Engineering success Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008

Mansoor Ahsan takes pride in the fact that he’ll do anything to get the job done — even if it’s grunt work.

“The key is passion, and the passion is in the grunt work,” he says.

This CEO of Bridgefarmer & Associates Inc. says that taking pride in doing grunt work sets an example for his 50 employees that they should do whatever is necessary to get the job done, even if they feel it’s beneath them. It also shows clients that he’s fully committed to meeting their needs.

The example he sets is one way he builds both relationships and his civil engineering firm, which grew 33 percent in two years to reach 2007 revenue of $13.6 million.

Smart Business spoke with Ahsan about how to build customer relationships as if you’re hunting prey.

Q. How do you build client relationships?

Knowing the client, knowing the needs of the project and knowing what clients are looking for and why. That’s what starts the engine. Then everything comes once you have a client.

Providing solutions helps the relationship, and not selling what you want to sell but actually giving them the service that they are looking for.

Study the job. If I can take a metaphor, it’s you hunt the job, then you fix the job — you hunt the prey, then you skin it and you eat it. Go and study the job, and you win the job from your competition, and when you’re doing the job, you do an excellent job, where the client feels like you were worth every penny. Intense studying of the job will always be rewarding, whether it’s on that very project or the next project, but you will be remembered.

That’s where the relationship starts. That’s what any business counts on — relationships with clients and relationships with your employees and relationships with your peers and your colleague firms.

Q. How do you build employee relationships?

Cater to people’s needs. [For] people you want to retain, you want to make sure that whatever their issues are, you address them. If it’s just money, nobody makes enough money, and we understand that, but there are a lot of other things that go with it.

I’m a firm believer that when people change companies, they don’t really change companies, they just change managers. Company A is no different than Company B. If they had one set of issues at one company, they’ll have another set of issues at another company. If you understand that psyche, you can address those issues.

We don’t have a one-shoe-fits-all model. Address it on an individual basis. For instance, people can be paid overtime, or they can take time off. If there is a married woman who wants to spend time with her kids, she may prefer to take time off and go spend time with her kids.

Whereas, if there is a young guy, but he needs more money, he may be paid time-and-a-half on his overtime, so addressing the needs of the employees helps develop that relationship.

Q. How do you help employees build better relationships with clients and peers?

If someone wants to pass their initial exams, then we promote them to a project-engineer level, where they can see various disciplines of the project, how they’re put together and how well things are coming together.

From that point on, they move to the next phase, where they’re supervising other people, and that is the opportunity that they can develop relationships with their peers and their clients.

They would be given that next opportunity when the client starts to ask for them, and they want to be in the leadership role. When a client calls me and says, ‘I want to have Person X on this project,’ that tells me that Person X has reached the next level, and that’s the time when that person automatically is grown to that next level. If a client starts to ask for that person, that is a good clue-in that client maintenance is being taken care of by this individual, and this person is ready to be a project manager and be in that role.

That is the highest level he can get because, technically and financially, that individual is responsible for a project delivery system.

Q. How does promoting people from within help both clients and employees?

It sets a good example, and it gives a good insight to the staff that there is an opportunity within the company to grow, and it also helps the organization that it’s a home-grown person. They understand all the quirks.

Clients like that if somebody is promoted from inside because then it’s not a sales job. The thing that matters to us and has worked for us is we don’t do a quick sales job. A sale to us is when a client hires us because we found a solution to a problem for them.

HOW TO REACH: Bridgefarmer & Associates Inc., (972) 231-8800 or www.bridgefarmer.com