Recap 2020 Spring Training Webinar Series

Thank you to everyone who participated in this week's Spring Training Webinars. We have one more webinar session to go! Below is a recap of each session is below:

Recap for Tuesday, May 19th @ 10:30am - Chris Rickman "Finance Matters! Planning and Performance Equals Profitability.” 

Why do I need to know this “Finance” stuff?

  • More effective in assessing which clients or projects to pursue
  • Some owners are requiring it during the RFP or shortlist process
  • Understanding of basic principles can help you climb the success ladder


Can I create more value?

  • For my firm?
  • For myself?
  • For my profession


Basic Terminology

  • Accrual Basis Accounting – Most commonly used. Revenues/expenses
  • Cash basis Accounting – Don’t hit the books until the clients pays the bill. Same for expenses.
  • Percentage-of-completion
  • Complete Contract – used when estimates cannot meet the “reasonably dependable” date
  • Direct Job Costs
  • Indirect Job Costs
  • G&A (Overhead) Costs
  • Reimbursable Costs
  • Income (Profit & Loss) Statement – Summary of company’s profit or loss
  • Net income (bottom line)
  • Balance sheet – Snapshot of a business’ financial condition


Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Difficult to measure in AEC industry
  • Every firm can calculate differently
  • Overall analysis
  • Not very effective, but good for a general look at ROI
  • If not by revenue, think about measuring by Hit Rate
    • Leads to wins
    • Proposals to wins
    • RFPs to shortlist
    • Shortlists to wins
  • Analyze your clients
    • Cost of pursuit
    • Client profitability


 Performance – Important Formulas

Overhead Rate

  • Total overhead costs, including indirect salaries, divided by total direct labor
  • Average of 1.60 (160%) in 2018


Net Labor Multiplier

  • Net revenues (generated by in-house labor only without reimbursable expenses) divided by total direct labor (without benefits)
  • Key measure of efficiency, actual results
  • Average of 3.01 in 2018


Staff Utilization Ratio

  • The firm’s total direct labor divided by its total labor
  • Will vary depending on staff type (80-85% for doers, 0-10% for admin
  • Industry average if 59.8%


Profitability – Ways to help be profitable

  • Define your firm
  • Don’t pursue clients that don’t match your services
  • Help establish client expectations


Don’t become a commodity

  • Familiar pricing strategy?
  • Stay on brand to who you are


Improve fee strategy

  • Don’t use past fee proposals without some analysis
  • Calculate overhead rates yearly
  • Don’t estimate what the client wants to spend. Reduce scope before reducing fee



Future profitability? Pay attention to backlog, FMI reports



Recap for Thursday, May 21st @ 12:00pm - Lauren Brookey "Crisis Communication" 

Take the Offensive and Plan. Opportunities can take shape.

  • Opportunities can take shape
    • Reinforce your organizational strengths
    • Test Internal Systems
    • Evaluate Current personnel
    • Reevaluate the marketplace, adjust strategies
    • Accelerate growth

Essentials for Success in a Crisis:

  • Commitment
  • Discipline
  • Evaluation

What you need:

  • Culture of respect for crisis planning and practice
  • Crisis Teams (A & B)
  • Potential Threats
  • Actions for each scenario
  • List of necessary resources
  • Necessary Relationships
  • Timeline for implementation
  • Collection of industry resources


How you prepare:

  • Regular team meetings, including CEO or COO
  • Timeline for elements (acquisitions of resources, scenario planning, training and financing
  • Accountability for milestones, training and drills
  • Celebrate milestones, achievements
  • Use every small crisis to evaluate and debrief on how to adapt the plan
  • Create templates for repeat events in your business


How to Succeed:

  • Culture and messages match your values and performance
  • Response is “slow and fast” (Think through the decisions you are making)
  • Employees feel training, prepared and protected to make critical decisions
  • Make sure business/community relationships support any changes in strategy, demands and temporary support
  • Current reputation is strong enough to inspire respect and confidence
  • Communication plan must reflect concern and engagement, control, commitment to work toward solutions not blame or excuses
  • Prioritize stakeholders based on nature of crisis and involve them, they are engaged and properly communicated with
  • Keep a running list of what needs to be improved or added for next crisis – post evaluation
  • Manage issues in a way that keeps CEO free for strategic decisions and key communications


Case Studies:

Explorer Pipeline

  • 10 years of planning and learning from mini-crises, helped develop that strategy

University of Oklahoma

  • Crisis issue team with executive involvement, charter, report outs, advance planning

Texas A&M

  • Two teams running simultaneously


Money Slide:

  • It Will happen to you. It’s only a matter of time
  • Your organization will be changed. No question. How will it be changed, for the better or for its demise?
  • Commitment, disciple and evaluation win every time.



False information – 50 percent of information turns out to be incorrect. Investigate further. Buy yourself time to gather as much information as possible. Gather it, confirm it.

