I often find myself in conversations with people in the Engineering profession who are unhappy about the fees they are able to charge for their services.
I often find myself in conversations with people in the Engineering profession who are unhappy about the fees they are able to charge for their services. It doesn’t matter whether the person comes from a large firm or works for themselves – the complaints about the client “not being prepared to pay what it costs to provide the service” are the same. What is going on here is the “value” conversation – clients aren’t recognising the value being offered by the Engineering profession and the individuals within it.
Let’s not dwell on the popular approach of blaming the client and instead take an opportunity to hold up a mirror to ourselves. There are two key questions we can ask:
(1) Do we have an offer that clients want and/or need?
(2) If so, how do we make this offer such that it is irresistible to potential clients?
Mark Brownley in his article “Consulting Engineering Needs New Business Model” (published in the March 2014 edition of Engineers Australia) explores the first question from a corporate perspective.
Mark argues that engineering consultancies typically invest too heavily in their fee-for-service engineering design and construction body shops. This approach constrains these consultancies to a “boom or bust” model as staff are taken on during boom times and (as is currently occurring) resources are shed during downturns. This approach, apart from eroding organisational culture, is undertaken at the expense of offering other services such as (Mark’s suggestion) providing strategic business advice aimed at adapting business models to rapidly changing environments and circumstances so as to dampen the external shocks that inevitably occur. In my personal experience, there is a range of services more typically offered at Corporate Executive level by the Accounting profession in the Business Improvement, Risk Management and Project Advisory space that can be successfully undertaken by Engineering Consulting companies. Offering services in a different space to (largely commoditised) engineering design means, more often than not, the difference between being perceived by the client as a “trusted advisor” as opposed to “hired help”. Guess which service type has charge out rates more aligned with the value being provided? Indeed, managed well, a complementary Design and Advisory service enhances both offerings in the mind of the client – and comes with the added benefit of increasing client “stickiness”.
Now let’s consider the same question from the perspective of a sole operator. Unlike larger Consulting firms, an individual service provider has the luxury of crafting a service offering that uniquely matches his or her individual attributes. Rather than offering more of what lots of other people have, why not put out there what only you can provide?
With assistance from Daniel Priestley’s 5-Step Program to “Become A Key Person of Influence”, the questions to ask yourself when formulating your unique offer are:
- What do you offer? What is your big idea?
- Does your idea solve a problem? – there’s two types of problem that are valuable to solve: a way of doing something that is better, cheaper or more convenient than the current norm, or an unsolved problem being experienced or likely to arise in the future.
- Is your idea based on reality? – ideas based on reality are typically borne out of a customer insight, a new technology insight or an industry insight.
- Is your idea aligned to you? – this answers the “why” question ie. Why is this idea perfect for you?
The next questions to ask yourself are:
- Q1: Are you truly confident in the value that you offer?
- Q2: Are you able to clearly and succinctly articulate your value?
This is the basis of what’s called a “perfect pitch” and we are well on the way to answering Question 2 which I will further explore in a future article.
Has this article been helpful? Please comment below or send me an email. I am always excited to hear from people making it happen!
BE (Mech), MBA