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Why We Chose Unanet: NewFields

by Lucas HaydenA/E, News and Announcements

Sep 27, 2021

The latest in an ongoing series highlighting a new Unanet customer and why it selected Unanet’s ERP solution over other options The firm: NewFields (www.newfields.com), a global environmental, engineering and construction management consulting firm whose areas of specialization range from environmental engineering and renewable energy to mining design and construction management. Founded in 1995, the 350+-person firm is headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., and has 19 offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. It serves clients in a variety of industries, including mining, oil & gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and transportation, and has completed projects in 70 countries. As intentional — and successful — as the leadership at NewFields has been in cultivating an empowered, less hierarchical structure and culture across its 19 offices, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that the firm has been using for the last nine years was undermining that effort at every turn. Rather than breaking down data siloes and enabling the free flow of information and insight across the enterprise, as the best ERP systems are designed to do, the system on which NewFields has been relying was doing the opposite, according to Eric Salnas, CPA, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer. The NewFields headquarters in Atlanta, he explains, functions primarily as a shared service center to support the firm’s local offices, ensuring they are coordinated and integrated from a systems and processes standpoint, while preserving their autonomy. But the ERP system was working at cross purposes, thwarting the headquarter office’s ability to integrate and coordinate, while at the same time hampering the autonomy of the firm’s local offices. From the headquarter office where Salnas works, “to get any sort of data easily from across our local offices was almost impossible,” he says, because of the rigid, siloed nature of the ERP system. Answering a request to provide a list of projects performed for a certain oil & gas client, for example, could require someone to pull 10 different reports from 10 different local offices. Meanwhile, when local office employees needed to access data or run a report, they had to submit a request to the headquarter office instead of simply accessing that information themselves. “That created friction between the central office and our local offices,” Salnas says. For he and the NewFields leadership team, finding a new ERP system was imperative. “Sticking with [the legacy system and provider] was never an option.” After casting a wide net for a successor and bringing a handful of candidates in for demos, the firm chose Unanet ERP AE for several reasons: The Unanet team treated the NewFields team like a true partner. “We wanted personal attention, not to be treated like a ticket number,” Salnas says. What’s more, “it felt like a great cultural fit.” Unanet’s expertise and experience in ERP for engineering firms are a resource for customers. Asked during the final interview to explain how they would troubleshoot a particularly complex billing issue, the Unanet team “blew us away” with its on-the-spot innovation. “That was the deciding factor,” he says. Unanet ERP AE integrates seamlessly with other go-to software. Via the Unanet Connect integrations marketplace, NewFields can access pre-built application connectors to build out a digital ecosystem. Its first integration is with Concur, the firm’s preferred travel and expense software. Having completed several rounds of staff training with Unanet ERP AE, NewFields is slated to go live with its new ERP solution in fall 2021. From both the headquarter office and local office perspectives, the implementation couldn’t come soon enough, Salnas says. “From Day One, we’ve told people they are going to finally be able to access their own data, that they can add a PO, update their budgets, or run a dashboard entirely on their own, and they’re thrilled about that. Our headquarter office can add much more value to the firm beyond running reports and editing documents.  Unanet gives us the opportunity to serve differently, helping our local offices execute projects, win more business, and be more profitable.” Instead of creating friction, Unanet ERP AE has become a cultural rallying point within the firm, says Salnas. “People see how data is going to be easier to find and they’re fired up about that. It’s harmony.” To learn more about Unanet ERP AE and what it can do for your business, click here, or contact us here.

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Five Clear Signs Quickbooks Isn’t Working for You Anymore