Engaging an expert outside the company? Adding an outside firm can help you prepare, bring an objective plan and evaluate your plan.


Recap for Tuesday, May 26th @ 1:00pm Brad Thurman and Dana Birkes "Picture. Plan. Perform. - Ideas for Successful Business Development"



                        Internal Company Analysis

  • Skill sets: experience and past performance history
  • Staffing Situation: are we properly staffed? Experienced?
  • Capacity for growth: backlog and availability of staff
  • Quality client: what does a good client look like?
  • Quality Project: what does a good project look like?
  • Economic engine: what measurable drives us
  • Human Resource Strategy: recruiting, onboarding, training
  • Resiliency: remote working, strategic partners, procurement


Company Strategic Plan

  • Vision Statement: an aspirational statement of the future
  • Mission Statement: what we do today for who and how
  • Core Value: guiding beliefs and behaviors
  • SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
  • Long-Term goals: three to five with a 3-5 year view
  • Yearly objectives: three to five for each goal.
  • Action Plan: details how objective will be achieved



         Plan the Work

                        Business Development Plan

  • Logistics: annual, champion, strategic, revenue goal
  • Market research: players, predictive measures
  • Available resources: staff, relationships, experience
  • Chief competitors: who owns the market
  • SWOT analysis: focused on market sector
  • Targeted: prioritize sectors, prospects, current clients
  • Marketing Plan: budget, collaterals, ads, ect.
  • Accountability: measurables, champion, review assess


Client Capture Plan

  • Client Info: names, contacts, decision makers, key issues
  • Client research: decision makers, influencers, good client?
  • Competitive analysis: key players, strengths, weaknesses
  • Pursuit Strategy: differentiators, goals, issues to solve
  • Go/No Go: how do we evaluate the relationship?
  • Resources: Staff, alliances, consultants, materials
  • Accountability: meetings, follow-ups, firm-wide reporting
  • Goals: strategic, measurable, actionable, realistic, timely



            Work the Plan

            Learn everything you can upfront

  • Tap Network: professional organizations, alumni groups, friends
  • Go Social: if you don’t have a linkedin profile, GET ONE
  • Understand their business: Don’t expect to learn from them
  • Differentiate: features vs. benefits
  • Warm up the Call: how can you make a connection first?
  • 1%, 15%, 55%, 80%: Cold call, lead, referral, introduction.


Make the Call

  • Listen: don’t start out asking for work
  • Follow their lead: pay attention to voice clues
  • Be mindful of their time: Don’t blow it by continuing to talk
  • Ask for a meeting: Goal is to get in the door / on their screen
  • Follow-Up: if they can’t meet, ask their preference
  • Close: recap to make sure you have everything correct

Make the Visit

  • Prep…again: review your intel, decide on materials
  • Be on time: not too early, never late
  • Follow their lead: pay attention to voice and body clues
  • Be mindful of their time: Don’t blow it by continuing to talk
  • Smile! : be polite and act like you want to be there
  • Talk second: let them talk, then respond
  • Don’t Gush: overselling is as bad as underselling
  • Follow Up?: ask their preference for subsequent contacts


Virtual Considerations in a Covid-19 world

  • Yes, prep: just as you would for a face-to face meeting
  • Be Intentional: background, appearance, body language
  • Send Information in advance: agenda, collateral materials, ect.
  • Sharing Content: prep like a project interview.
  • Have a plan B: plan alternate platform if tech fails
  • Eliminate distractions: mute phones, pets, kids
  • Be Early: call in and be ready before they join
  • Be present: don’t multitask, look at camera, focus on them.


After the Visit

  • Document: enter information into CRM or tracking method
  • Send a note: use a handwritten note saying thank you
  • Follow-Up: use method and schedule discussed in visit
  • Research…again: look for information on topics covered
  • Look to help: pass along things that might be useful
  • Don’t be a nuisance: be respectful of their inboxes



Question 1: How do you encourage and hold PMs and principals accountable for BD efforts. Do you tie bringing in business to performance reviews? Do you incentivize?

Answer: Tasks should be assigned with deadlines. Decide how you will enforce…tied to metrics possible based on structure of company or some companies use “peer pressure” holding team members accountable by communicated what has been completed and what is left to be done to all team members. Make sure that when you assign a task to someone, you have their buy in for the project and the task.

Question 2: Is it possible to regain a positive perception of your company after your company's reputation has been diminished at one of the locations? How should you handle clients that are unhappy with previous services rendered?

Answer: Find out WHAT the issue is! If there is a problem with staff member and client, send another team member along with current point of contact. Might need to reassign point of contact going forward.

Question 3: Any recommendations for the engineer that doesn't listen to the client? They are a good engineer but the client doesn't like them. Do you send another person with them to the client meeting?

Answer: Capture Planning…PR/BD and marketing all work together. Identify what good looks like and measure it.  Identify the problem in a non-defensive way. Discover the who/what and why of problem.


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