Gregory Nettuno, PE, Senior Vice President, GAI Consultants
In the past, engineering firms have characteristically opened up new offices with a practice builder, built local client trust, and then grown from there. While it’s true that elements of that engineering business model still remain, as a company becomes larger, the model for successful growth becomes more complicated. Recently, emerging, midsize engineering companies have discovered that the best way to grow business is to establish geographical locations as bases to serve clients. This is a market-centered, or client-centered, business growth model, and three important elements must be in place for it to work well:
- Local Office Leadership
No matter what, to ultimately be successful at any local level, engineering firms must be represented locally by someone who thinks strategically and has solid leadership skills. So once a foothold office is launched, it’s imperative to establish this person in that location—a local leader to grow that market successfully while connecting back to the vast resources of the corporation.
- Remote Sharing of Technical Expertise and Secondary Support Resources
To grow business as quickly as possible, engineering companies have to rely on technical expertise that may not be available at new office locations. Thanks to technology today, primary technical expertise can be provided to remote offices from other, more established locations. Secondary support services like accounting, administration, human resources, information technology, and marketing can also be performed away from newly opened offices. It’s important for everyone in the firm to stand behind this mindset, because a company cannot effectively grow clients from a base office without remote support.
- Home Office Commitment
Communication in a market-centered engineering business model is a two-way street, with beachhead offices reaching out to corporate headquarters for assistance, and corporate headquarters connecting back to those offices with leadership, strategic planning, and technical and administrative resources. The two parties need to collaborate as a team in order to flourish. The companies that understand and implement this philosophy are the ones that grow their new markets most rapidly, but in a sustainable way. To achieve success in a new market, the home office has to be fully committed to the success of the new venture.
While it’s important for midsize engineering firms to grow business, it’s even more important to do so in an efficient, strategic, financially responsible, and sustainable way. By establishing solid leadership in new office locations, sharing technical expertise and support services remotely, and having full commitment from company headquarters, many engineering firms are achieving positive growth today with the market-centered business model.
Greg Nettuno, PE is a Senior Vice President and serves on GAI’s Board of Directors. Overseeing a staff of technical professionals and project managers throughout the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast, Greg’s visionary guidance and bold strategic initiatives resulted in the rapid growth of GAI’s transportation business. Today, as Director of Infrastructure, he applies the same leadership and tactics to grow what now constitutes half of GAI’s business. He can be reached by email or at 904.363.1110.