Editor's Note: The following is a fictional story about Scotty, everyone's business development hero. In the continuing story, business development issues are examined in the context of a typical design/build construction company.
"Scotty, why don't you come in and sit down for a couple of minutes."
"Yes Sir, Mr. Peterson." Mr. Peterson, owner and founder of Peterson Builders, Inc. was president and CEO of his company, and kept his hands in every part of his business. He literally bootstrapped the operation from the back of his pick-up truck into the twenty-five million dollar operation it is today. I was the first business developer he had ever hired, and looked forward to these impromptu meetings to keep him up-to-date on the latest business development and marketing activities.
Clyde, as he was known by most, got up and closed the door. This didn't look so good.
"Ahaaaa Scotty, I've got some rather bad news for you. I've had a lot of complaints lately that all you're doing is playing golf and going to lunch. And last week on Wednesday you didn't come in until noon."
I couldn't believe this was happening. I was only nine months into the job, and I've had this conversation numerous times. "Well that's true, Mr. Peterson. I did play some golf this week, but as we have discussed in the past, there are reasons why this is happening."
"Yes, yes I know. That's what you keep saying."
"But we have talked in the past about me making a presentation to the staff, so we can start to communicate the business development process and how this is really investment in the future in terms of building relationships," I said. What I really wanted to say is he still didn't understand the basics of business development.
"Well, you know son, I know that this business development thing seems to be important. But I've got some long-term employees here that have been coming to work here everyday at eight in the morning for the last eight to ten years, and here you come in after lunch in golfing clothes. And it looks like you've had a good time. The estimators are getting kind of angry. They view you as overhead cutting into their bonus pool."
I'm starting to realize here I might have a real problem. "What you say is true about the golf. But it just appears that way. I still think we need to have an internal meeting...call it internal marketing...and we can start to develop a better understanding of the..."
"You don't get it," Clyde said as he cut me off. "What I'm saying here is I'm letting you go. You're fired!"
"I'm letting you go. It's Friday, and I want you to pack up and not come back. We'll work on some severance package, but basically I don't want to see you in here on Monday."
"No buts about it. I have some unhappy employees here about how you spend your time. For example, tell me what you have been doing the last couple of weeks. How many golf games did you play?"
"This week I did play two rounds of golf, and had several meetings over lunch."
"See, that's exactly what I mean. A bunch of lunches and you worked on your golf game." Clyde shifted himself upright in his chair. His body language was getting stronger. He was getting more confident in his decision.
"That's not how I see it."
"Since this is your last day, why don't you tell me how you do you see it?"
"Well first, to set the record straight, last week on Wednesday, I came in late as I was down here until four in the morning finishing the Acme Proposal. I asked for some help from admin, but no one pitched in. I had to do it myself."
I never took my eyes off of him, which made him uncomfortable. "But that's not the important point. You have to realize, and more important, you, the owner, must communicate to the staff that business development is a long term investment in the future of your business. If I do nothing else in the next two years but learn the culture of your business, meet key contacts and develop relationships in the market niches that I feel are appropriate, I've done my job. I have to make those decisions because you don't have a strategic plan telling me what direction I need to go. In order for you to grow your business you are going to have to go outside your present client list. Your database is almost non-existent, and your marketing is the worst I have ever seen. I can't even get you to use a contact manager to record important conversations.
It gets worse. You don't understand the first thing about what the competition is doing and what it takes to be competitive in today's market."
I paused as I was on a roll. It didn't matter, I was fired. Clyde squirmed in his chair.
"Yes, I played golf twice. The first one was a charity golf event on Tuesday morning. I paid $500 of my own money, because I knew you wouldn't pay it. I was going to expense it when I landed a deal. I was put in a foursome with the president of J. Enterprises, the VP of Herman Bank, and the other party was Dale Smith, the architect that designed the Dealy Federal Project, the one we lost. It was a great chance for me to learn Dale's thoughts about how we could improve our next presentation. In fact, he added your firm to the bid list on another commercial project he is just finishing up. I also learned that Herman Bank is starting to grow and expand, and the first thing they are going to do is to remodel some of their existing facilities. Someone from here will have to cover an appointment next week to go in and provide some preliminary pricing information. He was very interested in our preliminary construction services we offer. He said no one had ever told him before that we...or you, offered those services. Now Greg from J. Enterprises was a really interesting guy. He himself doesn't have a need for our type of services, but he said that he has a friend who is president of a large retail strip shopping center. He invited me to have lunch with him and his friend after he returns from his vacation in Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia."
"I'm not finished yet. I did play another game of golf. It was at the Lake Country Club and Bob Fisher of Weber Enterprises invited me there. I played with him and two of his executives who are in charge of their new operation. They are developing a new distribution center. Based on our past experience with projects just like his I was able to give them a rough idea of a square footage cost. It turns out our competition is already in there and they have quoted a figure double that. So, I have a meeting set up where we are going to review the scope of work and get back to them with a price attached to a scope. I thought I would take an estimator with me and give them a guaranteed maximum price not to exceed with shared savings. Thought this would be a good time to knock our competition out of the box."
Clyde seemed somewhat uncomfortable. "Do you want me to tell you about the breakfast meetings and the lunches I had?" I said.
"No, that's okay. Why didn't you tell me about all of this-what you have been doing."
"As we agreed, I have e-mailed to you a detailed activity log every Monday morning. I actually do it over the weekend so as not to eat up my time during the week. Didn't you get them?"
"I...I haven't been reading my e-mail."
"Well, there are so many in there, and I'm just not comfortable working on the system."
"But that's not what we agreed."
"But I didn't realize that people actually used e-mail. I mean, no one used it here until you came along."
"What do you do with your mail?"
"I just delete them. I figure the important stuff will get to me sooner or later."
"Maybe it will get there too late, like in my case."
"Well, I'm sure we can work out something here. It seems you are working and that I was wrong, and perhaps listening to the wrong people."
"I'm not interested."
"What do you mean? I'm offering your job back to you."
"I'm not interested," I repeated. "I want to work with a company that understands the business development process-that understands the value of developing plans, and following them. I want to work for a company that understands value and how we provide that to the customer; that what we do as business developers is important and that we are in a position to help a business by doing our job in a responsible manner. I want to work for a company that understands that business development is a process, that as long as the process is followed, that there is activity, that relationships are made, that there is the proper follow-up, there will be success. I want to work for a company that can plan its future and knows where they want to be in five years.
"Aaaaaa, so you're not coming back?
"What will you do?"
"I'm not worried. I have a lot of contacts."
With the exception of an occasional guest appearance by 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, July 2005