Kirk Harman Offers Six Tips for Better Business Development at SMPS Northeast Regional Conference

Last month, members of The Harman Group traveled to Saratoga Springs, New York for the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Northeast Regional Conference. Appropriately called, “Rejuvenate Uber 2017,” the conference focused on ways to rejuvenate one’s career and passion for marketing services. This year’s conference included two keynote speakers and five education sessions, where attendees learned about cutting-edge data, best practices, current benchmarks, and innovative marketing and business ideas.

Prior to the conference, The Harman Group’s Co-Founder, President and Managing Principal, Kirk Harman wrote a guest blog for the SMPS website titled, “Six tips for Better Business Development at A/E/C Firms.” Check out his blog post below.

Six Tips for Better Business Development at A/E/C Firms

Business development should be something that every firm leader engages with on a daily basis. Whether through collaborating on strategic marketing plans to implementing standard operating procedures, performing and enhancing marketing tactics are essential to successful business development.

Most people don’t associate architects and structural engineers with strong business development. However, by engaging team members in each step of the marketing and client success process, you can create a culture of effective business development across the organization. To be successful, firm leadership must foster a “seller/doer” mindset, where every employee has the tools and the training to feel empowered to represent the organization.

With over 40 years of experience in structural engineering, including 33 years as President and Managing Principal of The Harman Group, I’ve seen firsthand the importance these skills have in not only creating successful relationships, but also enabling better project experiences.

Here are six tips for enhancing business development practices within your firm:

1. Be an integral part of the marketing research and planning process:

Understanding current trends through market evaluation and forecasting is key for successful business development. At The Harman Group, I spearhead the research and implementation of marketing and business development plans each year, including strategic planning, goal and budget setting. Then we revise on an as-needed basis. To ensure the plans remain on track and that goals are being met, our team meets regularly to ensure we are meeting benchmarks and objectives.

2. Dedicate time for business development:

Senior leadership should treat business development activities as a “client” and set aside allotted time for it. I spend more than one third of my time committed to strategic business development activities. I attend nearly all prospective client meetings and presentations, no matter the scope, which helps me identify and pre-qualify prospective clients and projects while building robust relationships along the way. I also make sure to follow up via phone or in person meetings to ensure client satisfaction.

3. Get involved in the proposal writing process:

Over the years, I’ve written my fair share of proposals; everything from Go/No-Go decisions to detailed proposal writing and close-outs. Being involved in this process has allowed me to refine my business development skills while passing along my knowledge and experience to others on our team.

4. Be Visible:

I regularly attend and network at industry events individually or with marketers, business developers and seller/doers from our firm. Getting involved in relevant organizations is one of the easiest ways to start refining your business development skills, especially early on in your career. In addition to meeting stakeholders and staying up to date on industry trends, there are always opportunities for speaking and moderating at conferences to expand our clients’ and potential team members’ awareness of our knowledge and expertise.

5. Have a robust management system :

To assist with process, The Harman Group implemented a firmwide CRM platform and system for centralizing and tracking the business development pipeline, client relations, and proposal efforts. This provides the entire team with one of the most essential tools needed to succeed in marketing and new business. I also take action at a higher strategic level by implementing a business development “cookbook” which includes a capture plan for all staff to be responsible for seller/doer business development. This streamlines the system and makes it easy for people at all levels to understand the process.

It’s also important to keep an open mind; as technology advances it’s essential to be on the lookout for other timesaving organizational tools which can enhance efforts.

6. Be a Mentor:

Mentorship is essential for continuing the business development process. Whether this is within your own firm or an organization you belong to, providing insight to younger members of the A/E/C community can empower them to become seller/doers. Plus, you can learn a thing or two from them!

Learn more about the SMPS NERC conference by visiting