Building Upon Existing Relationships

A few days ago, I headed out of my office for a 1:00 pm meeting, phone and proposal ideas in hand. That part of my day is pretty routine, but what made it more interesting was that the appointment was with a client who we began working with 15 years ago when they became one of our first significant Manhattan clients. We stayed in touch and assisted them with small requests on a continual basis and, now that they are ready to take on another large office space, guess who got the call to work directly with them on the site selection process? It was as if we never left the picture.

Now, no success story is complete without a bit of counterbalance. As anyone in the commercial real estate business knows, even with diligent follow-through and deeply cultivated relationships, winning repeat business is never a given. That same week that we met with the client above, we also responded to an RFP for a project we originally designed 10 years ago. Though the relationship is quite strong, and over the years the client has invited us back to let others companies tour their space, they opted to put the request out to multiple architectural firms. We put the bid together confidently, with an understanding that if we wanted this one, we’d have to re-compete for it.

And then there are the worst case scenarios. A deal is ready to be done, a client is about to relocate or expand and you’re not considered at all. It could be internal politics, new players or a geographical change — perhaps they are relocating out of state and want to work with a local firm instead — but the end result is the same: they decide to work with another firm.

Whichever way the selection process goes, it’s nothing one should take personally. After all, over a 10-year period, it is likely that they’ll be some changes in the landscape. Perhaps there are new facility directors or a new brokerage relationship was formed — it happens; that’s reality. With so many factors at play, in spite of a best efforts to maintain contact, things are not always under our control. Should we all just throw up our hands, say “It is what it is” and let the chips fall where they may?

That’s something I’ll never resort to. It’s much more efficient to build upon existing relationships than to start from scratch. I also believe that in order to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to remain hungry, doing the right thing even if no one is watching and even if the next project gets handed to someone new. If so, I encourage you to wish them the best and continue to stay in touch and be a resource to that client (or former client). You never know what will happen in 10 — or 15 — years from now.
Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 1,500 projects.

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