Business Is Still about Relationships

by Bill Beardslee, PLS, PE, PP

This is a bit of a different view through the scope than I usually proffer in this column. My normal article picks a business or communication issue and discusses ways to enhance performance in that area. But today, I bring to you a growing concern about individual communication skills.

As the article title indicates, any business source you choose will indicate that successful business is about relationships. Field crew production—and profitability—increases when the crew members (assuming there are crew members) are compatible and enjoy working together. The same is true of the relationship between the survey supervisor and the crews or the manager or owner of the company.  These relationships are impossible to solidify without personal contact.

Client relationships are the same. Nothing will lead to company success more than long-term client relationships that keep an incoming flow of work over many years.  To preserve those clients, it is imperative that a close, personal relationship be in place. These close relationships are also economical: it costs four times as much to create a new client as it does to keep an existing one.

Those who enjoy surveying and the technical fields are primarily left-brain folks. Personal relationship and communication, right-brain issues, are not usually in their comfort zone. Here is where my trepidation begins, as technology is not only enabling these people to avoid enhancing these personal skills but limiting the amount of contact they have with others that would require those skills.

This concern began for me with the coming of email and texting, which are taking large bites from my beloved English language. I won’t bore you with my rant on schools no longer teaching cursive.
However, at the workplace, emails, texting, the internet, robotic instruments, etc., are allowing us all to limit human contact voluntarily and isolate ourselves even more than the typical left-brain person does.

Consider that a surveyor may receive an order for a survey by email (from a client or supervisor). The surveyor does deed research online, does the field work with a robotic total station or a rover, calculates and drafts the survey on AutoCAD, and then emails or mails the finished product.  An entire project, start to finish, has just been accomplished without personal contact with another human being. That, in my estimation, is very scary. We are voluntarily isolating ourselves with technology.  Please keep in mind that for centuries isolation has been used as a form of torture.

I imagine everyone has experienced this phenomenon in some form or another: the person who emails to someone in the next office rather than walk over and talk, the person who would rather have a root canal than visit a client, or the manager who distributes assignments or evaluations by email.

I have had the pleasure and honor of presenting personal communication articles on many topics in the pages of surveying magazines: a journalism approach to pre-proposal meetings, project milestone meetings, staff meetings, and presentation skills. These are the skills that a successful professional—in any field—needs in his or her arsenal. Encourage your staff, and remind yourself, how important these skills are and make an effort to include them in the daily routine.

The long-term functioning of an organization within itself and the ability to satisfy and retain clients depends on quality services and continuing open, pleasant, relationships. Do not let the availability of technology deter you from continuing these long-standing, proven methods toward success.  All skilled surveyors can “walk the walk.”  What they need to do now is “talk the talk.”

Let’s all make 2013 “The Year of the Talk!”

Bill Beardslee, PLS, PE, PP is the past president of the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors and their 2006 Surveyor of the Year.

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