by Lucas HaydenAccounting, ERP Software Best Practices, GovCon

Aug 11, 2021

Most government contractor start-ups begin with QuickBooks® because it’s very inexpensive and it’s easy to get started. It operates on a cash basis, very much like the way you run your own household. It does automate a few of the most common accounting tasks, but the scalability just isn’t there. As QuickBooks users grow, the effort associated with accounting and finance work grows directly with the company. It shouldn’t. You should begin to see economies of scale, but you don’t. And, QuickBooks has few internal controls at all, much less the ones GovCons really need. When you start to outgrow QuickBooks, there will be some obvious signs. If any of these seem familiar, it’s time to level up to a project-based ERP. FIRST SIGN – Simple Questions take Two Days and a Spreadsheet to Answer Whether you’re a project manager, a Division VP, or the CEO, the question asked most often seems to be “Where are we?” Most of the data to answer that question can be found in QuickBooks, but it will take a day or two to extract it, filter it, and put it in context – almost certainly in a spreadsheet – to turn it into information. And whoever on the finance team draws the short straw for that project won’t be doing their regular job while that’s going on. “Where are we?” is strictly rear-view mirror stuff and project actuals-to-date should give you that. If that’s hard, “where are we headed” and “where are we likely to end up” are probably near impossible. The answer to those questions involves combining actuals with the PM’s plan for the rest of the project. It shouldn’t take a special project to answer those questions about a single contract. And if you ask the same questions about a portfolio, such as all the contracts for a customer or all the T&M contracts, your ERP should put that at your fingertips as well. SECOND SIGN – Performance Metrics are a Special, Month End Project Do you live and die by your employee utilization? Can you track Days Sales Outstanding? What about the wrap rate you use for bidding versus your actual wrap rate? Are those available on demand, or only after the monthly close is complete? With QuickBooks, gathering the data and calculating performance metrics is a probably pretty significant project in its own right. It shouldn’t be. Metrics should be calculated continuously and displayed in reports or on a dashboard on demand. Performance metrics should be an outgrowth of transaction processing, not a separate process. THIRD SIGN – Critical Functions Occur Outside of QuickBooks® Do you have to manually calculate your revenue by project? QuickBooks’ only approach to revenue recognition is to make it equal to whatever you bill when you bill it. Is your Finance team having to adjust QuickBooks revenue using manual journal entries to get the amounts in the right period or correct the amounts when billing and revenue aren’t the same? What about Indirect Rates? QuickBooks doesn’t maintain cost pools or calculate indirect rates. Does your Finance team have to transcribe data from the trial balance into a spreadsheet at month end to do those calculations outside the system? Since QuickBooks doesn’t apply indirect rates to direct costs by project for project reporting, your Finance team probably has to do that in – you guessed it – spreadsheets. There’s nothing wrong with a spreadsheet. It’s a convenient and easy-to-use tool. But they’re difficult to document and easy to “break.” And trying to figure out someone else’s? It’s easier sometimes just to build a new one. That’s a big part of the problem. Finance teams in companies that use QuickBooks spend a lot of their time reinventing their tools over and over and over. When the spreadsheet work is done and the answer is clear, often it has to be entered back into QuickBooks – as a manual journal entry. Even the best network of spreadsheets, wrapped around QuickBooks, won’t be efficient. It may be effective, might even be mostly accurate, but it won’t be efficient. That’s why there are no economies of scale. FOURTH SIGN – Your Compliance Activities are all Manual Your ERP should include a timekeeping system that enforces all the government timekeeping rules without you having to do anything more than approve completed timesheets, post labor, and process payroll. Everything else from daily entry reminders to prohibiting future entry should be completely automated. Your expense report system should be the same way. Whether it’s enforcing lodging and per diem limits, posting excess costs to separate unallowable accounts or enforcing attachment of receipt images, it should all be automated. When you have employees subject to a Wage Determination under the Service Contract Act (SCA), the Wage Determination itself should be stored in the system, the wage floors automatically enforced based on the contract being charged and the locality where the work is done. And, the system should calculate any benefit shortfall and report it so that it can be paid as Cash-In Lieu. And none of that should require a spreadsheet, much less manual transcription of data from QuickBooks or an external timekeeping system. Compliance does not require automation. A company with an experienced, qualified, GovCon accounting and finance team could be compliant with any system. It’s been said if you are willing to work hard enough, you could be compliant with a shoebox and a pile of Post It notes. No one wants to work that hard. No company wants to pay what that would cost. And no matter how experienced or how qualified the staff, human error will eventually creep in and cause a problem. The only question is how much of a problem it will be and how much it will cost. FIFTH SIGN – You Don’t Really Have Any Internal Controls The lack of internal controls is QuickBooks’ primary fault. Internal controls come in two flavors: preventative and detective. A preventative control keeps you from doing something you shouldn’t – like changing the date on a check from last week to last year. Or changing a labor charge (timesheet entry) from project A to Project B after it was already billed – and then billing it again on the new project. QuickBooks is perfectly happy to let you do either one. A detective control is just what it sounds like. It detects that something has happened – proper or improper – and makes a record of who did it and when. One form of detective control is called an audit trail. QuickBooks just doesn’t have them. When things change that shouldn’t, you might eventually find out what happened, but good luck determining who did it or when. ALL SIGNS Point to Unanet Unanet GovCon was purpose-built for project-based businesses and has all the very special functionality required by government contractors. It’s completely GAAP compliant and is designed to operate on a full accrual, not cash, basis (a requirement for government contractors). Unanet GovCon offers managers at all levels real-time status reporting to answer that pesky “where am I” question on demand – as of right now, not the last time timesheets were posted. And it can roll up projects or contracts into portfolio reports in a matter of seconds, not days. With simple planning processes for labor and materials or travel, Unanet GovCon can also answer that “where am I going?” question on the very same reports. Unanet GovCon calculates metrics in real time as well and can display them on dashboards or in reports without pausing operations for a special project. And all those critical functions like indirect rate calculation and application, revenue calculation using any number of GAAP compliant methods, and invoice calculation, editing, approval, and posting all happen in the system, not outside. Unanet GovCon’s compliance functionality is built in, not added on. It doesn’t rely on manual inputs or calculations or transcription into spreadsheets for things like SCA compliance. Fully GovCon-compliant timekeeping and expense reporting systems, complete with enforcement mechanisms for all the government rules and regulations, are built into the system. And employee timesheet entries are visible as soon as they are entered and saved – no waiting for the end of the timesheet period for updates. Unanet GovCon’s internal controls are numerous and robust, from detective controls like audit trails to preventative controls that preclude changes to posted entries or unauthorized changes to timesheets or expense reports. Does QuickBooks have the automation, scalability and stability you need to manage your project-based business? If not, it’s time to level up to a project-based ERP. Eliminate spreadsheet chaos, reduce human errors, increase efficiencies, and achieve economies of scale with Unanet. Learn more about how Unanet levels up your project-based accounting here.

