"Kiss a lot of Frogs" or Strategies to Take Your Engineering Firm to the Next Level

October 28, 2013 | LeAnn Nowak

I’ve spent the last two days in Phoenix at the ACEC Annual Fall Convention. Not only is this an opportunity for us to exhibit and talk to engineering firms about Praesto (our project management system for small firms) but it’s also an opportunity for me to gather tidbits of information I can share with our network.

This morning I sat in on a roundtable where the topic of discussion was “What strategies could be employed to take your firm to the next level?” Below is my synopsis from the session. I was with a group of 12 Principals from firms that ranged in size from 10 to 500 and covered the board as far as MEP, Civil, Structural, etc.
  • Keep up on technology.  Building Information Modeling and Revit were the most talked about topics in this regard.
  • Grow from a single office to multiple locations. Go where the money is.  Grow organically rather than looking at an M&A situation.
  • Diversify your markets.  The most success is seen when you have one Principal or Project Manager in charge of each silo.   (This might also lead to opening another office…again, go where the money is.)
  • Structure your organization so that you can go after projects as the Prime not just a Sub.  Build the relationships you want to have with the Architects you work with.
  • Develop new leaders. Build talent.  Foster an environment that is focused on recruiting good people and retaining them.  Everyone is hiring from the same pool and recruiting good engineers to tough right now so be creative. Provide professional development and build the people you want.
When we reconvened to the larger group our spokesman said he would summarize it as “you have to kiss a lot of frogs”.   The firms that held on for the past five years basically did whatever it took to survive.  They looked at maps, they looked at markets, they kissed a lot of frogs and found the prince.