement with those who have reached out to me and to be able to toss around a few ideas or answer a few questions is fuel to my fire.

Capitalism seems to be getting a lot of negative press here lately with corporate bail outs, government ownership of private companies, threats of bankruptcy, etc. Let me assure you that of the inquiries I have received in the last several weeks, none came from hedge fund managers, bankruptcy lawyers or any government official. They all came from either small business owners or someone responsible for bringing in new business. These are the people that inspire me and help make me wake up each day excited to be doing what I do, helping to churn the wheels of commerce. It is even more rewarding when I hear that our little chat appears to have helped in even the smallest way.

This one will be short gang but I promise a new post soon. I just completed a huge project and will be able to exhale a bit, pour another cup of coffee and hopefully offer a nugget or two of something you may find useful as we all go about building new business.

Have a great weekend…

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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I have written about my passion for magic (illusions) in the past and will briefly mention it again and hopefully tie it into something useful.

There are few things I enjoy more than to see a brand new, to me, illusion that makes me go, “Hmmm…how’d you do that?” I enjoy that initial sense of awe as much, or more, than learning or figuring out how the illusion is actually done.

The same holds true with business. When I see or learn of something clever that someone is doing to build their business, it is very much like seeing and learning a new magic trick. Given today’s economy, we can use all the cleverness we can muster.

Riddles, logic puzzles, brain teasers have always fascinated me and I enjoy trying to solve them when time allows:

Q: A basket contains 5 apples. Do you know how to divide them among 5 kids so that each one has an apple and one apple stays in the basket?

Hold that thought and get ready for another tidbit from the world of golf…

Back in the day, when Jack Nicklaus ‘owned’ the PGA, before every season he would begin his preparations, with his golf coach, with a review of the fundamentals…starting with how to grip the club. When I first heard this I was dumbfounded. Do what? Jack Nicklaus reviewing how to grip the club?

During my most recent haircut, while I was waiting, I picked up a golf magazine and started flipping through the pages. As I was scanning the articles it occurred to me that each issue of any golf magazine is made up of at two main categories of content. (1) News and (2) Instructions.

There will be a review of the last big event, who is healthy, who is not, what is coming up on the tour, who will be there, who will not, etc. Then, the rest are articles are on how to shave a stroke or two off your game with this or that technique. Month after month, year after year, there will be articles offering some small tweak, some pear of wisdom that is aimed at helping you better your score.

Just like Jack Nicklaus reviewing the fundamentals, so holds true for staying the course, no pun intended, during challenging times like today. Remember, there are no magic bullets, no special shoes you can wear to make you drive the ball 500 yards, no putter head shaped like a frozen turkey that will do what sticking to the fundamentals will do.

Continue to market
Continue to offer great service
Continue to build customer relationships
Continue to price projects for a profit

Now, back to our logic puzzle:

Does his mean, as we stick to the fundamentals, we do not look for those neat and clever techniques to help build our business? Absolutely not. What I am suggesting is that in your lead group and within your network, seek and share ideas that are proving to help you reduce costs, get you in front of that hot prospect, present you with more pricing opportunities. [Note: When I say ‘lead group’ I am talking about something formal.]

What can you do this week that you did not do last week, which will help you build new business? That is your brain teaser. If you don’t have an answer, where can you go to find one? Who is in your network that is not just keeping up but actually growing during these times?

Set a goal to call at least three trusted people and ask them how things are going, how they are doing and bounce around a few ideas. Make sure that you have something to offer as well. This small investment of your time can pay off in big ways.

Remember, the answer is always ‘no’ until you ask and I am willing to bet there are people you know that, in spite of the doom and gloom, have created some new idea that is increasing their bottom line.

Your job is to ask, “How’d you do that?”

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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One of the first things I became aware of years ago is that when you introduce yourself, or are introduced, as a business development consultant for the construction industry, people will, for the most part, want to know what exactly that means. Even if they are choking on work they still seem to enjoy chatting, looking for any pearl of wisdom that they can tuck away for later.

At first, all of our early contracts were about one thing, increasing select pricing opportunities and revenue. After getting to know some great contractors, architects and subcontractors, building trust, learning more about how each company operates we began to grow beyond just increasing revenues but focusing also on keeping revenues.

Never forget: It is not how much you make, it is how much you keep.

Today there are several formal methodologies for maintaining what is commonly known as ‘best practices’ and I won’t deliver any new, earth shattering techniques here but I would like you to meet Ludwig, a ‘friend’ of mine.

Before I introduce Ludwig, let me share with you how I came to know him. One of my hobbies since my first year in college has been studying philosophy and that is how I came to know Ludwig. (Don’t worry, this is still about business.)

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who supported the premise that there is no such thing as a true disagreement, just a discussion improperly defined. That understanding has proven to be one of the most profound lessons I have learned in business and beyond.

Example: Suppose you and I were to discuss who the greatest golfer of all time was. I argue for Tiger Woods, you argue for Jack Nicklaus. Wittgenstein would tell you that we could argue until the cows came home but until we defined what we meant by ‘the world’s greatest golfer’ we would never come to the same conclusion.

Once we defined that term, we would have no choice to end up agreeing. Hold that thought.

Last week, I took a call from a large, regional subcontractor who signed an agreement with a sub-subcontractor to help with a specific project. As he was describing where ‘things went wrong’ he listed several and one of the main ‘sticking points’ was the lead rep for the company submitted an enormous amount of expenses for reimbursement.

I asked the caller was this part of their agreement to which he replied in the affirmative. I then asked what expenses did he agree to cover and his answer was ‘all related expenses.’ I then asked him to define what he meant by ‘all related expenses.’ He was not able to adequately define that term which was the loose pebble that started the avalanche.