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Unique Project Costing Challenges for Architecture & Engineering Firms

by Lucas HaydenAEC, Project Management

Jul 09, 2021

For architecture and engineering firms, proper project costing is essential for success. Projects are the business, and without profitable projects, there is no business. At the center of project profitability is an accurate picture of project cost. Project Costing is the practice of correctly planning and tracking the resources needed to complete a project, and their associated cost. True project cost is paramount to understanding your project financial performance and that requires maintaining laser-focused control over your projects. It is only by gaining clarity and insight into the financials of a project that teams have key information that allows them to monitor project status in real-time so that the project stays on budget. And while it may be obvious why this is so important; project costing can be a major roadblock for AE firm success. AE firms face unique project costing challenges. It is well-known that many projects fail to finish within the initially set budget. Key challenges and the unfortunate repercussions specific to AE firms include: Unplanned financial adjustments mid-project Every project kicks off with what are believed to be reasonable expectations, but very often surprises arise. This can usually be traced back to the team not having access to necessary information mid-project, which leaves them grasping for straws and coming in late and over budget. Resource course correction At the start of every project, firms assign resources based on anticipated needs, but often a project gets derailed when teams realize that those allocations were off target; and if the team does not have visibility into this during the project, the project can fail. Disorganization leading to errors Throughout the project lifecycle, it is essential to be organized. This requires constant monitoring of financial metrics and the latest information, but in the absence of this kind of visibility, errors often occur. Client relations Invoicing clients at set intervals throughout the project is protocol and being accurate and timely reinforces your valued client relationships. When the project costing system is not in sync with your billing and invoicing clients receive errant invoices, placing your cash flow and client experience at risk. Lack of visibility into the whole picture The best way to ensure accounting best practices is with 100% visibility into every aspect of the project. However, when teams rely on archaic systems to help steer the project, they cannot see the full picture, leading to costly mistakes. Lack of accountability Projects keep moving when the people managing them are held accountable for their tasks, but when these people struggle to obtain real-time information, maintaining accountability becomes much harder, and the project—and the company’s financial health—can suffer. What is project success and how does project cost management play a role? Project costing is critical for firms needing to achieve clear objectives to meet both internal objectives and client expectations. It is paramount for project cost management to be a clear priority, as it is foundational for profitability. For a project to be deemed successful—for both the organization and their clients—it must meet clear expectations for timing and budget, as well as be delivered with superior quality. And while all these elements are essential, project cost management is at the core. For every project, the firm begins with determining a budget; the rest of the project, from timing, to resource allocation, to selection of materials is based on that budget. Having real-time insight into every aspect of the project every step of the way is critical. Despite knowing how important this is, it more than often seems projects can spiral out of control. Too many moving parts and disorganized systems disrupt a clear, real-time view of progress or lack thereof. On top of that, there is no real understanding, once the project is in motion, of the possible need to change direction, re-evaluate resources or navigate potential unexpected new costs. The good news: unique solutions for distinctive challenges AE firms have been trying to manage project costing without the needed resources for years. The results can be devastating to the firm and its clients, and yet it has continued to be widespread practice for firms to keep using spreadsheets, along with archaic software, in hopes projects come in on budget. The problem is this simply does not work; project managers and executives keeping their fingers crossed is not the solution. The good news is that AE firms can have project profitability at their fingertips with real-time data available in a seamless, interactive dashboard that allows everyone to access information minute-to-minute through an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. By doing so, teams: Accurately and quickly measure project profitability Implement project costing methodologies that really work Gain flexibility, agility, and efficiency Boost project profitability with powerful, accurate time and expense tracking Through a seamless, automated, real-time ERP, teams gain control over budgeting, estimation, and resource planning, all of which are necessary for accurate project costing. An ERP helps firms address each of these areas with ease and accuracy. Project Cost Budgeting and Control Creating and effectively managing the budget throughout the life of a project is essential for staying on course and coming in on budget. Both are needed so firms can keep control of their margins and better plan for future projects. Project Cost Estimation A lot of information is required to estimate project costs, especially given the often-large number of resources required. An ERP helps serve as a guide as project managers go about the task of allocating resources, as well as determining the amount of time and the appropriate materials they will need. Project Resource Planning An ERP helps project teams take in needed data, easily determine requirements, review past schedules and output, and more accurately allocate resources for projects. The reality of project costing for AE firms is that they need a trusted system to plan and complete successful projects and overcome the unique challenges of the industry. An ERP is an effective tool to help firms meet those challenges head on. For more information on project costing, including maximizing profitability, download this free guide.

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What is ERP and How Can It Improve Your Business?

