Getting engineers out from under their rocks

Recently we’ve been trying to break into a new market, Health and Safety Strategy and Implementation, and for the first time, we’ve been in a noisy, crowded marketplace where we have to, well, sell ourselves. And we’re not naturally good at it, in fact I can’t imagine anything that makes an engineer more nervous. Design a building to withstand an earthquake and save hundreds of lives, sure, no biggie. Design a plane to travel around the world at 900 km/hr, well that’s no trouble. But, talk to strangers about how we can help them, that is terrifying.

We are so good at not being good at sales, that I noticed an interesting phenomenon in our team as we grappled with it. We were treating the activity as if we were crabs, scuttling out from underneath our rocks for just long enough to get a job and then scuttling back to our safe place again. And if there was any whiff of another rock to hide under, like making up brochures or updating our website, than we were all trying to get under that rock. Five crabs wriggling to get under one little rock, I think you get the picture.

It wasn’t until we changed what we were doing, until we consciously removed all the rocks that we were hiding under, that we started to make progress. Monday and Tuesday, sales days. Nothing else to do but get out there and talk to people, understand what their H&S issues are and whether we can help them. I know that Monday probably isn’t the best day to be out there, clients are busy getting their own work sorted, however if we gave ourselves even one day at the start of the week in the office, we managed to find a whole week’s worth of other stuff to hide under.

And we learnt a lot once we were out in the open, committed to the job at hand rather than scuttling back to the office asap. People aren’t that scary, and they have interesting stories to tell. We got shown through all sorts of interesting factories and workshops that we didn’t even know existed in Christchurch, and found out a lot about how hard it is to manufacture in NZ. But that’s another story.