Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

There Ought To Be a Law

Bobby Darnell CMC Inc.For this week’s Guest Post Friday, Construction Law Musings welcomes Bobby Darnell (@cmcinc on Twitter). Bobby is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at

Have you ever been a witness to a similar situation from the ‘tired cliché department’?

“Look how gaudy that person’s outfit is…there ought to be a law!”

“Wow, it is hot today…there ought to be a law!”

“There is nothing more obnoxious that a (fill in blank with your least favorite team) fan…there ought to be a law!”

I am compelled to begin this guest posting by saying how much I truly value Chris Hill’s blog and how flattered I am to be able to share a few musings of my own with his readers.

First off, I am not an attorney but, in a nutshell, someone who has been in the construction industry from a sales, marketing and business development perspective my entire career. While I am not an attorney, I am one of those guys who friends and family members often say, “You should have been a lawyer.” This comes from my passion for debate, or at least that is what I tell myself.

Ever since taking my first elective philosophy course, I continue to be a student and enjoy formulating arguments, making presentations and trying to get the ‘jury’ to give me the desired verdict…a sale. I love sales; marketing, business development and seeing companies grow.

Throughout my career, I have found, general speaking, that the A/E/C industry is quite artisan by nature, at least from the hundreds of companies we have worked with. What I mean by that is, for the most part, our experience is that architects and engineers love to design; contractors love to build; subcontractors love to install…that however does not necessary equate to a love for the business side of running a business, especially sales and marketing.

In short, I have yet to meet an architect, engineer, contractor or subcontractor who started their own business because they wanted to be in sales.

Today, you will be my jury as I make my case for the need for any business in the A/E/C marketplace to take some time to take a pause from working in the business and spend some time working on the business.

I could present as evidence many tired but true pearls of wisdom such as:

However, I will offer what I believe to be a more substantive example:

In a typical million dollar commercial building, the owner will put together a unique, one-time, joint venture involving several hundred companies.

These companies will work from a set of plans and specifications to create a desire result. The data contained in these documents will indicate how the steel should be erected, how the cement should be poured, the pathway of the electrical wires, the distance of the foundation from the legal property line all the way down to the direction of the air flow through the diffuser…and more.

Not only is the completion of the building a one-time joint venture but the creation of the construction documents are as well as architects work with consulting engineers, building product manufacturers, zoning and code officials and more. All in all, a lot of companies not only come together to create a plan, they also come together to execute the plan.

Ergo, I cannot think of an industry that better exemplifies the use of plans and planning than entities in the A/E/C marketplace. Likewise, I cannot think of an industry that struggles more with internal planning, especially when it comes to building new business than entities in the A/E/C marketplace.

Example: I once was called upon by an architectural firm that needed some help with their sales, marketing and business development. In reviewing where they were and what their ‘points of pain’ were, part of my recommendation was they needed to create a solid marketing plan. The president of the company did fully understand that idea and asked, “Why do I need to have a marketing plan?” I then asked him why do general contractors and the subcontractors need a set of construction documents.

He thought for a second, reached across the table and signed my contract.

Now, what does all this have to do with ‘there ought to be a law?’ For an industry so focused on plans, dare I say there ‘ought to be a law’ for companies facing challenges in this economy to be focused on business development planning? Sorry, you won’t get that from me. It is your company and you should be able to run it as you please. My job here is to encourage you to consider otherwise.

Our industry is built; pardon the pun, on the ‘subcontractor’ and ‘consulting’ relationship. Few can afford an in-house attorney, so they make sure they have one on speed-dial. If there are areas in your business that could use some help getting you over a revenue slump, increasing quality pricing opportunities, developing processes, get some input from others who can help you with the areas that are not necessarily your strong suit. There are plenty of resources available that do not require adding staff.

My closing argument is this…just as hope is not a strategy…wishing revenues would increase consumes as much energy as planning. I like what Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant said, “Have a plan. Follow the plan and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That is why it is easy to beat most folks.”

…and with that ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.

Bobby and I welcome your comments below. Also, please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Friday Musings.

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