by Kim KosterAEC, ERP Software Best Practices, GovCon

Jul 02, 2021

In today’s environment, most project-based organizations use some sort of technology to help run their business, and ERP systems are becoming an increasingly popular choice for their ability to streamline processes and align businesses for growth. But first: what is ERP? In this blog, we will help answer this question and review some of the key features and benefits of a project-based ERP system. What is ERP? ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. An ERP system includes financials, pipeline, time, expense, resource management, purchasing, project management, reporting, dashboarding, and more. Something to note when understanding the definition of ERP systems: “system” is not interchangeable with “software.” An ERP system goes beyond just software and includes the people and processes of an organization. The ERP will touch every part of the organization and keep all the gears turning together. Project-Based ERP vs Generic ERP Businesses that execute projects as opposed to mass production of products require an ERP system that is tailored specifically to them, instead of trying to squeeze value out of a “one size fits all” solution. A single product like toothpaste, for example, is sold to hundreds or thousands of people, but projects tend to be more unique and customized. For projects, the “product” being sold is service, and each customer will have different nuances and requirements. Generic ERPs are costly and can be very difficult to maintain. They usually manage the general ledger account and the department/organization, while projects are tracked separately. In generic solutions, the project is an afterthought when it should be the center of the universe. ERPs that are project-based, on the other hand, are designed to manage every part of the project lifecycle, from pipeline management to planning to accounting. They provide real-time information and a single source of truth for executives to make informed, strategic decisions. Here are a few other reasons to use an ERP system purpose-built for projects: Transactions are associated with a project, department/organization, and a general ledger account and can be viewed or reported through a lens using any of those dimensions Time is collected directly to the project tasks that the individual works on and is visible in real time in all projects, plans and forecasts Costing architecture is tailorable for each project and task through a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that can be as simple or complex as required and can be unique for every project Visibility is available in real time into the financials of each project (profit, cost, billing and even forecasts) Resource management tools that provide project managers with information on what skills are available when and even where Complete financial reporting that keeps the project at the forefront Project based key performance indicators help drive the organizational and project goals and keep them aligned System controls send notifications when project restraint thresholds are met, configured, project by project, to the needs of the business To summarize: Project-based businesses need project-based ERP. It’s as simple as that. The Benefits of an ERP System Single Source of Truth with Real-Time Data Project-based organizations who haven’t yet adopted an ERP system might be using disparate solutions, spreadsheets, or some other homegrown combination of the two to manage their business. Each of these provides its own distinct information—its own version of the truth. These separate solutions do not integrate with each other and provide stakeholders with a clear picture of the entire business. Project managers and executives spend a lot of time simply trying to find the latest version of the data or trying to “sync” the separate datasets. The project-based ERP system is the center of the organization’s activity. The finances, purchasing, resource management, project management, and more are all together in a single solution. The data and information flowing through the system is real-time, so anyone can see exactly where a project stands at any given moment and have all the information they need to make informed, strategic decisions. Automated and Streamlined Processes ERP solutions automate several once-manual processes and operations. With an ERP system, project managers can set up automated reminders for time, expense, and invoicing, as well as establish reports that run automatically. This improves operational efficiency and allows managers and executives to get out of the business of completing tedious, repetitive administrative tasks that add little value and turn their attention back to running the business. Connected and Empowered Teams People are the most important resource in project-based businesses. They are the ones who ultimately execute the projects and grow the business. Projects are social and require constant communication and collaboration between employees to keep them running smoothly—or to quickly course-correct and avoid disaster when needed. An ERP system gets all employees engaged with one solution and reviewing and working with the same real-time data. Employees will be able to instantly access the information they need to check project status and make decisions. Businesses armed with a project-based ERP are poised to unleash productivity and innovation with the power of collaboration. Compliance Confidence Government compliance is always top of mind for government contractors, but especially now as the cost of compliance has doubled over the past three years1. DCAA, CAS, CMMC, and other guidelines require GovCons to keep detailed records for time, cost accounting, and more. Without automated support for these requirements, GovCons face increased cost and increased compliance risk if there just isn’t time to do it all. With an ERP system that is purpose-built for government contractors, teams can manage risk and ensure compliance with built-in compliance and controls. With the right system, DCAA compliance and audit confidence are foundational, not simply a goal to achieve. Integration With Other Business Tools Running a project-based business has a lot of moving parts, and often means tracking data, information, trends and metrics across multiple applications. Keeping them all up-to-date is time consuming and error-prone. The best modern ERP systems integrate with other best-in-class applications, allowing the business to automate workflows and keep information in sync. By flowing data to every part of the organization, ERP systems bring processes and teams together in a way that unlocks more collaboration, better insights, and the ability to move projects forward. How to Find the Right ERP System As discussed above, project-based organizations require ERP software that manages the entire project lifecycle and have robust functionality for pipeline, customer relationship management, resource management, budgeting and forecasting, revenue recognition, time and expense, billing, real-time reporting, and more. It must provide a complete picture of the health of the organization and empower stakeholders to make strategic decisions. The software should be backed by a provider that is dedicated to the organization’s success, providing strong customer support and training. 1: 2020 GAUGE REPORT Industry Roadmap of Benchmarks and Trends for Government Contractors. Unanet and CohnReznick. September 2020 Learn more about what to look for in an ERP and financials system in our eBook.

