What Did We Learn in Business Development During the Pandemic — and Beyond?

WGI’s Chief Business Development Officer, Brian LaMotte, reflects on the past 18 months and looks forward to the future.

Note: This post was written by Brian LaMotte, PE, WGI’s Chief Business Development Officer.

HOW WE CHANGED

As I plan for a trip to another WGI office and an in-person meeting with a prospective client, I sit here in wonderment and excitement. Wonderment about how, as the head of business development for our firm, I was able to cool my heels and leave the friendly skies behind for a year. Excitement that I will be meeting people in person, sharing stories, and feeling the freedom of visiting offices other than my own.

If you told me 18 months ago we would be confined to our offices for an entire year, I may have approached life a bit differently. I may have learned sooner to mute my phone, sign on to a Zoom call five minutes earlier, add an interesting virtual background, adjusted my computer screen to hide the COVID “ten” I gained, the dos and don’ts of a successful Zoom call, or to put the dogs outside before an important call when working from home.

There’s no doubt business development was different this past year. Our team struggled with the best ways to reach out to our clients and prospective leads. We came up with cool backgrounds only to fade in and out. We produced one PowerPoint presentation after another to make up for the lack of an in-person meeting. We let our fingers do the walking and picked up the phone more. We used technology to funnel opportunities our way through various tactics and strategies, from our own intranet to social media. We struggled at first but soon adjusted to the norm and learned to live and communicate in a virtual world.

Zoom meeting

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings happened at our desks. Not only was I able to bring new work in the door eating a virtual lunch but I invited a few ants to the desk to join me in person – without masks! Going home after a day of attempting to sell our services in the virtual world was surprisingly exhausting, only to find myself drawn into an evening streaming the newest and most intriguing Netflix, Hulu, and HBO 60-episode series. And yes, many of us stayed up later than we should with that “next episode” they made so easy to watch. After all, many of us worked from home so we could afford a longer night of binge-watching. I called it just another COVID evening.

CHANGE IS COMING…BACK

The winds of change are blowing in a positive direction. Meeting in person protected by our PPE wardrobe, six feet of separation, and fist bumps are the social protocol of the day. Revealing that you received your first or second COVID shot is now the ice breaker that starts our social interactions. During a “six-foot” conversation, I wonder if the other person can really hear me with my multi-layer PPE mask — or are they just ignoring me and “smiling with their eyes.” This is an unanticipated – but useful — skill we’ve come to perfect!

What is the old saying? You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, or some variation. Well, I can say I miss the days of in-person business development and getting to know someone by the way they talk, they dress, their body language — and knowing they are truly smiling. I am lucky that I have been able to stay busy during the pandemic and I look forward to being busier, even just traveling back from an in-person city council meeting.

I look forward to other things as well, like a heightened awareness of social and political issues that were brought to the forefront of our lives this past year. I am learning there is more to a company’s qualifications than the sum total of its technical experience and past performance; it matters how we treat each other and how we uplift others to be more Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable in every aspect of our business.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MEETING IN PERSON

I am looking forward to the future, to business development as the economy comes back, and to all the new opportunities that opened up because of the seismic shifts wrought by pandemic and societal changes. I look forward to being with people again, and I look forward to ending the day exhausted after an evening out with clients instead of watching those two additional episodes of a streaming series well after my bedtime.

I look forward to business development in the new world we created. I look forward to meeting you, in-person.

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