Contract - March 2013 - (Page 24)
PHOTO: COURTESY RICHARD POLLACK
Gaining Projects in the Education Market
by Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA
Contract has invited Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA, to write a
regular, ongoing column about business practices in design.
Pollack is the CEO of San Francisco–based Pollack Consulting,
which supports firms’ growth and success through improved
business development, winning presentation techniques,
recruiting top talent, business coaching, and ownership transition
implementation. He began Pollack Consulting after founding and
leading Pollack Architecture for 28 years. For this issue, he tells
readers how they can enter a market segment that might be new
to their practices.
With Contract’s focus this month on design for education, I’d like to offer
suggestions on how design firms can enter the education market if they
had not been designing education facilities in the recent past. And for
firms already engaged in design for education, these same strategies
can be used to gain more ground in this and other markets.
Effective business development is no different than designing a
successful project—you have to plan and manage the effort. It starts
when the firm’s leaders make a decision to target a new market. Their
rationale may come from various directions: Wanting to do something
new, realizing that few firms in the area are competing in the new
project type, or the basic need to increase revenue and grow the firm.
The first step—too often ignored—is to spend real time
researching opportunities in the prospective market sector.
Broad-scope research in the education market should include the
Analyze the size and frequency of projects in your firm’s
geographic coverage range. Connect with contractors who are
building schools in your area and get details on typical costs and
schedules. From press, websites, and direct contacts (as in call them),
learn which school districts are building and remodeling. Review public
records to see if there are bonds being used to fund remodeling or new
schools, and connect with the public officials and politicians involved.
Understand the cost of market entry. Determine if you have the
internal expertise or if you need to recruit an experienced professional.
For a new hire, research the cost of recruiting him or her, including
salary and any expenses. And, establish that he/she has a book of
business in education projects that can be used (with proper firm
attribution) to demonstrate expertise.
Chart revenue and profit expectations. Using the research, project
expected revenue versus expense in the first, second, and third years.
Have a new hire billable on other projects while the firm is seeking
educational projects. And learn if public project agreements might
constrain the firm’s profit percentage.
Assuming that the research supports pursuing the new market,
the business development effort begins—not by sticking a toe in the
water—but with a cannonball dive off the dock. The following are a few
initial networking avenues when entering the new or expanded market:
Join and become involved with the professional associations of
your peers for knowledge sharing. The AIA Committee on
Architecture for Education is ideal for networking, and you can get a
good deal of information from its website.
Most importantly, get active in the professional associations
affiliated with your potential clients. You could participate by
submitting articles, sponsoring a meeting, or potentially speaking at
one of their events. The Collaborative for High Performance Schools
and the American Association of School Administrators are two such
organizations. Also, the Council of Chief State School Officers members
are various states’s public officials. That council’s meetings are not
public, but that has never stopped an assertive business developer.
Do these starting steps really work? Absolutely—and here is an
example from my experience. The firm I founded, Pollack Architecture,
needed to expand its revenue base before I retired. Just like targeting a
new market segment, our research looked at the need for a much
expanded market. That, in turn, led to identifying all the Bay Area’s
locally headquartered corporations that had ongoing office
transformation, and then developing a sales approach to make
ourselves better known to them. A key professional organization that
client base takes part in is CoreNet Global (Corporate Real Estate
Executives Network), and I became active on the Membership
Committee, was appointed to the Northern California board of directors
as co-chair of membership, and I built a number of key relationships
with the heads of corporate real estate groups. With those connections,
my firm developed expanded and ongoing work.
For successful entry into a new or expanded market, here is a
summary of several key take-aways:
• Research opportunities and make informed decisions to ensure
success and build a solid foundation.
• Get the best people you can find—subject-matter experts in the market
segment—to drive the initial research.
• Be focused, assertive, and incessant with your collateral, networking
and overall business development. Create a sales mentality in your firm!
With these steps, you should be able to gain a foothold in the new
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - March 2013
Contract - March 2013
Columnist: Gaining Projects in the Education Market
Product Focus: On the Move
Product Briefs: Education
University of Toronto Rotman School of Management
Bangkok University Imagine Lounge
Lorain County Community College iLoft
Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Sonoma State University
Forum Overview: Contract Design Forum Looks Toward the Future
Designers Select: Education Solutions
Contract - March 2013