Construction Monkey

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Improve Productivity

Recently Ted Garrison from NCS Radio interviewed Terry Kramer with Kramer Management Consulting regarding acquiring more profitable business. In the interview the theme was repeated over and over that construction companies need to focus more attention on the Work Acquisition Efforts from the personnel they us to the systems utilized. It really struck a chord with me since the past 20 years of my career has been focused on work procurement and I felt it was important to expand on the ideas that Ted and Terry presented.

So how do you focus more attention on the Work Acquisition Effort? Is it just about hiring more people and spending more money on software? I don’t think it is that easy or that simple. It is a culture change that will require a focus shift on the part of the organization. The Work Acquisition Team is called by a lot of different names: Preconstruction, Business Development, Marketing, Estimating, etc., but I prefer to just call them the Acquisition Team or A-Team.

In this two part series, I would like to look at the specific things your organization can do to improve your Work Acquisition Effort so your A-Team can produce A+ results.

So what is the correct A-Team? It is very hard to give a simple answer that will fit for all businesses across all industries and work types due to the many different variables involved with procuring work. However, there are some common functions that all companies must perform in order to win work and you should look at each of these to see if you have someone in your organization that is responsible for each. I am not recommending that you need a person to do each job, but to effectively win work someone needs to be performing each of these business functions.

Procurement Strategy
I will start with the forgotten position, procurement strategy. What is your strategy? There should be a consistent approach to the market that highlights your strengths. Too many times this is not under someone’s responsibility so each person develops their own strategy, which is a confusing message to your clients and will hurt your efforts. You cannot be everything to everybody, your organization has strengths and weaknesses, this should drive this strategy. Someone needs to develop the strategy and make sure everyone and everything in the organization is pushing forward with the same focus.

Marketing is a pretty broad term that typically includes everything from radio ads to client lunches. Here I am going to focus marketing down to “marketing campaigns”. What do I mean? Any effort that promotes the brand of your company are included in the definition of marketing. So that is everything from the name of the company, the logo, mailers that are sent, email formats, letterhead, and yes radio and television ads if your company goes down those roads. Marketing is critical to getting your brand out there and ensuring that it is appealing and connects with the clients. I have seen many organizations that don’t have a consistent marketing effort (different logos, letter heads, email formats, etc.) and this is due to not having a single person responsible for the marketing image of the company.

Business Development
What business is out there? Who are customers? Where is the market going? Do we have the relationships to win the work? Should we branch into other markets? Business Development covers a lot of ground and is the tip on the spear of being proactive about winning work versus being reactive. Companies that just bid the jobs that clients ask of them or that are published in the papers are not doing business development. This probably provided plenty of business during the boom years, but how well does it work during the lean years? Companies that drive business development have a greater opportunity to select their own destiny.

Preconstruction and Estimating
The heart of the work procurement is the estimating department. No company forgets about these folks as they are sometimes the only people responsible for acquiring new work. Do you have the right number of estimators for your anticipated volume? Are they producing the estimates that your clients are looking for? Estimating and preconstruction services is a very dynamic term. To the casual observe it is counting and multiplying, but to those intimiately involved it is much more fluid.

From value engineering to proposal preparation each estimate, project, and client is 100% unique. Even though you most likely have the estimator position covered, I would look hard at are they doing estimates to produce a final number or are they part of the A-Team in executing the procurement strategy.

By sales I mean closing a sale. Do you have someone that is responsible to ensure the sale happens? In order to procure a project there are thousands of dollars spent along with the resource time and the lost opportunity cost, so do you have someone that can close out the sale. Just like a baseball team that works hard for 8 innings to be in the game, they need to rely on a good closing pitcher to ensure they can win. This person is typically one of the people mentioned above, but you should really consider if your organization drives for closing a sale or if you think that once a bid is submitted the “die has been cast”.

In part two of this article I will be covering data points for work acquisition, being proactive, customer service, and planning your business development.

About the Author

Craig Pierce

Craig Pierce has been working in the construction industry for the past 25 years helping subcontractors master their trade. Currently he is President of Atalanta Enterprises which provides consulting services to contractors And software solutions through