Stu’s News
with Trina’s Tips



Looking at the supply-demand model, the supply of people in our profession is diminishing. More are retiring than are entering our profession. Even if demand is less, most firms are still remaining busy. Paraphrasing the CEO of one firm…
“Last year was the best year we’ve ever had. But I read about growing economic woes, and assume it’ll catch up with us, sometime. Better to prepare for it now, while we’re able … both in terms of being able to budget for something and in terms of having a positive attitude.”
Here are some specific actions you can take that are both inexpensive and useful – even if a recession does not materialize and affect our profession or your firm…
Client Focus Groups
Invite roughly six to twelve clients to a “focus group” session, that’s roughly three hours long and that examines trends that will be affecting them over the next three to ten years. For many firms, a breakfast type meeting seems to work best … 7:00 to 10:00 … with a sideboard breakfast provided, and at some convenient location.
One version involves one participant from each client organization…9 municipal public works directors, 6 pharmaceutical facility directors, 10 commercial developers. Each often feels somewhat isolated, and is eager to learn what his/her colleagues perceive to be the biggest trends and issues facing them in coming years.
A second version is for larger client organizations…12 people from a Corps. of Engineers regional office, 8 from the state aviation department, 7 facility directors from a major corporation. They’re in the same organization, but rarely discuss “futures”…major trends and issues likely to be affecting them – even if they develop 5-year plans and budgets. An “off-line” meeting can be helpful for them.
The questions can come from your “Market Interview” Mandeville questionnaire…
“What do you see as the biggest trends affecting your marketplace (i.e. municipalities, highway departments, etc.,) over the next ___ years?”
“How do you see those trends affecting your specific organization?”
“What are the biggest issues you’ll wrestling with the next 1-2 years?”
“What kind of help will be most important to you in dealing with those issues?” (Don’t limit response to your discipline or firm.)
“If you could create the perfect organization to support you over the coming years, what should it look like…anything goes?”
Participants will leave your meeting with a lot of information that will be vital to their organizations and themselves. You leave with a wealth of information about what to expect from that market or client in coming years, and what to do to adapt yourself to best advantage. You rekindle relationships. Cost and time is minimal.
Individual Client Interviews
If a group situation isn’t plausible, here’s an approach for ongoing and past clients:
1.      Satisfaction feedback.
In a weaker economy, clients – public or private – will be more obliged to shop work to the low bidder. You need them to feel so positively about you that they’ll be reticent to do so. Here, the Mandeville client satisfaction interview is most useful. 
“What do you like best or value most about what we’re doing for you? (or – for past clients – what we did for you?)
“What have you like least or disliked about what we’re doing?”
“What would you suggest that would most improve our service to you?”
“If you could score our performance on a zero to ten basis – ten being highest – what score would you give us…candidly?”
2.      Individual trend perceptions.
If all is flowing well, and your client’s satisfaction score is high, shift to the questions listed for the focus groups, to get their perception of likely futures needs and service preferences. Clients get a chance to contemplate about their likely future – quite useful for them. You get very detailed information about needs and preferences. And it’s more personal, so you strengthen your relationship even further.
Client Service Management
Most of you have the CSM Guidelines. Use them. For each major client, comb through the guidelines for specific actions that will bond your client to you even more strongly. Your goal: Dependency. If my mouth hurts, I don’t want shop around for dentists; I want to call my dentist. It’s a legitimate “professional-client dependency.” Take fifteen minutes for each client to create a program for bonding that client to you…regardless of what the economy might be doing in the future.


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In some firms, younger project managers never learned Mandeville. For a few, the video with skill practice helps. For many, a day’s workshop may make more sense.