Since COVID-19 sheltering in place began in March, most of us have experienced a rapid shift in how we do business, how we form and nurture relationships, and how to forge ahead during a historically unique time.

Despite the fair share of challenges, the pandemic has also opened doors to new ways of developing new business and working smarter at this critical time that we hope AEC companies will implement to bolster success. If social distancing has taught us anything, it is that physical presence isn’t always necessary to nurture client relationships and win new business.

With less or no need now to run from meeting to meeting, fight traffic or deal with airport security or delayed flights, it’s time to rethink traditional approaches and instead look at where those dollars can be better spent.

New Vessels, Same Needs

With technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and others, we have realized that meeting in this way and listening to one another is the important thing—the way we do it is in a vessel. Additionally, with time gained from reduced travel, we can connect with more people across a wider state, national or even global marketplace.


It’s great to be able to bring in an architect from another region virtually to collaborate on a project, discuss a client issue and come up with a solution in teams across multiple offices; or to provide simulation training broadly or enlist a team to submit for an industry award to elevate a complex project. Even introductions that were off the radar months ago might now be beneficial.

These are “extras” we can all do for our clients that are simple things that add strength to relationships. This newly found “be in the moment” experience allows our relationships with clients to strengthen while we embrace an interconnected world with a blurrier geography.

Our resources are plentiful, and our reach is vast –embrace and use this to your advantage. With conferences, seminars and networking events paused, visibility and content has become the crucial differentiator between you and your competitors in today’s dynamic marketplace.

While making time to participate on social media platforms like LinkedIn may have been a challenge before, this channel has become a go-to site for business people with a reported 55% rise in conversations, connections and LinkedIn posts during the pandemic.

Strengthen Your Brand

Writing and speaking are ways to build your brand. We have seen valuable content come across the AEC space in the form of webinars, town hall meetings, podcasts, videos, blog entries, articles and more. During COVID, we saw more companies pay attention to business continuity planning—including communication planning and a directed focus on internal communication related to the pandemic, safety, cybersecurity and return to work planning.

Communication on inclusion, mental health and simulation training also is up, with an even more dramatic increase in crisis communication when it’s necessary to work together and deliver key messages to successfully respond to events, developments, risks and threats that can diminish a company’s reputation and bottom line.

The news cycles have been fast and furious. Now, more than ever, it is important to follow trending topics in your market sectors, set Google alerts to keep tabs on what your clients and competitors are doing and develop your PR, including possible help from a practitioner, to strengthen your response and position your expertise.

Survive and Thrive

This is a perfect time to look within and improve your company marketing databases and collateral so that proposals, which before did not go through the best QA/QC channels or include updated project information due to time constraints, now can have the outcome you want and need.

Now is the time to expand your marketing materials and finally complete back burner business development improvement projects.


Many of us started in construction as entry-level practitioners and have “grown up” in the business through time and experience to not only adapt but also to thrive in the current environment. Do we miss meeting colleagues in person and remaining visible to our current network? Of course. Are we able to step out of our comfort zones to try new approaches? Absolutely! It’s not always easy, but we have years of training behind us, we’re passionate and eager to embrace positive change and we’ve already dug deep to get our arms around infinite uncontrollable situations.

We now need to focus on what we can control—knowing what is most critical, relevant and impactful to what we do in our business. When we do that, our companies and relationships reap the benefits. Keep the conversations going, keep investing in educating yourself and keep communicating with those you already know and those to whom you need to reach out and get to know.

Now is the time to reinvent the way we develop and nurture relationships. The only wrong way is to do nothing at all.

Tara Bleakley is principal and regional client development manager at TLC Engineering Solutions, a national engineering firm. She can be reached at

Holly Duke is business development manager at CORE Construction, a large U.S. construction management and design-build firms. She can be reached at

Jeni Dzenis is regional market leader at NELSON Worldwide, which specializes in architecture, interior design, graphic design and brand strategy services. She can be reached at

Also contributing is Ioana Good, vice president at Poston Communications, a crisis communications and PR firm. She can be reached at