Internal business development can be just as vital as external
March 29, 2022
8 min read
Founder at Buildr
General contractors working to build their business often put a lot of time into streamlining the process of fostering relationships. That's a good thing. It can be challenging to create a strong reputation, from new prospective clients all the way to employees, if you're not actively working on the act of relationship-building. It's easy enough to get caught up in the business' day-to-day operations or the seemingly endless process of having to bring in new employees and clients. Yet, putting the time in now to build a strong reputation internally helps you build the type of workplace that'll last a generation.
The gym is a common analogy for these sorts of points. Much like building a strong work environment that everyone buys into—gaining an incredible physique takes plenty of time and effort. Having a once-per-quarter examination into "how does it feel to work here?" is akin to going to the gym once every 3 months and expecting to see results.
An internal goal at many companies, but especially general contractors, is to work toward building a well-perceived business culture. That is, a culture that defines a set of decided-upon goals and expectations while also promotes an environment where other people enthusiastically wish to adhere to those goals and expectations, aside from showing up to do their job everyday. Would-be applicants today know to dissect potential job prospects' cultures with a fine-toothed comb. Don't you do the same?
You want to make sure that your veteran employees are always respecting the culture, setting an example to the less senior. You also want to ensure it’s prominent enough that would-be employees learn about your company and culture and desire to be a part of it. There has never been more people changing jobs, so it'll happen sooner than later that you're being evaluated. Further down the line, you want prospective clients to learn about and easily perceive your culture and make the decision to want to work with you in part because they buy into that idealistic picture as well.
That all sounds fine and dandy, but how do you write a dream while simultaneously executing on it? The best way to do so is to have an unceasing dedication to internal business development. This isn’t something that you’re doing just to draw in new clients or maintain the existing clients you are already working with on a consistent basis.
Rather, it's important to define your business's culture, put in place strategies for communicating it to your employees, and then continue to work to maintain your business perception internally. It's critical that every person who plays a leadership role (and often others within the company) understand and be willing to maintain your brand. And job promotions are granted to those that most genuinely and enthusiastically maintain your brand.
Here's a worthwhile exercise to get a temperature reading of your company culture: check what employees say about your company, since transparency about what makes people happy at their place of employment has never been higher. If you don't have enough reviews, check out your larger competitors. Do people talk about their positions there like they do at yours? What steps can be taken to make it so that they do?
To ensure employees and leadership within your organization maintain your brand, set some clear culture tenets and company goals. The following are some things to consider along this path.
As a senior member on the business development side, it may sound obvious, but other employees at a GC may not always have the same professionalism or focus on the upward-and-onward mission that you do. Advocate for some standards about how to behave at work. Consider things such as:
How to communicate effectively when there’s a problem, being sure not to aggravate but to mitigate and how to talk to people without insulting or hurting them, especially in a world of nuance where many different perspectives can deliver alternative means that find identical success,
Communication between different levels of position, ie., how subordinates interact with their superiors and how humanity and empathy are apparent at every rung,
The importance and value of respecting other workers by showing up on time, completing assigned tasks, and anticipating issues so getting ahead of them,
Maintaining a clean, work-friendly environment where everyone feels welcomed and supported if they need it,
Creating a space for communication of problems, especially when there’s a need to learn and grow through complications, problems, and other challenges.
Take a look at what happens now in your office. The first step in creating a space where people want to work is to self-evaluate where you're at now. What steps can be taken to improve those behaviors to ensure they properly represent the company culture you're striving to achieve?
Photo booths. Buffet-style platters. Car washes. Bring your kid to work day. Leprechaun hats somehow relating to a saint. We've all participated in the work event where everyone's interacting and doing stuff besides... working. Wild stuff.
Socializing and building team rapport at company events is exactly what these types of outings are for, but when there's alcohol involved, people don't always say the right things or make the right decisions. Employees becoming intoxicated to the point of a mistake could potentially harm your business' reputation. It's important to impress upon your teams that even though you're off the clock, it's important to adhere to a stable work environment. It's not working, but it also is.
You may want to limit how much alcohol is present or, if you really want to get granular, set drink limits. You always need to ensure people have a safe ride home, too, whether that be providing Uber vouchers or assigning hired transportation. If alcohol is going to be too much of a concern for other employees, it might be worth skipping it altogether.
At the core of company events, is rapport. People will put up with just about any job as long as they like the space they're in and who they're working with. Go out of your way to make people feel at ease, both at company events and in general.
Without a doubt, it's critical that employees and leadership present a respectful, positive appearance to prospective clients. That may require some definition – how should clients be treated? What type of language is inappropriate?
It’s often important to make it clear that saying anything negative about the company (obviously) isn’t allowed, but the same applies to talking about other clients or projects. Even limiting judgment toward competitors is important, especially when job-hopping is so rampant in 2022. Staying reserved and cordial at all times is a smart decision. It’s also important to provide honest, factual information and stand behind those words forever. Maintaining that mirror of actions and words is easier said than done, but it's important to maintaining high standards of a great company culture.
Learning how to use social media in a positive way isn’t always easy. Yet, it's especially important for leaders to be respectful of all people when using social media because it can directly impact the business.
From Walden University: "Behave in a respectful manner in all of your social media encounters, just like you have done conversing with others in your online degree program. Keep your posts, comments, and other interactions focused on productive conversations about your industry. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a personality or that you can’t disagree with someone. In fact, you want to show your personal side and well-reasoned ideas, because that helps make you more interesting and memorable. Just remember: You’re doing this for your career. Treat others as you would at your office or at a conference, and you’ll put yourself in a great position to benefit professionally from social media."
You may want to ensure that no pictures of the company logo, projects, or other employees are used on private social media accounts without permission. Also, talk to your employees about how their behavior online impacts their job. No need to be especially stringent or slap-on-the-wrist-y, but it's worth impressing upon people that everything one posts on social media indirectly speaks toward the company the person works for.
Each of these areas needs careful consideration; a check-in and refining period. How can you build your business outward if you don’t initially curate a positive reputation internally?
Seriously, you should sign up to be a construction insider. Everyone will be so jealous of you.