One of the 44 executives I interviewed for the book, Laura Wernick, AIA of HMFH Architects in Boston, discussed how to support younger, less experienced staff in developing their networks and becoming involved in marketing and business development. This post is an excerpt from my interview with Laura.
Laura Wernick: It’s important for me to bring in opportunities or connect younger people in the office to help them build their networks. I’m often doing that initial introduction within the firm as a way of helping and then providing those leads to other people in the office.
They can then develop their networks and become marketers and business development people on their own. So that’s another end of the spectrum — making sure that others in the office have the opportunity to build networks and develop their prospects.
Jim Rogers: How do you know when people are ready to be more involved in business development?
Laura Wernick: I think some people are naturally inclined towards business development. They feel comfortable being introduced to people. They feel comfortable carrying on conversations and pursuing potential clients. So sometimes, it’s obvious.
There are other times when you’re trying to develop a person who may not see this as their forte, but you want to help them grow. So that’s probably the more challenging thing. That’s a little bit more of a push-and-pull situation. And I think it’s a gradual process.
The first layer is just getting them out to meet people in professional organization environments or community events and seeing how they respond, while providing feedback and encouragement. Hopefully, you’re able to push them into other situations and see how they respond at each level. Most architects are not inclined to do business development. They’d much prefer to sit at their desks and solve problems — solve the specific problem that’s handed to them.
So I think it’s about encouraging those with that natural inclination and giving them opportunities. And when do you know? I think that when you’re working with younger people on projects, on actually doing the design and following through with a project, and you see how they’re relating to the clients that they’re working with on a day-to-day basis — you begin to see those who can easily interact with their clients, lead their clients, and gain the confidence of their clients. So you know that those people are going to do well in the larger marketing environment. It just takes some encouragement, support, and opportunities for them to do well.
For other people, I think you just have to keep nurturing and nudging and building them up over time. And ultimately, not everyone will be able to do it easily. So you want to just help people to rise to their greatest potential.
Everybody has to be doing some level of marketing and business development; some people will do well at it, and others will just participate.