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Are Your Standards High Enough to Land New Work?

Some teams just seem to have it. 

"It" isn't something we can always put our finger on, or even describe. But it's true about the teams we want to work with, and we hope is true about our own teams.

It can take so many different forms: great culture, great results, great legacy, great product.

Patrick Lencioni talks about humble, hungry, and smart as crucial attributes of the best teammates, and trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results as attributes of healthy teams.

But there's another side to this too, one that focuses on how some industries function — more specifically, the quality of the work product being put out. 

Team health and culture play a major role, but I want to explore themes like quality and work standards.

How can you land work without doing great work?

I've noticed four primary ways that engineering services vendors in the telecom/utility space land work:

(1) Business development
(2) RFP/bid process
(3) Referral
(4) Long-standing vendor relationship

Unfortunately, you don't have to do good work to get work. I've actually listed them in order from "most likely to let crappy work slip through" to "least likely to let crappy work slip through."

Business development
is often about marketing and sales. It usually tries to tell a good story and make a big promise.

When the story is true and you have a team that over-delivers on any promise you make, business development can be a beautiful thing.

are a fantastic way to collect apples-to-apples proposals from a variety of firms in a way that's easy for a sourcing specialist to compare side-by-side. I believe some stinkers still find their way through because:

- "race to the bottom" bidding is still prevalent

- the RFPs sometimes give too much credit to the bidder— they lead the witness instead of forcing a team to demonstrate expertise in the scope of work

- you can promise whatever you want on a proposal

are hard to go wrong with. Still, sometimes the referring party owes the referral team a favor or there's favoritism involved. In general, referrals are given with reservation because the referring company ties their name and reputation to what happens next.

Ongoing Relationships
are really hard to fake. It takes years to build trust with a partner or utility as a vendor. In all likelihood, you've had to overcome bad projects and bad projections. You've navigated through mistakes and misunderstandings in the process. You can't fake your way through all that.

Individuals vs Teams

I've followed some of my favorite people as their careers have taken them to different companies across the country in our industry. In some situations, they thrive. In others, a clock counts down to when they'll get fed up with a difficult situation and leave for another opportunity.

There's any number of reasons for this, but I think it comes down to one of two explanations: 

(1) the company and the individual have different values
(2) the company and the individual have different standards of excellence

I think companies can produce crappy work even when they have fantastic engineers and designers on staff. 

I think this happens frequently. 

But I think the opposite is very, very rare.

What do we do with this, if true?

Here's my new thesis: teams should take their hiring, onboarding, and training very seriously. The best teams find ways to win even when they don't have the best staff. They find ways to make their staff the best. 

A corollary would be that teams should invest in their work standards and be willing to squash issues as (or before) they arise. Getting ahead of mistakes and protecting the work product feels like a defensive maneuver, but it strengthens your best offensive business development tool—your reputation.

Thanks for reading! We'd love to know how your team maintains excellent work standards in an industry where others are cutting corners and racing to the bottom. We see you finding ways to get great engineering and design out the door, even when your clients need everything "yesterday." 
Comment below or give us a shout at!
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