As AEC industry firms confront an unprecedented flurry of staffing challenges, technological innovations, industry disruptors, and generational upheavals in leadership and ownership teams, the need to have strategic conversations at your company’s highest levels has never been greater.

Although architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms can choose to undertake strategic business planning independently, partnering with an outside firm can be a game-changer in preparing your company for the future. An experienced strategic planning consulting firm can combine an outsider’s fresh perspective with the knowledge of an AEC industry insider to challenge the status quo and propose workable ideas your organization may not have otherwise considered.

The best strategic planning consultants collaborate with firm leaders to create a meaningful mission, declare a compelling vision, formulate strategies, establish realistic goals, and develop specific, doable action plans. While hiring the correct strategic planning consulting partner for your AEC industry firm’s needs and goals might seem daunting, you can avoid surprises and make the right selection by asking the following eight questions to future AEC consultants:

1. What AEC industry experience do you have? 

How can a consultant help plan the future of your business if they don’t even understand the business in the first place? Make sure any firm you’re thinking of hiring not only has strategic planning consulting experience but in-depth AEC industry expertise as well. Any advisor under consideration should demonstrate extensive strategic planning work with architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms and a proven understanding of the unique competitive landscape, market drivers, technology solutions, and global and domestic trends impacting the AEC industry. Any business planning consultant you hire should be able to explain

how they go beyond the traditional SWOT analysis to compare your firm’s performance and entire business model against AEC industry benchmarks and best practices.

2. Can you provide examples of your previous strategic planning consulting engagements with firms like mine? 

This question offers not just another opportunity for prospective advisors to tout their track records working with AEC industry firms but to detail the depth and breadth of that experience. Leadership teams inside ENR 500 infrastructure engineering firms will have vastly different strategy discussions than those inside boutique residential architecture firms. Be sure any business planning consultant you hire has knowledge that aligns with your organization’s needs. Due to confidentiality, prospective consultants may not be able to provide specific company names. Still, they should be able to detail their experience working with architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms of similar sizes, service lines, target markets, stages of growth, and geographies to yours.

3. How do you build consensus and resolve conflicts that may arise during the planning process? 

Inevitably, leadership teams are not always on the same page at the same time. During the strategic planning process, there can be clashes of egos, priorities, and opinions among team members with diverging views and agendas. The ability to engage and align various stakeholders is crucial for the success of a strategic business plan. Effective strategic planning consultants will use their team-building skills to facilitate stakeholder engagement and collaboration. Ask for examples of how they work with various personalities to steer stakeholders to find common ground and achieve buy-in from a diverse group of leaders.

4. How do you describe your facilitation style? 

The most effective facilitators have the capabilities to deal with different personality types and navigate challenging situations diplomatically. They need superior listening skills to hear all points of view and know the right questions to ask at the right time to elicit the most useful answers. Effective facilitators know when it’s time to interject and press the discussion and when to recede to let firm leaders sort things out. Look for consultants with strong interpersonal and communications skills and ask for examples of how they have used them.

5. What support do you provide after the strategic planning retreat? 

Without follow-through, a strategic business plan is merely a pile of paper. Implementation is required to convert the words on the page to dollars in the bank. Ensure any advisor under consideration provides ongoing support after the strategic planning retreat to maintain the momentum and turn the plan into reality. A business plan is a living, breathing document, and strategic planning consulting firms should facilitate revisions when new internal and external challenges arise and ensure action items are accomplished through regular check-ins.

6. What specific results have you achieved for firms like mine? 

Skilled consultants have clear ways of measuring the success of a strategic business plan and evaluating whether the plan’s objectives are being met. They should have a track record of achieving tangible results for firms like yours — in terms of size and market focus. Evaluate how they tailor their approach to an organization’s unique needs.

7. What separates you from other strategic planning consultants? 

After researching the marketplace, you’ll likely have identified several strategic planning consulting firms on your shortlist of prospective candidates. Find out what they consider to be the differentiators that make them stand out against the competition, such as industry specialization, years of experience, personalized client service, responsiveness, quality of work, and value.

8. What do you know about our firm?

Prospective partners should conduct their due diligence and learn more about your firm prior to your discussions. If that isn’t clear during your conversations, ask them directly. Good facilitators are also good listeners. Notice if prospective consultants are listening intently during your discussions. Are they asking you questions to dig for more details and get to know more about your firm’s unique needs?

Remember that asking questions like these is not just valuable for gathering information. It’s also crucial to assess a consultant’s communication style and alignment with your corporate values and culture. Finding the right strategic planning consulting firm for your company is not just a question of capability — but one of compatibility as well.

Craft Your AEC Firm’s Future with Morrissey Goodale’s Strategic Planning Consulting 

Morrissey Goodale is the trusted strategic business planning advisor to many of the most successful architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms in the AEC industry.

Whether it’s developing strategies for recruiting and retaining great people, modernizing your thinking about data and AI as technology relentlessly advances, or preparing for whatever economic conditions your firm will face, Morrissey Goodale is devoted to helping firms like yours create the competitive advantages necessary for achieving long-term success.

With deep knowledge of the AEC industry, Morrissey Goodale’s consultants have facilitated hundreds of strategic business planning retreats for architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms. Our expert facilitators lead energizing, forward-looking, and productive AEC strategy sessions and then partner with firms to ensure implementation.

Contact us today to learn how Morrissey Goodale can help with your strategic business planning needs.

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