Closing the Deal
Do you think it is appropriate to assume that non-technical marketing staff can sell engineering work without the direct involvement of technical people in the selling process? O.C., Texas
No. It might happen from time to time, but in the majority of situations, firms do not expect the non-technical marketer to be able to close by themselves. The expected role for these folks is to assist and facilitate in the marketing and selling process. At some point before a deal is signed, the technical people, who will do the actual work on the project, need to join the selling process to support the non-technical marketer's activities. The proper role of the marketer is to do the background work, preparation, and overall organization to increase the likelihood of a successful sale for the opportunities the firm elects to pursue.
Global Playing Field
We've been hearing more and more stories of consulting firms working with overseas partners as a strategy to either lower their costs on a particular project or as a method to expand their ongoing capacity to do more work without having to incur the cost of hiring, equipping, and maintaining traditional mid- to lower-level employees. Is this trend fact or fiction? Where is this going?
The very same forces responsible for the massive, global redistribution of jobs and capital investment that began in manufacturing more than a decade ago now are present and accelerating rapidly within the service portion of our economy. All professions, including engineering, are beginning to feel the turbulence of this displacement.
It's more than a cliché that we live in a small world. As geographic and political boundaries fall, and the levels of education and communication technologies improve around the globe, jobs and capital, like water free of constraint, will flow to the lowest point. So what does one do? Do we run to our politicians and regulators and demand relief? Or do we accept the inevitable reality of it all and figure out how to cope and compete?
Any protection we might be able to achieve would be short-lived at best. We would increasingly become irrelevant as the rest of the world learned to work around us. Eventually, we would end up as an isolated island outside the mainstream of economic importance.
Instead, we should do what America always has done best; we must continue to outpace the world in innovation and creativity. America's historical success is based upon it, and its future depends on it.
As the rest of the world catches up to our heretofore uncontested position of global leadership, we can no longer expect to hold onto jobs, professional or otherwise, when the requirements for those positions can be met in any number of other countries at lower cost. Unfortunately, that's simply just the way it is. Our only chance to remain ahead is by continuing to provide unique services and products that are not available anywhere else.
The unique value of your work as an engineer is in the consulting aspects of what you do, not the commodity-like production of working drawings. Only front-end creativity in programming a client's needs, problem solving, and delivering efficient and effective solutions will keep your clients coming back. What is your firm doing to enhance the projects you design? Are you investigating new technologies, methods, materials, and processes to better serve the needs of clients?
Further, government, business, and families need to forge new partnerships to rebuild our tired, waning system. The United States cannot hope to retain its position as the prominent force in the world when our children - our hope for future innovation and creativity - rank in the middle or lower end of the world pack when it comes to education, particularly in math and science. Likewise, we should re-think values that shower celebrities, athletes, and CEO's with extreme wealth while simultaneously allowing far too many children - in the richest economy the world has ever known - to sleep in the arms of poverty and be crippled by illiteracy.
The history of the world is a tapestry of civilizations that rise to prominence only to collapse under the burden of their success. We should not expect that we somehow are immune. We should embrace this emerging challenge as a clarion call to rediscover what we may have lost sight of along the way.
Get answers to your questions about design firm and project management, finances, marketing, and related topics by sending them to Q&A c/o: CE News, 775 One Premier Plaza, 5605 Glenridge Drive, Atlanta, GA 30342, or faxing them to CE News at 404-497-7899. Include your name and telephone number in all correspondence. Your name will not be used in connection with published questions.
David Wahby is president of Wahby & Associates (www.wahby.com), a management consulting firm serving A/E clients. He can be reached at 616-977-9756 or via e-mail at wahby@ wahby.com. by David M Wahby CE News April 2004 20 he history of the world is a tapestry of civilizations that rise to prominence only to collapse under the burden of their success.