Competitors. As an architect, engineer, or construction professional, you need to be aware of what your competitors are doing in the marketplace. But while I think it’s important not to stick your head in the sand, I also don’t think you need to watch their every move. Rather, you need to focus on your business and how you are moving your company forward. Focusing on your own clients, prospects, and employees will lead to much better results than analyzing your competition.
The key is finding the right balance between keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing and keeping an eye on what the marketplace is doing. That’s the importance of attending regional and national conferences to know what’s trending in your industry. Local and regional economic development seminars and presentations are also great ways to learn about what’s happening in your market. Spend more time on these things rather than knowing exactly what all your competitors are doing.
Focus on the efforts that will drive results and profit to your business. Learn about what your clients really want and how your employees are delivering the service. Build those existing relationships and make them stronger. Invest in learning more about your client’s business and what trends are in their industry. Research is important, but spend the appropriate amount of time on clients vs. competitors.
And then there are cases where your competitors could even become your partners. On a large county arena, for example, no architecture firm in the city could design the structure solely by itself. With collaboration and the drive to keep the work local, three local architecture firms partnered together to complete this project. It’s pretty amazing not only that this happened, but also that the project turned out really well. The team had an office just for this arena project, so no other work was discussed in this office. After the project was completed, two of the three architecture firms ended up merging their practices. Now they have additional resources and are the largest architecture firm in the city. They can handle bigger projects than they could have as individual firms.
Knowing who your competitors are and which ones are more similar to your firm is helpful in this scenario. Keep in mind this wouldn’t be successful with all firms. The company culture and process of work must be in alignment, so there isn’t a huge learning curve for each team.
On the construction side, there are many cases where a local contractor can’t handle a large project, so they will joint-venture with a large contractor or construction manager. These can also be very successful projects (again, as long as culture and process align). If you are a larger designer/contractor, then finding smaller local designer/contractors in geographic areas where you want to do work may warrant a profitable partnership. The same goes if you are a smaller designer/contractor and want to chase larger projects. Joint ventures and partnerships can be very successful when expectations, goals, and culture align.
Competition is healthy. It helps drive the industry forward with technology and innovations. It pushes each of us to challenge our firms and our teams on what we are doing for our clients. Competition isn’t a bad thing — it helps keep the economy going!
Don’t focus a large amount of time on your competition, but do stay aware of what projects and clients they are working for and targeting. Again, focus your energy on serving your own clients, prospects, and employees. You will reap many more benefits by shifting your focus to the people who support your vision and your firm.