How to win engineering consulting work - and make it profitable

Two people agreeing on business, handshake

Have you ever tried to fit more into a day than you know is humanly possible? How about working on a project that keeps going over budget, no matter what? There's a surprising factor that your to-do list and major project cost blow-outs have in common: it's called the planning fallacy.

The planning fallacy refers to your natural tendency to underestimate a task - no matter its size. First proposed by psychologist Daniel Kahneman in the 1970s, the planning fallacy still rings true today. Humans underestimate project parameters like time and cost. This means they put forward optimistic performance targets. But when you understand the planning fallacy, you can avoid it, and make every project a profitable one. What does it take? Just some clever 'human engineering'.

Focus on human engineering
Moein Varaei advises engineers about mindsets and techniques to win work and streamline projects. He says that, “20% of what engineers do is technical engineering, while 80% is human engineering.” 

Moein goes on to explain, "Building strategic relationships doesn’t always come naturally. Engineers are often more logical thinkers than relational thinkers. When you step out of the analytical engineer mindset, you can invest your time to build quality networks."

Tenders, for example, are a significant source of engineering consultancy work. But getting in the door can sometimes be the result of networking, and time invested in relationships well before you need them. And every stage of a successful tender and project requires extensive planning.

Plan for profitability
Moein's made a career of helping firms that are struggling to deliver projects, and motivating teams in business development. He’s found that the root of many engineering project issues is people paying 'lip service' to planning. But effective planning and scoping is the foundation of a good project - essential for both risk management and repeat business.
"The human engineering factor is what helps to make projects profitable. It's about managing your relationships with your client, from winning the work through to scoping and delivery. 

As Moein says: "People skills (or human engineering) will make or break a project."

Become the consultant of choice with the 'x-factor'
Building client relationships doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but as Moein emphasises, “You have to be a people person. It’s less about the sausage and more about the sizzle! Anyone can get a job done, but the thing that makes the difference is the client’s experience with you.”

How do you know when you’re becoming successful in the human engineering space? Moein explains, “You have the ‘x-factor’ when you are the consultant of choice. This means you move away from being a transactional consultant to somebody who solves problems. At the other end of a sleepless night, your client sees you as a trusted advisor.” 

By honing the finer skills of human engineering, you’ll be confident to win work and secure profitable repeat business with your clients.

Ready to get the x-factor and beat the planning fallacy? Find out how you can win new work as a consulting engineer.