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Customers Name Unanet a High Performer in G2’s Quarterly Reports…Again!

by Carrie MahonERP Software Best Practices, News and Announcements

Jun 22, 2021

Project-based ERP software users have spoken, and their verdict is clear: Unanet performs better than most solutions in its class. In ratings published by G2 in its Summer 2021 Reports — and based on extensive input from the actual firms and people using project-based ERP software — Unanet is recognized as a “high performer” in dozens of categories and has received several badges for its AE and GovCon ERP solutions, among them: Fastest implementation Highest user adoption Most implementable Easiest setup Best customer support Best relationship Easiest to use, and, Best usability What’s especially gratifying for us is that these G2 ratings come directly from users. Not only does it tell us we’re doing something right with the quality of the ERP solutions and support we offer to government contractors, AEC firms and professional services organizations, but it also increases our resolve to continue innovating, listening to our customers, and supporting them on their ERP journeys. Unanet was also previously recognized as a high performer in several categories in G2’s Spring 2021, Winter 2021, and Fall 2020 reports, and we are thrilled we are able to meet our customers’ needs time and time again. So to the firms whose input has kept Unanet at the top of the G2 ratings, and whose feedback enables us to continue to strengthen our purpose-built ERP solutions and service, a heartfelt thank you, plus a promise that we’ll have more good things in store for you this year. Hear directly from our customers about why they love Unanet. Visit our GovCon and AE testimonials pages.

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Here’s How to Get Free Construction Leads

