Jeff Stephenson, P.E., is the Team Leader of [...]
Are you thinking about developing a new market or service? Maybe it’s a service you don’t currently provide but your competitors do, or maybe it’s a new market that’s seen to be the “next big thing” in your field.
With the poor economy, companies are operating on leaner expense budgets and may shy away from allocating resources toward new development. So how does a company spend the time and money to research a new market or service with limited funds?
Our answer at Sain Associates is to get employees involved. This accomplishes two things:
- It will probably save your company some money.
- Second, it will give your employees a sense of ownership as their hard work and dedication may lead your company to additional work.
It’s usually easier said than done though. It requires patience, hard work, leadership and committed employees.
Here are some best practice suggestions for developing new markets or services that we have used with great success:
- Create an employee group to focus on research and development. Ask for volunteers or hand pick people. Consider how many people you need, different personalities and skill sets to come up with the best strategies. Clarify roles and responsibilities of all group members.
- Assign a leader. They should be passionate and excited about the project and able to clearly articulate the company’s vision for the new market or service AND expectations for the group. The leader will also hold group members accountable for results.
- Track time and expenses. This will give you a record of how long the project took and how much it cost, which can be useful for future reference if you ever decide to explore another market or service.
- Call an initial meeting to discuss purpose, short and long term goals and action items. Specify time frames and document all items discussed so the leader can periodically check in with group members to discuss their progress and accomplishments.
- Create a centralized location for all group members to store research and development information for future reference.
- Teach everyone at your company what you’ve learned. We enforce our learning by teaching others. Your clients may also want to learn about what new service you can provide.
- Continue group meetings to track goals and action items until deemed no longer necessary.
We have used this model with great results in a very cost effective manner. NOW is the perfect time to implement a new research and development process for 2012!
Alicia Bailey is a civil engineer with Sain Associates, a firm of consulting engineers and surveyors in Birmingham, Alabama.