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Re: Engineering compensation

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Scott Haan wrote:
> There is a simple solution to having a higher salary and it is simply be
> unwilling to work for less than you are worth.
I could not agree more.  This applies to private sector projects as well.
Our office does not get many of the projects we provide proposals on,
primarily because we are too expensive.  I learned along time ago that there
is a big difference between being paid what you are worth , being
profitable, and being busy.

There is an old story I like to think of:  "A manufacturing company has
millions of dollars worth of complex in-line machinery.  The Industrial
engineer who has been with the company for many years retires.  Soon after
the equipment stops working and no-one is able to fix it.  Begrudgingly, the
old man comes out of retirement to look at the problem.  He walks around for
an hour looking and listening to the various components, finally taking a
piece of chalk and marking a component saying "replace this".  They do and
everything begins to work properly again.  The old man sends a bill for
$50,000 to the company.  The accounting department flips out and demands an
itemized accounting of his services.  He scrawls on the invoice "one chalk
mark, $1.00, knowing where to put it, $49,999"  he was promptly paid."

Many complain that we are not compensated for the value we bring to a
project. I ask you to look closely at your own practices, or the practices
of your employer.  As I listen to many of our profession lament the level of
remuneration in our industry, I reflect upon the projects we don't get
because other firms were 40% less than we were (I also wonder how the hell
anyone can expect to earn a living, or even perform due diligence, at the
proposed fee levels).

We are not unrealistic in our proposed fees, or we would not get any work.
The difference is finding clients who value the level of service and
expertise you bring to a project and are willing to pay the little extra for
it.  This is not as hard as some may think.  The fact is if the project is
truly successful, we look good, the client (Architect) looks good, there are
less construction problems, delays, and extras, so the ultimate client is
happy (Owner), and lo and behold, we get more quality work.  We do not get
all the work we seek, but we get enough at the right levels of compensation.

I ask you to apply your engineers perspective in a cold detached manner to
the different "business" models in our industry (The "contractor"  low bid
and look for extras practice, the "sweat shop" practice, the "production"
practice, the "specialist" practice, the "quality" practice, the "service"
practice, and so on).  Then look closely at where you and yours fit into the
overall picture.  The lack of value and compensation in our industry rests
solely within.  If you do not like where you are in the spectrum, take
positive steps to change things.  There will always be low bidders, and yes
they will get lots of work, but we do not have to compete with them, or work
for them.

Stan posted an excellent response to a similar thread a couple of years(?)
ago, regarding "being a rainmaker".  He should repost it again for this one.
Each of us will have a different balance of what constitutes success. I need
an awful lot of compensation to give up my Sunday golf :-)  And I am not
willing to work endless hours for low fees.  If the majority of firms would
place a higher value on their services, the market would have to support
higher compensation.  Until then, look to your own circumstances and begin

Paul Feather

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