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The 2012 American Cultural Resources Association Conference: Takeaways

(by Anne Lee, originally posted October 11, 2012)

I recently attended the American Cultural Resources Association’s (ACRA) annual conference in Seattle, held September 6-8 – three days packed with educational sessions full of useful information. I learned that I can take a lot of notes very quickly – which is good since my brain has a limited capacity for remembering all the facts and tips I learned during the conference! If you are in the field of cultural resources management, attending an ACRA conference is a must.

Workshops and sessions fell into one of three topical groups: the Business of Business, Developments in the Technical Aspects of Cultural Resources Management, and Trade Association topics. For a technical specialist like myself, the topics covered in the business of business sessions were those most outside my comfort zone, and the ones I found the most thought provoking. Here are some of the highlights of the business sessions I attended, as well as a few of the useful tips and reminders I came away with:

  • Workshop: What Wins and Why? – The Art and Science of Winning Proposals. Presented by Joanmarie Eggert, LG, CPSM, Pacific Northwest Marketing Manager, Kennedy/Jenks
    • Highlight: Being introduced to how the concept of “bug dust” can be applied to proposals. While the term “bug dust” refers to the very fine dust created from the boring of a mining machine, the concept as applied to your proposal efforts refers to those proposal elements that have little influence on the award selection committee, which are ones that you should pay as much attention to as miners do to “bug dust” – very little, in comparison to the big things that matter.
    • Useful tips and reminders:
      • Do internal proposal debriefings to improve the process on future endeavors.
      • Do quality control reviews of proposals – for content and appearance.
      • Clients care about their project, not what we as consultants do, so focus your proposal content on the project you are going after.
      • Questions to keep in mind as you develop proposal content: Why do you want THIS project? What value do you bring to the project?
      • Don’t “we we” on the client – Emphasize the client and the project, not your firm ( “You,” not “We”).
      • Debriefings for winning proposals may be more useful than debriefings for losing proposals in identifying what to focus on in future proposals.
  • Workshop: Business Development – Uncovered/Proven Methods and Tools for Successful Client Development. Presented by Jon Davies, Vice President and Director of Client Services at BHC Consultants, LLC, and Traci Nolan, CPSM, Business Development Manager at GeoDesign, Inc.
    • Highlights: Recommendation to look up Ford Harding’s Rainmaking series.
    • Useful tips and reminders:
      • Learning the difference between marketing and business development
      • Assign people to business development that WANT to do it; your business development efforts will fail if the people assigned to carry them out have no interest in them.
      • Tailor business development efforts to a person’s style
      • Every employee plays a part in the business development cycle – you just have to figure out what someone is good at and utilize them in that aspect of your business development strategy.
      • Remember – business development is a numbers game – if you want more clients, make more contacts.
      • Clients are people just like you.
      • In a face-to-face meeting, your job is to listen.
      • Social media is good for recruiting employees and getting your name out there, but is unlikely to land you a job. Relationships win you jobs.
  • Marketing: Business Development Live! – 3, 2, 1 and ACTION – are you ready?Presentation consisted of three real life marketing professionals meeting with Scott Williams, Manager of the Cultural Resources Program at the Washington Department of Transportation, feedback from the potential client, and a Q&A session.
    • Highlight:
      • Seeing Kenda Salisbury’s brilliant portrayal of a really bad business development professional acting inappropriately during the first meeting with a potential client.
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • Client relationships drive the professional service industry.
        • Don’t worry about bothering a potential client – pick up the phone and call. The person on the other end can choose not to take the call.
        • Make sure multiple people in a firm have contact with a client so you don’t lose contact with the client if a staff member leaves your firm. Vice versa, make sure you have contact with multiple people in a client’s firm so you don’t lose the client if your only contact gets a job elsewhere.
        •  Do not send literature to private clients. Instead, identify common clients and meet with the private firm to discuss how your company can help the private client win a project with mutual clients.
    • Marketing: It’s What You Don’t Say That Counts – How to Project Your Best Non-Verbal Self. Presented by Kenda Salisbury, CPSM, Director of Marketing at Historical Research Associates, Inc.
      • Highlight: Experiencing the limp handshake…
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • Humans communicate in all kinds of ways that are unspoken and being aware of what those non-verbal cues mean will help you be more successful at business development.
    • Management: Strategies to Address Critical Leadership and Ownership Challenges. Presented by Ed Edelstein
      • Highlight: Definition of a leader as the person who is most contagious, whether positive or negative.
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • There is a difference between explicit and implicit drivers in a company.
        • Company culture is heavily influenced by the implicit drivers of the leaders within a company.
        • You can become a “positive contagion” – your attitude is your choice.
    • Finance and Accounting: Key Financial Indicators – Building a Performance Dashboard. Presented by David James, CPA, CMA, Clark Nuber P.S.
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • There is more to understanding a company’s financial health than accounts payable, accounts receivable, and the dollar amount of contracts awarded.
        • Hire a professional to calculate the benchmarks and interpret them for you.
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