Larry has been very busy! Several sets of drawings are scattered across the conference table, covered in red lines and notes. We have a healthy number of projects on the books at the moment, and I have been getting more and more involved in the process. This week we have two pre-bid meetings, and I am attending both! I like to be prepared, and since I have never been to or even heard of a pre-bid meeting, I headed straight to Google and started my research.
Pre-bid meetings are usually held during the bid/proposal preparation period. Typically an ad is placed in the newspaper to announce the meeting to local contractors. The purpose of a pre-bid meeting is to clarify any concerns bidders may have with the solicitation documents, scope of work and other details of the requirement. Pre-bid meetings are conducted by the client requesting the project, at an agreed upon venue. They prepare the agenda for the meeting, sometimes with help from the architect. Attendance is not always mandatory, but it is a good idea for prospective bidders to attend. Pre-bid meetings are held to interpret the technical and procurement aspects of the solicitation documents. This gives potential bidders a chance to voice their concerns. It is very important that the provided solicitation documents are clear, comprehensive, and non-restrictive. During a pre-bid meeting, these concerns are taken in consideration to help improve the solicitation documents. Pre-bid meetings are held with the hope to give bidders all the proper information needed to assist them with submitting a bid or proposal that responds to the requirements. Pre-bid meetings are typically held one week or more after the announcement of the invitation for bids or request for proposals. This allows prospective bidders to have plenty of time to prepare. They are able to read and study the solicitation documents, and produce a request for clarification, if they have one. The venue of the pre-bid meeting should be easily accessible to the target market.
I attended my first pre-bid meeting on Tuesday. I learned that government and school projects typically need at least three contractors in attendance to proceed. This particular meeting was for the City, and was not mandatory. A woman from the City office conducted the meeting, reading through the solicitation documents carefully. Once she finished reading, she answered questions from potential bidders. It was a quick, but informative meeting. At the conclusion, everyone walked out to the project site to take photos and get a better idea of the scope of work. My second pre-bid meeting is this afternoon. It is a mandatory meeting. Pretty soon, I will be a pro at these meetings!
As I start to understand the way things are done at my new workplace, I can’t help but want to jump in head first and start helping in as many ways as possible. I do not know how to use “Vector-works”, our CAD program (yet), but I do have the social media pages set up and am constantly posting engaging content and I am already caught up on all the filling. So what else can I do to help around the office? I found an article on Archdaily.com by Sabrina Wirth titled “9 Ways to Find More Business for Your Architecture Firm,” which has given me another good starting point as a “newb” (new person) to this industry.
I noticed that my boss is almost always working on drawings, RFIs and CCCRs. He is the only architect in the office, and has a substantial amount of projects that he is working on. Those things are important when running a successful architecture firm, but they are not the only influential part of the business. The article states that “the most effective business development strategies involve more time spent on proactive relationship-building (before the project is made public), and less time on responding to RFPs and RFQs, which are available to anyone.” That is where I can help! The article gives 9 helpful strategies to help us define a good business development approach that will ultimately win us more clients and projects. Here they are:
- “Identify the ideal project, and the work backwards – What are the ideal projects for your firm? Who are the people who can lead you to them? Do some research into their social environments and find ways to meet them there. The best projects or partnerships occur through direct commissions via a personal contact. Make the personal connection by networking in the same places that your ideal client spends time in. If you haven’t already, start thinking of everyone in your rolodex as a potential client, collaborator, or lead to new information; it may just be that the person who may lead you to the next job is someone you already know.
- Export your design as portable, and shareable, objects – Several companies design books that showcase their projects. Rather than make the book simply a portfolio, make the book a design object itself. Your design philosophy should be manifested in any tangible object (books, business cards, etc) your company produces, so that whenever you meet a potential client, you can offer them a small sample of what makes your firm so great. Follow up with well-designed emails, and be sure that your website is clear and easy to understand. The worst is for a client to be turned off by a slow or complicated website.
- Follow up – Always make sure to have business cards on hand, and after you receive a handful of business cards at networking events, be sure to enter them into your email list and stay in contact through periodic, personal emails. If you want to send out occasional updates with a mass mailing service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, be sure to ask if they’d like to be included in the mailing list.
- Turn your firm into a brand – Become an expert in a specific area of design. Determine the expertise available in the office, and the kind of projects your firm would like to be known for. Perhaps it’s environmental or urban design, master plans, residential, cultural, or civic. There needs to be something that potential clients can associate with your firm’s name. If you want to be more of a generalist, and be known for creative solutions and high quality design, then make “process” and “philosophy” your brand. To be able to successfully promote and market your firm, you have to be able to provide something that’s unique to only your firm that you can use to brand yourself.
- Create brand ambassadors at your company – Create a company culture that reflects your firm as approachable and fun to work with. Make sure there is fluid communication within the office so that when architects are traveling, they are comfortable discussing information about the firm, spreading the company’s vision, and creating new business contacts.
- Organize an open lecture series at your firm – Organize an open lecture series at your firm where you can invite anyone to your office and provide an opportunity to introduce your firm to a new audience. Better yet, make the lectures have nothing to do with architecture, but about something your firm believes in. This will make your firm more approachable and will also show a different facet to the practice.
- Book as many speaking opportunities as possible – You never know who is in the audience, and it’s a great way of reaching multitudes of people at the same time. At a school, you may find that you’ve attracted more students who want to work for you, but you may also catch the attention of a developer who is teaching a class at that school who may want to speak with you about a potential opportunity.
- Grow your online presence – More so than booking lectures, it’s one of the best ways to reach large audiences and catch the attention of many potential clients around the world at the same time. Think about maintaining a blog on your website to publish frequent updates and also use Instagram and Twitter to boost your online presence. Instagram especially is quick and visual, so architects can “seduce” clients with beautiful images that relate to their design aesthetic without having to spend so much time; the ROI (Return on Investment) on that is better than on any other platform, because it reaches so many people without much effort. With Twitter, you can retweet articles about your firm, drive people to your blog, or post updates and images as well.
- Network with colleagues – Other firms and industry professionals are great resources for staying on top of trends and new developments. Rather than considering other firms as competition, consider them as potential partners on future projects; the combined, complementary expertise from each firm can only help to strengthen a business proposal. Additionally, keeping good relations with other firms may also lead to information about new projects that you might not have known about before.”
Like in any profession, networking and keeping relationships is an integral part of success. Social Media has made this task increasingly easier. Word of mouth is a great way to get your name out there, and if you make a positive impact on a person (either face-to-face or via social media), they are going to remember that and talk about it to their friends. I can help this firm by continuing to make an impact via social media and this blog. If I engage with our audience, it will drive more and more people to our pages, and hopefully all the clicks will turn into clients!