This is part four of a series of six articles focused on organic growth challenges for SME (small-medium enterprise) engineering, consulting and construction firms. Each article will focus on one challenge area and provides some high level approaches to overcome these challenges.
The traditional industry model is seller/doer. However, at most firms the new opportunities come from a small number of usually senior level individuals. These individuals “feed” the junior and mid-level technical staff keeping company utilization up while maintaining a high level of utilization themselves to pay for their higher salaries. These duties leave little time for coaching and mentoring the junior staff on how to develop their own business. Growth strategies frequently employ the hiring of a “rain maker” as their main strategy. This strategy has certainly led to success in the past but it frequently leads to disappointment or even failure and it isn’t always the “rain makers” fault. Unfortunately, it often takes 12 to 24 months to recognize the problem and take corrective action. The turnover rate of rainmaker hires by firms large and small has increased over the past several years due to disappointment from both sides. Larger firms may have selection processes and onboarding support to improve their success rate but SME’s rarely have this luxury.
The Rain Maker is still a good strategy if implemented carefully. It really starts with making sure you understand why you are hiring this rain maker and what area they are supposed to focus on. For example, if you hire someone to help you break into the &G market they may do a great job of creating opportunities through their network and past clients. Where it can go sideways is that the opportunities are not what your firm is good at. Both you and the rain maker will get frustrated if they keep identifying real opportunities but your firm keeps passing on them. Make sure it is clear when you hire them they understand what type of work you can do and are targeting. Second, make sure your rain maker has a senior onboarding sponsor. A new person with your firm is not going to have the internal network to get the resources they need to develop the opportunity, write the proposal and perform the estimating in your format. The senior sponsor will accelerate their internal network development.
Getting the right person to pursue the right type of work in your targeted segment will improve your rain maker results. The selection and onboarding of a rainmaker is a good topic for a future article.