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Meeting new clients..

Meeting new clients..

Meeting new clients..

Obviously Covid has restricted people’s ability to meet. But regardless, how are you guys generally getting new clients? Most of the really nice work up my way is sewn up by the same group of big boy consultants who are best buddies with the developers. Its impossible to even get a look in! Word of mouth isn’t enough when our existing clients agree that we’re solid engineers and that our fees are reasonable - but the big boys still stick with their mates.

Other than banging on someone’s door and asking them to give me a shot - how do you actually meet new clients?

Maybe I need to take up golf...

RE: Meeting new clients..

I would take up golf or a similar activity to meet people. Get involved in community organizations, not just those related to the building industry but anything you can find where you might meet architects, or even friends or architects. Ask potential clients for suggestions perhaps. A personal connection is key unless you bring something truly unique to the table as a consultant, which is hard to do in our industry. Keep reaching out often, but not so often that they start ignoring you. You never know when you'll catch them on a day where they are fed up with their normal engineer and are looking to try someone new. Offer to take on anything small that comes your way - sometimes the "big boys" don't have time for this type of work and it can be a way in. I'm thinking things like a letter for an equipment pad, a stair design, a site retaining wall, or something like that.

RE: Meeting new clients..

Opera and concerts are good places. Maybe you didn't meet someone but you gained some culture. Do not forget to drink champagne in the interval, it is time to strike up a conversation. Try going to a gala function.


RE: Meeting new clients..

The old-fashioned way. Marry someone with connections.

Now you just have to meet one person.

RE: Meeting new clients..

Relationships are often very ingrained. Don't be disheartened. What you need is patience and keep working the connections or get bloody lucky.

RE: Meeting new clients..

All of my clients have come from word of mouth. I have a list of clients that include owners, developers, contractors, architects, fabricators and other engineers. As time has gone on the list has gotten larger and larger. I have received architect clients from contractors and fabricators before.

My projects are not interesting though. I'm betting if you were to look at the projects I do you would think they are trash..... but someone has to do them. Just today, I had to go visit a project for a new contractor client (referral from a fabricator) for a new lintel in an old factory. I'm going to end up charging the guy $250/ hour to design a small lintel, but he doesn't really care... as long as it's done quickly..... once he knows he can rely on me then the projects will more than likely get larger.

In this economic climate, I guarantee you that these developers are not happy with how long it's taking to turn around projects. If you could just find a way to get your foot in then I bet you will be all set.

RE: Meeting new clients..

After spending some years:

>trying to do the work everyone is trying to do,
>trying to make money working fast and hard with long days
>hustling to get things done quick
>trying to compete with many different people on the basis of relationships and other intangibles that really do not have any merit

I just threw in the towel and started doing the work nobody wants to do. much easier to get, pays much better and in a final twist of fate is usually much more interesting. You meet more interesting people as well. Also, my days are much more relaxed.

As Warren Buffett says: "I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over."

RE: Meeting new clients..

I have the same question as MISTructE_IRE.

Have set my own shop and find it a bit difficult to find new clients (most of my current clients I knew before I went on my own). I targeted small/medium architects/builder/project manager firms (most of my experience aligns with their work) - found that they have already an established relationship with another engineer that charges very competitively. I tried pitching good customer services (with client testimonials) but turns out these firms are more cost sensitive than service sensitive as most engineers give an 'okay' level of service. Only time they would look at my direction is when - I charge significantly less than the market or if their current engineer made a serious mistake or misconduct.

Now trying to find start-up architect/builder/project manager firms who don't have a lot of contacts yet, however I found that they are not so easy to find.

I'm a bit unsure what to do next...currently contemplating my next strategy, any suggestion would be appreciated.

RE: Meeting new clients..

It depends on the kind of work you want to take on. If you want garden variety structural engineering for buildings then the game is played as you see it: hustle, hustle, hustle, and combine that hustle with low fees. Or get lucky but that tends to be an unreliable thing to rely on.

If you have a bit more tolerance for the unique / uncommon projects then the playbook is markedly different. Contractors are always in need of structural design and very often have no one reliable to turn to; there are lots of people practicing structural engineering - that have licenses to do so - but not a lot of structural engineers (at least in the proper sense). While developers, landlords and architects may not know the difference (sorry to say) contractors generally do. As builders we are keen on practicality and cost reduction and we know when a design is just trash or when it's good value engineering.

To put the demand into perspective: I'm a contractor who mostly acts as a GC (other times as a sub-trade) and the amount of engineering work from people I compete with could rival a small design office. And I can assure you, they wouldn't be coming to a competitor for engineering if they had a viable alternative.

What's my point? My point is target the medium sized contractors. Ones who do not have engineers on staff. We are price sensitive but not about your design fees; as long as your design is cheap or efficient to build. Contracting clients will come almost exclusively by word of mouth. You need to pound the pavement for the first couple. But after that, word of mouth will spread a hell of a lot quicker then in the architect / developer world. We share recommendations for good trades and design professionals all the time with our friends and do so gladly.

