Relationships Do Still Matter

While it may be hard to imagine in today's construction environment, contractor/client relationships still matter.

In October, FMI Corp., which provides management consulting and investment banking to the engineering and construction industry, released "Adjust, Adapt, Act: Winning Stories From the Post-2007 Construction Industry". This report shares case studies of successful construction firms, including the key factors that have enabled them to grow despite a challenged construction market.

While it may be hard to imagine in this cutthroat, low-bid project environment, contractor/client relationships do still matter. In several of the case studies described, such relationships proved instrumental in ensuring ongoing success.

Take BakerTriangle, for example. This large Texas-based drywall contractor indicated in the report that it had been missing opportunities to reposition itself during the pre-bid stage. "Too often, our efforts on selling a project were focused only after the bidding process," says Michael Vickery, senior vice president, "and we overlooked the opportunity to position our company as the 'preferred' option prior to submitting a bid."

Using an interview-type process, the company is now working with clients to determine what they value on each project outside of pricing. This has enabled the contractor to tailor bids specifically to client needs and become a preferred supplier.

Another company profiled, California-based Sun Country Builders, has also seen the value in such client interactions. "Rather than just sitting with them and explaining to them how we can build the project on time and under budget, we ask them, 'At project completion, what is it that we would have had to have done to make you happy with the results,'" notes John Ahlswede, president. "You would be surprised with what you are told." This willingness to ask questions, then effectively respond to them, has translated into both new and repeat business.

Consigli Construction Co., a mid-sized, family-owned general contractor and construction manager based in Massachusetts, has recognized that employees at all level are an essential element in ongoing client interactions. "Business development happens not through business development professionals, but through project engineers, project managers, superintendents," says Anthony Consigli, CEO.

According to the case study, rather than cut back its training budget, the company supplied employees with the tools, resources and training needed to better understand their roles in client interactions, then set up a matrix for reporting back information that could enhance success with those clients. This has helped the company double its revenue in two years.

Obviously, other factors go into the success of these and other companies like them. Yet, client relationships continue to play a critical part. Interacting with prospective clients to gain a better understanding of their needs and expectations before a bid is submitted can effectively distinguish your business well beyond the dollars on a bid sheet.

Companies in this article