Client: Why would you design a surface detention pond on the site? This is valuable land, I thought we were going with a subsurface system?
Civil Engineer: Well, uh, I didn’t think you wanted to do that because those systems are very expensive.
Client: Expensive? Not as expensive as losing 5 residential units. Please prepare a modified design as soon as possible, and don’t think about charging me for it.
– – – – –
The above is an example of conversations that I have heard happen all too often between civil engineers and their clients. Alright, so maybe the client doesn’t say, “Don’t think about charging me for it,” but you know you can’t charge them. Why? You didn’t communicate with the client early on in the project to avoid this situation.
You may only think of communication in the form of sales when it comes to business development, but the truth is communicating effectively with your clients ensures both great project management and business development.
Let me give you another example to display this.
A client hires you as the civil engineer to design a residential development that encompasses a large recreational area. Before starting the design, you do a very preliminary sketch plan with your layout ideas. You then hold a meeting with the client as well as your other team members.
The goal of the meeting is twofold.
Firstly, you want to gain feedback from the client on the layout of the site with respect to their financial goals which is what is going to be the client’s top interest. Do they think the site can be better maximized for lot count or sale price of the units?
Secondly, you ask for any input that the client has from the end users on the development, specifically aspects like the recreational area. Does the client maybe have feedback or preferences from people that have pre-purchased homes or maybe success stories from previous projects of theirs?
Gathering this information EARLY ON in the design process and implementing it into the design will ensure a few things:
- Happy client who will see a project that maximizes their financial returns,
- Happy homeowners that will again make your client happier,
- Happy supervisor because your communication early on will limit the project scope changes that are outside of your control, helping you to hit your budget,
- Happy civil engineer for all of the reasons above.
This is the best result for a civil engineer on any project. A successful project that is on or close to budget, and happy clients who will return with repeat work — all because the civil engineer decided to communicate early on.
You see effective project management, and also business development because you will generate repeat work.
This month’s Seller-Doer Academy for Civil Engineers session will cover this topic in more detail along with other key communication and collaboration strategies for civil engineers.
If your company is not a member of The Seller-Doer Academy for Civil Engineers, please contact us for membership information through this form or by calling 800-WIN-1734.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE
Author of Engineer Your Own Success
Co-Host of The Civil Engineering Podcast