“You need a different answer”
Consultant: “Why would a customer want to work with you over your competitor?”
Me: “Because we have the best people.”
Consultant: “You can’t say it’s your people.”
Me: “Why not? It’s true. I really believe that.”
Consultant: “Even if it is true, each of your competitors says the exact same thing and they all believe it too. Look, customers hear that from everyone – ‘We have the best people…we have the best culture…etc., etc.’ You need to set yourself apart and to do that you can’t say it’s your people. You need a different answer.”
Me: “OK, I can see that. We always tell customers we have the best people, but I hear virtually every other company in every industry say the same thing. So I’m going to need to give this some thought and get back to you.”
This was the start of a real conversation and really got me thinking about our value proposition to customers. These days, we need to tell a compelling story about ourselves not only to prospective customers but also to potential employees. The war for talent is as important as ever and when someone asks why he or she should work for us, we need to present our case well.
So, before giving my new answer, I should explain that we absolutely have the best people in the business. There is a reason we are able to do the most complicated projects in states all across the country with a low EMR and do it profitably. It really is because we have the best people.
But, there is another reason we are successful and it makes a compelling case about why we should be hired: We outspend the competition on technology. The use of the best technology is so ingrained in our company that we take it for granted at this point.
Let’s look at exactly how we outspend our competitors on technology: We have 5 full-time network IT employees, we have a full-time accounting technology manager and a full-time production technology manager. We have a heavy equipment fleet with the best technology that sends productivity data to an internal centralized database. We have hundreds of pieces of equipment including spares in case we have a problem with the original. We just built a new data center to house all of our servers and IT infrastructure. The new building includes 20 Virtual Design and Construction workstations and room to expend to 30. The new building also includes a Building Information Modeling room with the best Audio Visual technology. We run the latest VDC software. We own the best surveying and robotic layout equipment. We experiment with the cutting edge technology including Augmented and Virtual Reality just to see if one day it will make our work easier. We send staff to ConExpo, Autodesk University, MCAA’s Technology offerings, and many other seminars to stay current on the latest trends. Most of our foremen have ipads and laptops in the field. We monitor dozens of facilities with our building controls technicians, who are some of the smartest people I know…oh wait, I’m not supposed to talk about our people. Many of our foremen can navigate a BIM model better than other companies’ VDC staff. We operate a materials lab and perform all of our materials quality control in-house instead of outsourcing it as many companies do. We use a productivity tracking application built specifically for pipe fabrication shops. We run a sheet metal fabrication operation with brand new equipment, all fully automated and using the best technology available. We write service tickets on-the-spot in the field on an ipad. We have multiple full-time tool managers plus a full-time tool mechanic. Our largest project is paper-less and uses computer monitors for viewing all plans and specifications instead of paper copies.
As far as our competitors, those that understand technology I think are largely using it as a marketing strategy. We probably need to learn something from that and start publicizing our use of high tech tools.
The bottom line is that using the best technology is the way we do business. That’s the thing about consultants – they get you to look differently at how you do work. We may not realize it, but our use of technology is a very compelling offering and a great story to tell.
by: Brian Helm