by Sarah LorekConstruction, Cosential, Uncategorized

Jun 18, 2021

Comprehensive guide for finding free construction leads… Getting construction leads can be a challenge. AEC Business development and sales professionals know that paying for leads or cold calling are options, but strategies for finding free construction leads shouldn’t be ignored. There are tons of free tactics, resources, and tricks that firms can leverage right now to find qualified, industry-specific prospects. The best part is that Business Developers, AEC Marketers, and Sales teams can focus on platforms and tools that prospects are already using daily.   In this article, you’ll learn how to get 100% free construction leads today, using tools that are easy and familiar to both you and potential prospects.  Read on to learn how to get free construction leads for your AEC firm.  Join LinkedIn Groups to Access the Right Audience for Free Construction Leads LinkedIn is a great resource for networking with like-minded peers and companies. But there are also groups that can be joined which include members of your exact target audience and potentially, customers. I have been using LinkedIn groups for years to learn the latest trends in AEC and to find people who might be interested in thought leadership articles, blogs, or eBooks. The same can be achieved for finding potential customers who could be interested in your product or service offering. Below are a few LinkedIn groups to join if you are looking to connect with more like-minded AEC professionals who could be interested in using your firm for work. LinkedIn Groups Specifically for Construction  Design and Construction Network – This group boasts more than 80,000 members (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum). It’s a great resource for connecting with construction professionals who mostly fall under the design-build category.  Construction Marketing Association – With more than 4,600 members, this group focuses on exactly how to market your construction firm to win more work. Online Expo’s & Virtual Trade Shows- Construction Who’s Who – This 3,000-person LinkedIn group is great for finding virtual conferences and local events to connect with construction professionals and find potential leads.  Top Construction Jobs – If you look at the posts in this massive 25,000-person group, you’ll notice that some firms and owners are looking to hire. Furthermore, you can find some posts looking for RFPs for construction work as well.  CIM | The Chartered Institute of Marketing – Construction Industry Group – CIMCIG – This 3,500-person group focuses on marketing your construction firm.   AGC Business Development Forum – This group by the Associated General Contractors of America is focused specifically on GC business developers. It’s a great resource to see how others are finding quality leads.    LinkedIn Groups Specifically for Architecture  TEKLA Structures Users – Users of Tekla, a software for architecture professionals, could find this group helpful for finding leads. A lot of posts are related to individuals in architecture that are trying to fill vacancies on their team or find qualified individuals or firms to fill in where their team is lacking.    LinkedIn Groups Specifically for Engineering & CEC  Quantity Surveyors, Commercial Managers, Cost Managers/Engineers and Estimators Forum – More geared towards estimators and cost engineers, this group includes posts from a plethora of users dedicated to sharing ideas and concepts.  Civil Engineering Jobs – This group boasts over 160,000 members and includes information about jobs related to CE.  Civil/Structural Engineering Network – With over 115,800 members, this network is great for sharing ideas, project pursuits, and information about how your firm is running the business.  Civil Engineering & Construction – This 68,800-person group shares best practice knowledge in CEC. Here, you’ll find people looking for but also be able to use business development knowledge to ensure you’re always staying ahead of the competition.    LinkedIn Groups for Overall AEC   Engineering News-Record – ENR is one of the top news sources for the AEC industry. Their group is full of information from firms across the entire architecture, engineering, and construction spectrum.  BIM (Building Information Modeling) Experts – Posts from this BIM (Building Information Modeling) experts group come from professionals across the AEC spectrum. Many of the 97,600 members are owners or operators looking for workers or jobs.  BIM (Building Information Modeling) and Architecture, Engineering, & Construction Projects and Jobs – This 91,000-person group is chocked-full of companies looking for subcontractors or individuals that can fill in where their team is lacking. It’s also a great resource to see what types of projects certain firms are working on. Just by connecting with others in this group, you should be able to find quality projects.    