Editor's Note: This is the fifth installment in our continuing series about Scotty, a fictional business development manager. In the continuing story, business development and marketing issues are examined in the context of a typical design/build construction company.
Hugh, president of Design/Build Management Inc., my employer, and I turned off on a dirt road that led to the edge of an eerie site. It was a new industrial park, and somewhat remote, but off of a major transportation artery. It was a bright but blustery Illinois day and the wind created small funnel spouts picking up leaves and sending them flying everywhere.
"So Scotty," as Hugh liked to call me. "Tell me about this prospect. You met with them before, so they obviously look promising."
"Yes, I had a couple meetings with them, and their major problem is they can't find a site."
"Aren't they working with a broker?"
"Actually a couple of them. But I wanted to be responsive to their needs, so I called one of the owners of this industrial park and found there was a piece of land here that has some problems, but would suit their needs just perfectly. No one else has seen the possibilities or even mentioned this site."
"What kind of problems?"
"Nothing really dramatic. It's a very odd-shaped lot and most people are avoiding it. What I see is an opportunity to meet the needs of a prospect and provide the basis for an interesting design. At the same time, we can develop a situation where we can create a working relationship before anyone else has a shot at them."
"That's why I hired you."
"In the past I've been invited by the broker, but what you're saying makes some sense," Hugh said. "Get in as early as you can and develop the relationship. Where did you meet Jim? That's his name right?"
"Yes, Jim Dundee. I actually met him on a golf course. Do you remember that charity event I played in last year?"
"Yeah, I remember."
"Well, I ended up playing with Jim's CFO. Jim couldn't be there, but he showed up at the banquet afterwards and we had dinner together."
"It's interesting that many people go to those types of events, and then go home early."
"Not me. Anyway, I just kept in touch with him and we met for an early breakfast from time-to-time. Then one day he called."
"What did you do to create the difference?"
"I provided information he needed to know. For example, I talked about how the building process has changed over the years. It had always been a three-way relationship between the architect, the contractor and the owner. The architect designed it, the contractor built it and the owner paid for it. But the contractor was never brought in until the drawings were completed, so there was no chance to provide the benefit of our insight and knowledge in terms of value engineering.
It also used to be that the architect guaranteed the price. Now times have changed, and the best person to provide information about cost is the contractor. There is tremendous value in getting everyone on the building team together on day one. The contractor can provide numerous insights into site selection, building costs, timelines and knowledge of the permit process that they deal with everyday. The architect certainly has some of these answers and has the vision of the building. But why not get the team together and really nail down the cost of the building before it's built? Rather than after the drawings are done? It just is a better way of doing business."
"Right again. That's why the design/build process provides so many advantages to the owner, and site selection is an important part of that process."
Hugh continued to drive down the road. "This is a lonely place out here," he commented.
I watched three ducks effortlessly land in a small pond. Wetlands, I thought. I will have to keep that in mind. "When I talked to Jim, I told him we could provide a footprint of the building site that will give them the information they need to make the purchase decision. There is so much more to site selection than standing on the site and walking around. We have an opportunity here to provide a real service with helping to make a good site selection and by providing a preliminary design sketch with preliminary costs. Then Jim can go in and negotiate for the land with knowledge. If he is successful, we can proceed with preliminary design and start to develop the project."
As we moved into the lot, a gray Mercedes moved into view in back of us. We were either being followed or that was my client. I felt like we were in a movie. Now a car appeared in front of us. If anybody got out with black gloves on I was going to freak.
"Oh look, there's our client, Jim." I swung around and recognized the other car as the architect I wanted to use on the project. We always outsourced the architectural work to the best-qualified architect. It gave us the opportunity to put the best team together.
In a very short while, the owner, the architect and the builder, Hugh and I, stood in the blistering cold. Leaves were blowing around us, and the wind whistled above our heads. We were talking about how this awkward looking site combined with an imaginative design could create a showcase building for the client. Jim would have enough information to make an intelligent site selection and would have a good feeling of costs so that financing could be arranged. Jim would be in position to negotiate a good deal for this awkward site that no one wanted. It was all because of an opportunity to help an owner realize their dreams. It was the same three-way relationship of years ago, but now we stood there together, on day one. Like it should be.
With the exception of an occasional guest, including the author, any similarity to actual events or to actual people, living or dead, is purely coincidental in this work of fiction.
Construction Business Owner, November 2005