To get in the door I would suggest creating a list of contractors you want to hit and call to speak with a project manager (not estimating...project managers are who you want to talk to. People with a problem in hand that needs solving. Not people estimating a problem to be solved). Follow that up by sending some literature. Cool designs you've done. Contractors, believe it or not, like cool engineering! Send me a picture of something super funky and neat to show what you can do. Once Covid ends hit up their office in person. Follow-up with something every so often just to keep your name top of mind for when a neat engineering project does come up. They'll call you. And if you perform they'll spread the word in the office. Eventually to the outside.

Oh and the benefit of working for my ilk is that a) we pay better, b) we pay faster, c) our work is almost never boring.

Good luck!

EDIT - thought i'd add an example of something to send the contractors you target. The more temporary work-like it is the better. Contractors generally need stuff designed but it is to facilitate the work rather then anything permanent. So the examples you show should be tailored toward that. Take a look at this example. If you show up at an office with something like this and say "stuff like this is absolutely no problem" I bet they wont even ask about fees before the contractor talks about a project they need some help with (and when can you start).

RE: Meeting new clients..

Find an employer and let him worry about it and just come to office to do engineering/calculation work? Probably not for everyone though..

RE: Meeting new clients..

Strongly agree with NorthCivil and Enable. Do something different and find an underserved market and serve it. Ramming and jamming the obvious will always yield ordinary results.

RE: Meeting new clients..

@Glass - would love to get more into your field. I feel like there's still a fair amount of "engineering" there. Not too many "cookbooks" to go by.


RE: Meeting new clients..

I built my career and reputation doing things others didn't want to do. This includes multi-million dollar projects and 10-cent projects. All needed to be done. There is a common mistake among engineers that you must have a specialty niche. Not so. Know as much as you can about as many things as you can. This allows you to fluidly provide engineering solutions. I see many structural engineers who know very little about concrete and its properties, or have no idea about welding processes and limitations, yet they design structures with both. When things go bad, someone (i.e., a versatile engineer) has to fix it. Be that versatile engineer.

RE: Meeting new clients..

"Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble.“ Rolls- Royce
The Client is your friend, remember invit her/him to dining.
Always write "Client" with capital letter.


RE: Meeting new clients..

The other advise I would give is that its much easier to form important relationships with people on their way up than with people already at the top. The CEO of any company has zero time, but the hustling associate does, and may be CEO in a few years with a bunch of soft power in the meantime.

RE: Meeting new clients..

I obviously don't have the amount of experience you do (I've been engineering for 11 years and business-ing for 4 years) but for me, a huge part of meeting new clients is networking and being a salesman. I f*ing suck at sales and I'm an introvert who likes to deal with engineering problems. But as a business owner, I had to learn communication skills. There are things like doing small talk and just saying, "You're talking to the right person. I will take care of your problem" that will land job after job. This is assuming you're doing other things right like delivering projects on time. But the human communication aspect of it is so important regardless of Covid times.

Knocking on people's doors is a bad option and something I've tucked away in my back pocket for a backup strategy. It's even worse due to the pandemic. I've done that before Covid and scored a few clients this way when I was desperate, but word of mouth resonates better and gets more actual business. Make connections with everyone, down to everyone you might look down upon. Do favors. Anyone like shop detailers, expeditors, and subcontractors. Any one of them could bring a small or huge job.

Networking is important because you could get a job out of nowhere. There was a steel detailer that I worked with on one project, and I did a few things for him for free. A few years later, he scored me a high rise project.

I've seen you in this forum for years and you probably already know these things, even better than me, but it could help as a reminder.

RE: Meeting new clients..

Same page as Ron and SteelPE, I used to be a high-rise/concrete expert, concrete type buildings including high-rise work had a significant decline in available projects between 2009 and 2012 in my city, so I branched out and now service a very large range and places, my motto is "we do the work no-one else is interested in". The amount of slabs/footings we do for machinery or pipe systems in refurbishments is amazing. I teamed up with some mechanical engineers that needed someone to so these small jobs after meeting them at a expo, they happily passed my details on, as they were always struggling to find and engineer whom would take care of that wasn't full service.

However, I do miss reviewing finite element models created by others, as the owners engineer. I used to have a great time pulling them apart and finding issues that people whom dabble had little knowledge.

RE: Meeting new clients..

@MIStructE_IRE: I think of marketing and relationship formation as something which happens every day and is part of every interaction you have with people, whether its on a Zoom call or in a meeting or on a job site. Authentic enthusiasm based relationships with people you are working with today get you into peoples Rolodexes. Yes cold calling and traditional sales is awful, but genuinely enjoying the art and science of putting together a rebar detail or solving a restricted site issue as part of collaborating with a client is something which will never get old.

Beyond that, finding ways to reach out to old contacts and stay in touch is helpful. Email them a relevant article from something you know they are into for example. Seeing people at conferences is super useful. Dont hound people but generally speaking if you had some kind of good relationship in the past with them they will be happy to hear from you. Also keep your social media fresh. Post photos on linkedin/instagam/etc as often as possible.

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