Editor's Note: This is the sixth 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.
"So Scotty, I know this is the anniversary of when you started here, and I said I would take you any place you wanted for lunch, but why here? Why the Turf Club?"
I smiled as I unfolded the Daily Racing Form. We were trackside at Arlington Park Racecourse, one of the nicest tracks in the Midwest, if not the whole country. We had reserved seating, and had just ordered from the menu. It was post time. The weather was clear and crisp. A perfect day for "The Sport of Kings."
"I like to come here at least once a year because it reminds me of what construction marketing is all about."
"Well, I've been down this road before," said Hugh, my boss at Design/Build Management. "Tell me, and I'm probably going to regret the answer, but tell me why betting on race horses reminds you of construction marketing?" He folded his copy of the Racing Form and put it down just as a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon was brought to our table. "I can hardly wait for your answer."
"Let me first say that I enjoy business development and working for you. But one day, after my last employer fired me because he didn't understand business development, I came out to the track to lose myself in the crowd and the excitement. I was reading the odds, playing the spreads and covering with long shots. I was trying to distinguish between the early money, while worrying about the late stable money that I knew would arrive just before post time, perhaps indicating some inside knowledge of a horse's condition; I was noting the horses that were coming down in class, combined with those that gained in the stretch, compared to those that lost several lengths as well as jockeys, trainers and speed ratings," I said almost in one breath. Hugh was noticeably interested.
I continued. "Then I realized that this was really no different than trying to figure out which deal is going to break for a contractor, or what project is going to be awarded to a sub or what design or engineering commission is going to be let. Like the track, the 2:1 favorite is passed in the stretch by a 10:1 long shot ridden by a new jockey that has a trainer you've never heard of from the opposite coast."
I looked at Hugh seriously. "You never know where the next business is going to come from. At times, a forecast doesn't reflect what really happens. True to life, it's the 10:1 long shot that fills the pipeline."
Hugh was moved. "You're right, Scotty. You're right. It's exactly like construction marketing. In construction, we really don't know which project will happen. I mean, we think we know where the business is going to come from, just like the tote board shows the favorites based on the money bet, or should I say invested, on a particular horse. But it's a complicated world out there with multiple unseen influences that can change the course of a deal; like a muddy track, a favorite horse coming up lame or being spooked at the start-multiple unforeseen events can change what deal happens when."
"I'm glad you see it the way I do," I said. "That's why all of these relationships are so important. It's why everyone in a firm should be involved in marketing because it's not really the finished building we're after. We're after developing a true business relationship where we can help our client, and our client wants to help us in the future."
Just then the horses rounded the turn and were in the stretch. The pitch of the announcer became more excited as the horses dueled it out neck-to-neck. Attagirl won by a nose.
"You know, Scotty. I really understand why you like to come out here. I really do. Let's enjoy the afternoon."
I pulled a ticket out of my shirt pocket.
"I had made a bet on the way in. Attagirl was an 8:1 long shot and I had a twenty on the nose."
"Attaboy Scotty, Attaboy!"
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, December 2005