Both inside the industry and externally, there is an almost urgent message heralding the massive disruption already taking place in the world of design and construction.

The latest entrant in the race to proclaim the end of the construction industry as we know it is none other than McKinsey & Company. Historically a management consulting firm that uses both qualitative and quantitative methods for evaluating business performance, the firm has numerous clients in both the public and private sector after more than 90 years of existence. (more…)

Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Having been involved in evaluating quality at more than 10,000 building units over the past two decades, the definition of the word quality is something I’ve spent many, many hours contemplating.

When it comes to quality in the marketing world, and particularly in writing about marketing, Seth Godin is unparalleled. His books have arguably influenced as many professional marketers as the legendary David Ogilvy — the inspiration for Don Draper’s character in Mad Men.

So it should be no surprise that when Godin’s post about Quality came across my feed reader this morning, I couldn’t click fast enough. He opens with the following:

There are at least three ways we use the word ‘quality’ at work:

Quality as defined by Deming and Crosby: Meeting spec.

This first application of the word quality is the one most relevant to the built environment. Did the completed work meet the requirements and specifications established by law, code, industry standard of care, or contractual agreement?

Another interpretation of quality:

Quality as defined by Ralph Lauren or Tiffany: The quality of deluxeness.

Yet another interpretation:

And finally, there’s the quality of right effort, of “I did my best,” of the sweat and vulnerability that happens when a human has given it her all.

In the end, Godin reaches the same conclusion that myself and others have come to when contemplating the meaning of quality: Before you can evaluate quality, you have to first define the applicable criteria for quality.

In other words, what does “done” look like? How do we know if we did it right? Or as Godin says, “what sort of quality are we seeking here?”

Earlier this week, I shared an article that touted all the amazing benefits to be gained from prefabricating some assemblies offsite. So how long will it be before the entire construction industry shifts to a paradigm in which building consists primarily of assembling prefabricated components?

FMI, a management consulting firm that specializes in nonresidential construction, recently conducted a survey of 200 firms on their knowledge, use and strategy for implementing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and prefabrication. ENR’s Jim Parsons shares some insight from one of the study’s authors:

Right now, it is hardly surprising that contractors’ opinions and results are mixed, Hoover says. “We’re in a messy transition of baby boomers who want to hold on to old ways and new people coming in,” she says. “The better companies are luring younger workers who can deal with technology and understand change, and they’re the ones who will make prefabrication happen.”

Indeed, Hoover says prefabrication’s growth in construction may well be inevitable as its advantages continue to overshadow current work practices. “If you’re not willing to do things that will reduce schedule by 50%, reduce risk and improve safety, you’ll be out of it,” she adds.

Ultimately, what may attract more GCs and specialty contractors to understanding, adopting and improving their prefab mind-set is the same trend that affects other aspects of the industry—labor.

In other words, the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality is still a major driver of key construction strategic decisions.

Consulting is, in my opinion, one of the most noble professions that exists. Sadly, too many freelancers, subcontractors and outsourced laborers have diluted the meaning of the word “consultant.” For the purposes of this article, let’s agree that the true definition of a consultant is a professional who leverages many years of experience, knowledge, and training, often applying their own unique intellectual property, in order to improve their client’s outcome in a given situation.

So without clients, a consultant is actually just a pundit.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to being successful as a consultant, therefore, is attracting clients and winning assignments.

Merilee Kern, writing for the Innovation Enterprise Strategy blog, observed the following:

But, even in a trade that’s rife with profit potential, actually earning that pot of gold can be extraordinarily difficult given there are two-plus million consultants, coaches, trainers, and similar professionals all fighting to find clients, win projects and make a living. Roughly half of these consultants are solo practitioners or in boutique firms—and the sad reality is most boutique consulting firms are perpetually six months away from bankruptcy. Their ‘new business procurement’ engine sputters along resulting in a persistent struggle to grow larger, while solo consultants capture average annual revenue under $70,000 (compared to $250,000 per consultant across the entire industry). To explore this disconnect, I connected with David A. Fields, author of ‘The Executive’s Guide to Consultants,’ and the soon-to-be-released follow-up title, ‘ The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients .’ Himself a multi-million-dollar-earning independent consultant, this ‘expert’s expert’ has some sage advice on how people can realize success in the consulting trade—a profession, he concedes, that can be ‘as problematic as it is profitable.’ Since Fields has coached hundreds of successful consultants and other independent practitioners around the world on how to ‘make it rain,’ I asked him the obvious question: ‘Why do so many struggle in this field?’ Quite unequivocally, he asserted that too many consultants—the majority, in fact—are completely missing the mark with respect to their baseline approach and overarching mindset. To help give independent consultants a clearer path to that coveted yet elusive goal of financial freedom through what ‘could’ be a lifestyle-friendly career, here are six of Fields’ pragmatic, eye-opening tips:

  1. Think Right-Side Up
  2. Maximize Impact
  3. Build Visibility
  4. Connect, Connect, Connect
  5. Become the Obvious Choice
  6. Propose, Negotiate & Close

Make sure to read the full article for detailed explanations of Fields’ tips for closing more business as a consultant.

Whether you are in a formal marketing role, or if you are a consultant or small business owner, the only way to continue to connect with clients/prospects is to make sure that your marketing outreach is as effective as it can be. Since marketing best practices are constantly shifting, that means that we as professionals must continue to invest in learning from the successes and failures of other marketers.

Josh Steimle, CEO of marketing agency MWI, and author of a book called Chief Marketing Officers at Work, has published a list of 10 books he recommends reading in 2017 to improve your marketing game. Here is the list:

  1. “They Ask You Answer” by Marcus Sheridan
  2. “Non-Obvious 2017” by Rohit Bhargava
  3. “SEO for Growth” by John Jantsch and Phil Singleton
  4. “Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer
  5. “Pre-Suasion” by Robert Cialdini Ph.D.
  6. “Get Scrappy” by Nick Westergaard
  7. “What Customers Crave” by Nicholas Webb
  8. “Invisible Influence” by Jonah Berger
  9. “Hacking Marketing” by Scott Brinker
  10. “Digital Sense” by Travis Wright and Chris Snook

Check out Josh’s post at Mashable for descriptions of each book, and why it is relevant to your ongoing professional development.

There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.

In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants. (more…)