By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
Are you a member of the “Good Ol’ Boy” network in the civil engineering industry?
For decades, whether you are consulting to land developers or DOT’s, cities or counties, the most successful consultants have been part of the “Good Ol’ Boy” network. Making regular appearances at networking functions or pre-proposal meetings, shaking hands, following up with a nice note and meticulously putting together well thought out proposals just did not cut it. Above and beyond preparing a strong technical presentation and proposal, and beyond following all the “rules” of being a professional, other steps had to be made to really “get in” with the clients.
To “get in” requires not only an investment of time both during, and outside of, regular business hours, but money as well. Maybe it is taking the client and his wife out to a nice dinner. Maybe it is investing in a pair of box seats at the ball park or football stadium. Maybe it is becoming a member of the local Country Club in order to take clients out on the golf course. Maybe it is making strategic political contributions. Maybe it is sitting down with a client at the local watering hole and sipping on some scotch & water. Maybe you fund these options yourself, maybe your firm foots the bill. Most of you “Old Schooler’s” out there know what I am talkin’ about; but I wonder if this is the approach that today’s, and future generations will take when it comes to developing the client?
I suppose all of the extra-curricular activities shouldn’t matter when marketing a client, as the “proof-is-in-the-pudding.” But in days past, though you may have the recipe for the best pudding, you couldn’t even gain access to the mixing bowl unless you played the game.
I am certainly not talking about anything that you are not already aware of. And this whole concept of course is not inclusive to the civil engineering industry alone, as it is played out through many professions across the board.
Will this way of doing business in the civil engineering industry continue to carry on from generation to generation? Or have things changed?
Is being part of the “Good Ol’ Boy” network still the M.O. of the most successful firms in your city? And how difficult is it to break into this network and be successful for professionals who come from out of town, or out of the country? How difficult is it for women or minorities to become a “Good ‘Ol Boy” ? According to Wikipediea, the “Good Ol’ Boy” network can be exclusionary.
I suspect that the “Good Ol’ Boy” network will contine to exist at many levels, but with the changing mentality of today’s generation, maybe the definition of what it means to be a “Good Ol’ Boy” will change as well.
However you cut it, there is an old business adage that will continue to remain true:
“All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things NOT being equal, people still want to do business with their friends.”