By Professor Daniel Samson (Melbourne University) & Darren Veerapa (CPA)
A few days ago, we caught up with Professor Samson (Melbourne University) – and he had SURPRISING (and lucrative) insights on the entire industry.
# 1: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge (s) facing growing consulting and engineering firms in Australia – that you have personally observed?
I think the biggest challenge facing consulting engineering firms is building a competitive strategy that sustainable distinguishes them from the very many others, so that they can price their services at some sort of premium.
Building is a ‘boom- bust’ world, right now doing very well with infrastructure, but the rosy days of growth and high fees never last for ever, and only those that can truly differentiate get through the low points in the cycle unscathed.
# 2: What is the redeeming opportunity (if there is one)?
To differentiate, investments need to be made in key people who are truly the experts in a field of engineering, and service excellence, as well as in technical competence.
Many firms have invested in their own design proprietary software or particular area of specialty.
# 3: What is the sort of thinking and leadership that will facilitate adoption of innovative mindsets and implementation, in the near future? Long-term?
Innovation capability that is lasting comes from the strong commitment of leaders, who devote resources to it and take a hands on view, and build a strategy for achieving innovations.
Such leaders also build a culture of supporting ideation from all employees, and a disciplined process for evaluating those ideas and taking the best of them through a development process.
# 4: How we develop this mentality, if it’s not already there?
The leadership capability comes from recognising that innovation is itself a type of business strategy, and treating it just like any other investment, then prioritising it until it becomes a ‘systematic capability’, such as at Apple. It needs a plan and resources.
Once the firm becomes known for being innovative in its approach, then wonderful benefits flow, such as higher fees, better clients with more interesting projects, and the ability to be competitive in the labour market for the best engineers. It becomes a virtuous circle!
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