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Re: Marketing Structural Engineering Services

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Dennis,

I agree that education regarding the complexities of our field is critically
important.  Many of the professional societies have public awareness
programs, and I contribute to these programs through my membership. However,
my personal view is to start with your clients, the architects.

Marketing is the selling of our services.  I use the service we provide as a
selling point.  As professionals we should not be competing on a low bid
basis, we should be selected based on the value of our contribution to the
design as a member of the design team.  An architect would not select his
CPA, his attorney, or his doctor based on the lowest bid, and shouldn't
select his engineer that way either.  The architects (my main client base)
who cannot appreciate this point are welcome to utilize low bid engineering
firms, I probably don't want them as clients anyway.

I try to use the types of situations you describe as a positive, a form of
marketing tool.  As an example, in meetings and in my contracts I place a
lot of emphasis on preliminary design coordination.  I'll try and explain.
Value engineering is a big issue on many of the projects I am involved in.
The problem with value engineering is the solutions are constrained by the
completed design, the effort to modify work that has already been completed
in a previous form, and the negative effects on schedule and controlling the
flow of information regarding the changes.

With proper allowance for the time and schedule (which also equals fee) to
perform preliminary design services, value engineering is reduced to a
minimum.  Identify the areas that are tricky and present design challenges
early, document and discuss the impact of particular design features and
potential alternatives.  I understand and accept that I was "hired to make
it work" and can develop a solution that appears to defy the laws of nature.
The words "we can't do" are not in my professional vocabulary, but the words
"boy is that going to be expensive" are.  The architect is responsible to
the client for overall job costs. By identifying the areas of potential cost
impact early, the architect has an opportunity to decide how important ($$)
a particular aspect of their design is.  If the architect, my client,
decides the result is worth the cost, then I don't care if the contractor
complains.  The information is on the drawings and he should bid the work
accordingly.  The same features he complains about are the same features he
will take pride in as he points the building out to his friends saying "I
built that".

The architects who understand the value of our services are my best clients,
and my most rewarding project experiences.  Educate your clients on the
services you provide, and the value those services bring to the design
process.

Paul Feather

----- Original Message -----
From: Dennis S. Wish <dennis.wish(--nospam--at)gte.net>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Sent: Friday, May 05, 2000 8:48 AM
Subject: RE: Marketing Structural Engineering Services


> I think that the most productive use of marketing for structural engineers
> is to invest a portion of our professional association dues in public
> relations and education of the layperson (i.e.., general public). I
believe
> that even architects, who study basic statics and strength of materials,
> lack in depth understanding of the complexities of our field. Presented
with
> projects, we are expected to overcome all obstacles and limitations to
make
> the structure appear to defy laws of nature while providing an expectation
> of safety and performance.  When we ask for compromise, the most often
reply
> is, "We hired you to make it work."  Most times, compromise is simply not
an
> option, and creative solutions are criticized by those who must build it.
> I don't see the perception of the services we can offer clients or the
> general public without first educating them as what contribution we make
to
> the design process.
>
> Dennis S. Wish, PE
>