Director of business development with RLG Consulting Engineers (Dallas, TX), a firm that specializes in civil, structural, survey, and forensic engineering.
Pender has more than 16 years of business development experience. As director of business development with RLG, she works closely with her clients and uses her leadership skills to mature and develop strong client and consultant relationships.
“People do business with people they know, like, and trust,” Pender says. “If something is missing from that equation, they will do work with someone else. We earn this trust by taking the time to get to know our clients and doing great work. Getting to know our clients as people, not just discussing projects, is a step toward building trust.”
A conversation with Andrea Pender.
The Zweig Letter: How are you engaging your staff in business development?
Andrea Pender: We have been doing small group business development meetings once a month. I have put together curriculum and we discuss those items at each meeting. It’s a great place to bounce ideas off of one another and see what’s working. I normally end the meeting with a challenge of some sort as well. It is really nice to see the engineers try new things – and that’s contagious for the group.
TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be?
AP: I lead by example. I have amazing co-workers who were hired because they’re great at what they do. I work hard to prepare my engineers for all of their business development interactions. I share with them what has been working, what isn’t working, and make suggestions on things they can try. We are in this together.
TZL: How do you encourage personal branding?
AP: Personal branding is very important. This seems to be a new phrase in our industry, but I want to capitalize on it as much as we can. Who are we? What do we like to do? Can we be known and remembered for those things? There are the typical business development activities that people do (happy hour, lunch, coffee), but why does it need to stop at that? My personal brand includes a health and wellness lifestyle and many of our clients know and appreciate this! I’ve had several clients reach out to ask for a healthy lunch spot, a green juice instead of a coffee, and even walking meetings. They know they can count on me for something fun and different. I encourage my engineers to truly get to know one another – not just talking about work projects. We all have hobbies and interests that others might have as well. We may have some of the same hobbies as our clients and this leads to the potential of a friendship – not just a working relationship.
TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients?
AP: This is huge – especially with business development. I say this on a daily basis, if not more, and have drilled it in at RLG: People do business with people they know, like, and trust. If something is missing from that equation, they will do work with someone else. We earn this trust by taking the time to get to know our clients and doing great work. Getting to know our clients as people, not just discussing projects, is a step toward building trust.
TZL: How is your office cross selling services?
AP: Many times when an office offers multiple services, the employee focuses on their specialty. We have been building the relationships internally across the office to help one another remember to offer the other services. This also comes out at our weekly meeting discussing projects – if there is a new project on the list many times someone in the meeting will say, “Hey, do they need civil, structural, or survey?” That is an easy reminder and another business development touchpoint to remind our clients we offer multiple service lines.
TZL: How have you encouraged your staff to participate in business development activities?
AP: I always say you need to set people up for success. You can’t just hope they know what to do. Train them, teach them, give them some skills to keep in their back pocket. Once they have a toolkit for success, they have to experiment to see what works (and what doesn’t work) for them. I do a lot of activities with them at first and then when they are comfortable they can start doing these things by themselves. I might take an engineer to several lunch meetings and then when I see they are comfortable I will encourage them to do a lunch meeting without me. I have shown them that business development is enjoyable and they can do it too!
TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap?
AP: This is a great question. My husband is actually in the industry as well. He is the Gulf States president for Adolfson & Peterson Construction. We are able to work together with client introductions, talk about upcoming events, who to get to know, and more. We actually even present together on business development. Several years ago we put a presentation together, for AIA continuing education credit, and have been presenting quite often to architects and sub-contractors. It is a great way to work together, get to know more people in the industry, and share our business development experience with others.
We have learned to keep a work-life balance though. This is extremely important to keep us performing optimally at work. There is a time for work and a time for play, and that needs to be clearly defined.
TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility?
AP: My number one job responsibility is to make the RLG name familiar to everyone in our industry.
TZL: What challenges are you facing?
AP: The biggest challenge I face as a coach to the engineers is time – business development activities can be time consuming! There are always project deadlines and that is a priority, but we need to stay in front of our clients all the time – even when we are busy. I have been showing them how to spend a few minutes on LinkedIn, how to quickly send a handwritten note, and other business development techniques that can be added in to their daily work schedule and not take up too much time.
TZL: Where is RLG going as a company in regard to business development?
AP: I think we really are growing with business development. The engineers are much more comfortable with offering to have lunch with their clients. This is an opportunity to get to know their clients more on a personal level. Business development is the backbone of building business, even if we don’t realize we are doing it. Every email that is sent, every phone call that is made, every job site that is visited is business development. We are taking it a step further by building a more personal relationship with our clients.