Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don’t accept second place

Steven W. Smith, president and managing director of WSP SELLS (Briarcliff Manor, NY), a 250-person transportation and infrastructure firm, has previously wrriten in this space about firm leaders setting the tone and riding out the economic downturn. Today, he checks in with advice on winning more work:
"If you have been in this business long enough, you soon realize that you cannot win every project. In September 2009, we identified four large projects as key targets and important to win. We were fortunate to win two of those four projects and came in second on the other two. With that said, there is nothing I hate more than hearing from one of our managers we came in second, even though we did all we could do. There is no consolation prize for second place. No salaries are paid, no overhead is covered, and no profit is made!

"There is nothing worse than coming in second, no matter how many firms submitted on a project. This is especially true when it is a quality-based selection. If you come that close to victory, there is something you did not do that could have placed you over the top.

"A perfect example of this is a project we recently pursued with a $4 million fee. WSP SELLS had performed all of the studies leading up to the solicitation for final design. According to our staff, the client loved our studies and it was ours to win. We made it to the shortlist of five and the presentation stage of three firms, and then lost to a key competitor. If you asked our staff what more we could have done, they were hard-pressed to provide an answer. I knew there was a reason and upon further questioning of a key client contact, we found the answer. Our worthy competitor evaluated our studies, and proposed the exact opposite, larger-scale solution that the client said they did not want during the preliminary study phase. They took the one approach that we assumed the client had discarded earlier and beat us with it; by convincing the client they were wrong in discarding it.

"Moral of the story: second place is simply getting beat by someone thinking harder than you!"

What do you think about this? Do you feel the same way about your firm finishing second?

1 comment:

  1. I will say this, the day you don't get upset about being second is the day to cash out and retire. That fire and energy to always want to win is what takes a firm to the top, and should be instilled in every member of the team. We do that by involving everyone in our proposal process in some shape or form, and making our successes and failures regular conversation to[pics within the firm. It's like I always tell my brother when he and I are fishing....I am absolutely convinced that I will catch a fish every single time I cast out....That's what keeps it interesting. We expect to win every job. If we didn't, there is no sense in pursuing it.


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