Speakers at the Society for Marketing Professional Services' annual conference see a role for business developers in helping firms win work in public-private partnerships. Teaming begins early for these large projects, so understanding who the partners might be in the public-private pursuit is essential.

Real estate developer and architect Thomas Samuels, global director of client strategies for Epstein, described the formation of the P3 team for the Scottsdale Center for New Technology at Arizona State University.

How did that team get built? "We knew those people. They had built relationships with us way before we started pursuing this," Samuels said. "If you want to get into this business, you need to identify the development sources, the equity sources and the financing sources that are involved." He advises getting to know companies and watching for opportunities.

With a nod to the setting at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin and Disney's legacy of creativity, Samuels emphasized the strong storytelling aspect to creating P3s. "You can be a catalyst to bring this together," he told the business developers, adding that what is needed is "the story to take to decision-makers." He said the Scottsdale Center team went as far as to explain "what our capital assumptions were, what our rental rates were going to be, what our escalations were going to be—to help them understand the advantages of P3 for their project."

Michael Szkatulski, senior managing director of Mesirow Financial, said P3 clients are likely to be different people than those encountered in past public-sector projects. Because the capital is coming from new sources, the people making the decisions about who is on the team are different. Steve Robson, general manager of development for Lend Lease, agreed. "The equity investor will act as the developer and will lead teaming discussions. Contractors and consultants need to make themselves relevant to authorities, and all that will help" when it comes time to make decisions about who will participate, he said.

Chris Farrar, counsel at DLA Piper, added that large engineers and contractors are increasingly more prepared to invest equity in P3 projects. "It can be a strong revenue source if you can find the deals," he said.

The Decade Ahead

The SMPS annual conference, which drew about 700 members to Florida from July 31 to Aug. 2, also debuted a new book, "A/E/C Business Development: The Decade Ahead," published by the SMPS Foundation. Led by Scott W. Braley, CEO of Braley Consulting & Training, and Scott Butcher, vice president of JDB Engineering, the effort entailed 1,600 hours of volunteer time to conduct 100 interviews with buyers and sellers of AEC services. "Team Scott," as they call themselves, said much research about marketing has been done, but the sales side of the equation has been lacking, and they wanted "to fill that void."

One eye-opener was that 80% of the owners interviewed "do not see a role for non-technical or junior business developers, especially if they are not key members of the project team," reports the book. Owners said they want to talk to project managers who can sign contracts, make decisions and commit staff, Butcher said. "They are tired of firms bringing Burt Reynolds to the interview and putting Pee-Wee Herman on the project," he noted. Braley added, "Companies and agencies short-list firms, but in the final analysis, people hire people."

Brad Thurman, principal with structural and civil consultant Wallace Engineering and incoming SMPS president, said, "Let's face it, the seller-doer model never really went away. Owners want to be able to ask technical questions." The book is $49.95 in print and $39.95 in electronic format on Amazon.com and on the SMPS Foundation website.

J. Kevin Hebblethwaite, the current SMPS president and president of his own consulting business, reported—from firsthand experience—that the second class graduated from "SMPS University" at the Robert H. Smith School of Bus-iness at the University of Maryland. Hebblethwaite was among the graduates last fall of the MBA-level certificate program in advanced AEC marketing.

The third class will kick off on Oct. 17 at the university's College Park campus, and the program is now accepting applications.

Owners Speak Out on How to Approach Them


Likes Dislikes
• Specific and formal presentations with pitches
tailored to owners' projects or needs
• Cold calls without pertinent information
• Lunch-and-learns • Pitches to the wrong audience
• Occasional calls from people the owner
knows about important changes that may
impact work or relationships
• General presentations with nothing specific that addresses the owner's needs
• Seeing the team in the owner's office • Meet-and-greets
• Industry organizations for networking • Being wined and dined
• Collaboration on a new opportunity • Events put on by an individual firm
SOURCE: "A/E/C Business Development:
The Decade Ahead," SMPS Foundation
• Time-consuming activities, such as general