LinkedIn Groups for AEC Business Development  Bd4aec – Business Development for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Markets – With a little over 300 members, this group has a specific audience. According to the page owner, the goal of this group is “to bring together the best-of-the best ideas, concepts, strategies and tactics and put them in front of you to make a difference in your business. If you’re a principal of an AEC firm and want to get more business, or you’re a business developer wanting to improve your game, or you’re an estimator or a project manager wanting to improve your skills, or just someone who wants to move into the business development field, then this group is for you.”    Attend Local Meetups for Qualified Construction Leads You can find local meetups for architecture, engineering, and construction on meetup.com. It’s free to join, and they even have online events for those who are concerned about social distancing during in-person events. This is a fantastic way to learn more about businesses in your area that could be looking to partner with a firm like yours. Just search for the topic you’re interested in meeting up about and you’ll find a list of events in your area.       You can also create your own events and invite others who might be interested in attending. Creating a thought leadership event and inviting potential prospects can help build credibility as an individual and build trust for your firm.  There are even events specifically for Business Developers to connect and network about clients looking for jobs across industries. The event in the screenshot below offers networking opportunities for BDs and sales professionals to “build better business by referral.”         Attend In-Person and Virtual AE and Construction Industry Conferences for Lead Opportunities Although several in-person conferences were canceled for 2020, many popular AEC events have gone virtual. Event hosts across the country are using creative ways to make the conference experience feel as immersive and real as possible— think virtual booths, live Q&A sessions, interactive content, and online “happy-hours” to network with like-minded AEC professionals. These events are a gold mine for networking with people who could refer your firm to quality construction leads. Some of the events are user conferences for customers of a particular product, while other conferences invite anyone in the AEC industry to attend. Below are a few conferences to check out this year.    Champions Conference 2021: Built2Win  June 15–16, 2021 – This virtual user conference, hosted by Unanet and Cosential, focuses on best practice techniques for users of Unanet’s ERP and Cosential’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products. Learn how to use the family of Unanet products to their fullest capabilities, network with like-minded individuals or business developers who can help grow your client base, and attend online presentations with live Q&A.  Current Unanet and Cosential customers can Register here.  Not a Cosential CRM customer but want to be? Request a demo.  Not a customer of Unanet but want to be? Contact the team.    ENR Future Tech  June 9–11, 2021 – Hosted virtually this year, ENR future tech is “the go-to source for business and IT leaders in architecture, engineering, and construction to explore emerging technologies that can enhance construction productivity, profits, and safety.” Connect with business leaders, meet others who are facing similar business development and sales challenges, and brainstorm with other professionals in your area of expertise.  Register here    PSMJ’s THRIVE Conference  September 22-24, 2021 – A/E/C THRIVE Conference will be hosted in-person in Scottsdale, Arizona this year. The conference will focus on growth, profit, and success for AEC firm leaders across the nation. You’ll learn what the most successful firms are doing today to drive more revenue, increase business performance, and truly scale their firms for the future. This is a great opportunity to network and meet potential partners who can help refer you and your firm for future projects. Register here    2021 Elevate AEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium      September 13-October 8, 2021—This event hosted by Zweig Group will be virtual this year. Offered at only $49 per person, this event is one of the AEC industry’s top networking and learning events. You can even enter your firm to win an award across Zeig group’s selection of award entries. To celebrate great projects and teams across the AEC industry, the awards will be presented at the conference in front of all the attendees. This is an excellent strategy to promote your firm and to celebrate a job well done.   Register here    There are so many more conferences to check out for 2021! Take a look at this full list of upcoming AEC conferences from Construction Dive.    Request Ratings, Reviews, and Referrals to Encourage Free Construction Leads Are you currently requesting reviews and referrals from past or existing clients? Any time your clients have a positive experience while working with your firm throughout the project lifecycle—from conception to completion—you should request a review.   The most common way for potential prospects to see reviews for your firm is via Google reviews, as shown in the screenshot below. The more five-star reviews you have, the higher you’ll appear in search results anytime someone searches for something like “Top rated construction/architecture/engineering firms near me” or “Best commercial construction firms in (state).”       