Margaret Felts to Present at 2016 ASHRAE Annual Conference

Direct of Client Services and Marketing, Margaret Felts, CPSM, will be presenting at the 2016 ASHRAE Annual Conference, to be held June 25 through June 29 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her presentation, “Business Development: the Red-Headed Stepchild of Successful Engineering Business Practices,” discusses the dichotomy between the technical methodology of engineering as a practice and the relationship-based nature of engineering as a business, and explores how a custom, in-house business development training program is the key to developing the crucial skills necessary to sustain an engineering firm.

Read the presentation abstract:

Business Development: the Red-Headed Stepchild of Successful Engineering Business Practices

Engineering, as a practice, is based on developing and applying tangible solutions to practical problems through a creative but calculated process. Engineering education at the university level is focused on difficult mathematical equation solving and test-score-based performance metrics. Professional certifications, field experience, and continuing education opportunities further promote technical competence and understanding of systems, equipment, codes, and standards. While these forms of education and professional development can be in-depth, demanding, and celebrate technical excellence, they overlook a crucial facet of the industry: engineering is a relationship-based business.

Strong and diverse relationships with a spectrum of project partners, clients, and owners are the backbone of an engineering firm’s health and growth. The ability to develop, nurture, and maintain relationships relies on an ability to relate to other people and participate in the fluid process of Business Development. This is a vital component of a successful career in the engineering industry, but developing this skillset is often forgotten or glossed over.

Engineers can learn and hone business development skills through outside training sessions and conferences, though concepts learned in the contrived setting of didactic presentation and roleplay can be difficult to adopt “in the wild.” Mentorship from seasoned and successful leaders is an ideal option, but this assumes a firm has such current leaders, and that they have the time and teaching skills to take the next generation of leaders under their wing. An innovative and remarkably effective option is to develop a custom business development training program, tailored to the firm’s values and strategic visions, and delivered by a dedicated BD leader who thoroughly understands these values and visions. In this “learning by doing” environment, engineers are given the authority and confidence to go out and practice their new skills, knowing that they are contributing to the firm’s business development plan.

This paper will present the perspectives of a Business Development Director who developed and is successfully implementing an 18-month, in-house BD training program at her firm, and a next-generation engineering leader who is further refining his business development skills by participating in the program and mentoring other engineers beginning to build up their skills.

About the 2016 ASHRAE Annual Conference

The ASHRAE Conference includes technical sessions for industry professionals to learn about new technologies and practices. “The technical sessions offer an excellent opportunity to learn the results of cutting edge research and the latest standards that affect the built environment,” Thomas Kuehn, Conference Program chair, said.  “Topics include nearly every technology used in HVAC&R including alternative refrigerants, fire and smoke control, smart control systems and sources and efficient utilization of renewable energy. In addition, learn the personal and business skills necessary to become and remain a leader in our industry.”

The conference includes seven distinct presentation tracks:

  • Advances in Refrigeration Systems and Alternative Refrigerants
  • Fundamentals and Applications
  • HVAC Systems and Equipment
  • Smart Building Systems/Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics
  • Indoor Environment: Health, Comfort, Productivity
  • Professional Skills Beyond Engineering
  • Renewable Energy Systems and Net Zero Buildings

Margaret’s presentation is included in the Professional Skills Beyond Engineering track.

Learn more about the ASHRAE conference here.

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  • […] Conference, held June 25 through June 29 in St. Louis, Missouri. My presentation was titled, “Business Development: the Red-Headed Stepchild of Successful Engineering Business Practices.” The premise of the talk was about how business development, communication skills, and […]

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