‘Will cover all related expenses’ is about as useful as bid documents saying ‘repair where necessary.’

Process improvement must involve a continuous and ongoing awareness of many things and chief among these would be defining the terms; If is it a scope change, employment agreement, job description or something as simple as what expenses shall be reimbursed.

Part of what excites me about working with new clients is not just how I believe we are able to help them but how much I can learn in the process as well. Each time I do not properly define a term and it costs me, I try to take that new found wisdom to make the next time better. It is much like what Tiger Woods recently said in an interview:

“The greatest thing about tomorrow is, I will be better than I am today. And that’s how I look at my life. I will be better as a golfer, I will be better as a person, I will be better as a father, I will be a better husband, I will be better as a friend. That’s the beauty of tomorrow. There is no such thing as a setback. The lessons I learn today I will apply tomorrow, and I will be better.”

I am unashamedly and unapologetically passionate about business, capitalism and the free-enterprise system. Each day I try to learn something that will make me a better person, husband, father and businessman.

Continue to hone your processes and defining your terms in ways to make things better, which will translate into better revenues, better profits and a better business.

In closing, to keep Ludwig happy…

Bet ▪ ter – adj. 1: more advantageous or effective 2: improved in accuracy or performance

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

Definition provided by: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/better

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today’s main event.

In this corner, Probable…

And in this corner, Possible. “Touch gloves and let the fight begin!”

*Ding!*. . . Boom!….Flump!

Wait! What? It’s over? The fight is over?

The fight wasn’t even close… first round knock-out with Probable sending Possible to mat in record time.

What, you may ask, are you talking about? Allow me to explain. Today’s entry is all about the difference between probable, that which is likely to occur, and possible, that which may occur.

When the economy slows businesses have a natural tendency to shift from going after work that is probable and leaning towards opportunities that are possible. Mainly because the probable work opportunities are less than what they use to be.

That temptation is natural and understandable but yet, allow me to encourage you not to stray too far in seeking ways to possibly bring in new revenue.

Allow me to give you a real world example:

Follow my advice here and I guarantee you will make at least one million dollars. It is a proven formula and everyone who has done it has made, at the very least, one million dollars.

It does not require any heavy lifting. You can do this from the comfort of you home, riding down the road, sitting on an airplane, sitting on the beach, pretty much anywhere.

You do not need a computer, Internet, laser printer, wireless network.

All you have to do is this…(Drum roll please)

Write a song that goes to number one for at least 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. That’s it! That is all you have to do to become a millionaire!

Possible? Oh yes.

Probable? Sorry, not very.

The thing to remember is that there are people and/or companies out there that need your service. They just may not be as visible as before. Instead of losing focus on the probable and succumbing to the possible, focus your energies on doing a better job of finding those probable opportunities.

An architectural firm with a 20+ year history of designing large industrial distribution centers and manufacturing facilities will probably not win the commission to design a medium sized worship facility when going against the medium sized design firm who has a 20+ year history, and portfolio, of primarily churches, synagogues and temples.

Is it possible the larger firm can design a new church? Oh yes.

Is it probable they will get the business? Sorry, not very.

Yes, times are tough but when it comes to marketing your services, like the old saying ‘Dance with the one that brought you.’

Finally, I am definitely not saying one should never branch out, look for new revenue streams, new opportunities to partner, new service or product offerings. Just make sure they make sense and you don’t find yourself trying to pay the bills, sitting under a tree somewhere trying to rhyme ‘spoon’, ‘June’ and ‘moon’ for the debut single, on the debut album, of the next American Idol winner.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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Who does not love an underdog story where grit, determination and heart propel the challenger to the status of a champion? For many, athletic figures and sports stories immediately come to mind when discussing such but I believe there are many more, though lesser known, examples in the world of business.

I personally know several business owners who, against huge odds, have stuck out their necks, took the road less traveled and succeeded in ways above and beyond even their own initial expectations. Of course, this is not limited to just business owners but employees as well…such as the person wanting to move from operations with a career path ‘safe and secure’ into the tumultuous world of sales. There was plenty of doubt from others he would have a successful transition but he never doubted for a second.

A ship is safest in the harbor, but that is not what ships are for. – William Shedd

As we begin a New Year, if one was to pay too much attention to the headlines, it would be easy to start each day with a less than positive attitude. Do we ignore the headlines? No way. Just give them enough consideration to help you realize that in these times you may have to work both smarter and harder.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. – Jimmy Dean

One of my main sources of inspiration is Og Mandino’s wonderful book, ‘The Greatest Salesman In The World’ and more specifically, for times like these, ‘Chapter Ten – The Scroll Marked III” where we learn to persist until we succeed. (More on this book at the very end*.)

Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult.

I will persist until I succeed. – Og Mandino

In many ways, a new year is a new beginning. We are pushed to make resolutions to do this and that which is all fine and well but in business, each January carries with it each December’s cash flow and while we may make new resolutions, they must incorporate yesterday’s reality.

Plan your work and work your plan. – Unknown

There are many reasons to be concerned about 2009 but I believe there are many more reasons to be excited. I am not talking about walking blindly into tomorrow with nothing but a smile and some ‘bumper sticker’ sayings but more of an excitement born from an attitude of overcoming and achieving.

As I a child, I would often fall asleep to the sound of my parent’s music, a stack of vinyl LPs on the Motorola dispensing the wonderful tunes of Eddy Arnold, Nat King Cole, Perry Como and others. It was at that early age when I began to become a fan of lyrics and, in closing, I will take this opportunity to quote Mr. Como:

You better accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
An’ latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-between!

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s go make some money.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

*I will send a hardback copy of Og’s book to the first person to email me with their idea for accentuating the positive for 2009

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