Google isn’t the only place to request reviews, however. There are many other ways for prospects to find you based on your high rating. On Glassdoor, you can ask your own employees to give your company a five-star review. When potential prospects are searching for firms to handle their next big project or when they’re reviewing RFPs, they’ll read your company reviews from current and past employees. The best part about Glassdoor reviews is that you don’t have to reach out to past customers. Simply send an email to your employees asking them to add their review, and you’ll be well on your way to showing up as a five-star firm in search results. Look at the full list below for instructions on how to get reviews on Google, Glassdoor, and a few other platforms.  Google Reviews  Glassdoor Reviews Clearly Rated Reviews  Facebook Reviews  Trustpilot Reviews   For strategies on exactly how to request reviews from customers, check out this article from Forbes.    Check Job Postings and Investor Websites for Free Construction Leads One way to find out which companies are planning big projects is to check out job postings across Glassdoor, LinkedIn jobs, Indeed, and other hiring websites. This is a great way to understand companies that might be planning their next big project. Companies are constantly using Glassdoor to hire subcontractors, architects, engineers, and to outsource work that they might not have the resources to complete with their current team.   Also, browse investor forums to see who is willing to front some cash for the right project. AngelList, the world’s largest startup community, offers an extensive list of construction angel investors that you can follow or reach out to for free.    Monitor Community Forums and List Your Business in Their Directories  NextDoor is an online community where residents can post about happenings in their town, request recommendations, or discuss issues affecting their area. Although most of the posts related to construction serve the residential community, any local businesses can add their details to NextDoor and will appear when anyone searches for your services. Expanding your brand locally is a fantastic way to connect with the local community and potentially find new leads.   Another tactic for your firm to find leads (and for leads to find you) locally is through Facebook. Over the years, Facebook has become more than a social networking tool. It now has a marketplace to sell and buy products, groups to join that are specific to interest and industry, “looking for recommendations” posts, job listings, town hall discussions, business pages, events, and even an “Offers” page. If your firm has a Facebook business page, you can post offers or updates, and anyone searching for services you offer will see it in their feed, as shown in the screenshot below.      So, what happens next?  If your business development, sales, or marketing budget is tight, we hope you found a few of these strategies helpful. Before long, you’ll find qualified architecture, engineering, or construction leads and, more importantly, they will find you.  Here’s what you could expect after successfully applying any of these construction lead tactics for your firm:  Your contact list will grow exponentially.  Business development activities will increase significantly.  Your time will become more valuable.  You’ll need to assess pursuits as go/no-go to quickly decide which projects are worth your time and effort.  Your boss will love you even more than he/she did before. If you’re your own boss, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.   Finally, once you have all these free construction leads, you’ll need a way to manage them. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a solution that helps businesses manage sales opportunities, log activities and customer interactions, store internal and external contacts, track leads, and grow their business—but not all CRMs are alike. Some AEC firms have tested well-known CRM tools, like Salesforce, to manage their customer relationship activities. What they found is that these CRM tools don’t have the specific capabilities that the uniqueness of the AEC industry requires. These “one-size-fits-all” CRM tools aren’t built for the AEC industry, and thus aren’t tracking some of the most important aspects of the AEC sales lifecycle. Many firms discovered that they needed more specific tracking for business development and sales activities that these “one-size-fits-all” solutions weren’t designed to address.     Want to win more work with a CRM built specifically for architecture, engineering, and construction? Access this free guide.    Unanet CRM by Cosential is the only CRM built specifically for architecture, engineering, and construction. The company has spent the last 20+ years tailoring its platform’s robust CRM and proposal generation features to the AEC industry, enabling business developers, marketers, executives, and project teams to win better projects and grow more revenue.   If you’ve applied any of the tactics listed in this blog and want to learn more about how to win better business, make better decisions, and grow revenue, be sure to request a demo of Unanet CRM by Cosential today.