Each month, Artemis Partnership’s ‘5 Thoughts from the Field’ will feature executives from a variety of fields to hear their insight on business development, pursuits, secrets to success and more.
About Eric Dinges:
Eric Dinges, AIA, NCARB, CLGB, LEED Green Associate, is a Vice President and the Regional Managing Principal at AECOM leading the America’s East Region design practice which includes architecture, interior design, engineering, urban design, master planning, economics, and technology solutions. He is responsible for growing and diversifying the practice in addition to overseeing its operational performance. The East Region design practice is comprised of approximately 800 employees with an annual gross revenue of more than $200 million. A consummate leader, Eric has developed long-standing relationships in his 25 years’ experience with some of the industry’s most demanding clients and has led large multi-disciplinary teams on complex projects around the globe.
With a passion for design, Eric is an elected Board Trustee of the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, supporting the vision of the museum to educate, entertain, and engage people about the built environment and advocate for a sustainable and equitable future.
1. Architects, engineers, etc. usually don’t enter their profession to be salespeople. What qualities do you look for in a subject matter expert that tell you that person will be successful on a capture team?
True, when you study architecture or engineering in school, the focus is on the technical and creative aspects of your work and less about the reality of how you will sell those ideas to potential clients. That said, the role of a person on a capture team is very different from a typical sales position. We aren’t just selling a built project, we are selling relationships and trust. We look for people who are apt at building those relationships with clients. There are a lot of firms out there, so we find it crucial to position ourselves as more than just a firm that can build a project. A lot of firms can do that. We search for team members who are not only knowledgeable about their field, but also relatable people and passionate about their work. At the end of the day, we want to build trust with clients that goes beyond building a project, but towards solving the challenges they face on a daily basis. We want clients to feel confident in us as designers, team members, and people as that trust is the key to a successful project.
2. Business development activities changed during the pandemic. Do you think any of these changes will stick when conditions have improved to look more like 2019?
I think some of the changes we’ve experienced over the past year will stick to a certain degree. Clients have gotten more accustomed to video calls, presentations, workshops, etc. and it has been easier to reach clients that way during this time. So for the sake of time efficiency, I could see things like an initial meet and greet may be more welcomed by clients in a virtual platform than via in person. That said, I don’t think anything will replace the chemistry, connectivity, and trust building that you get from meeting in person and I believe that will remain critical even as the world evolves into the new normal.
3. Have you seen changes in how decision-makers have gone about selecting firms? Do you think those will be with us for a while, or are they temporary caused by the pandemic?
Largely, we have not seen changes in how projects are selected. Although interviews and selection meetings are happening virtually, projects are won because of trusting relationships. In fact, I would say that an existing client relationship is the single most important factor in winning a project when you’re working virtually. Because you aren’t able to meet in person, it can be difficult to establish that same level of trust with someone you don’t know, or haven’t worked with, because you are missing that personal connectivity. That said, when projects are pitched in the virtual world, it is more difficult to personally connect with decision-makers and as such, clients may see a benefit to using more systematic methods for deciding on the selection of a firm. That aspect could be something that sticks around moving forward.
4. AECOM is committed to driving positive change for women in the global workplace. Can you tell us about one or two specific steps you’ve taken in this area in your region?
AECOM is committed to driving positive change for both women and minorities. We raise awareness within the firm so that our team is solidified on where we stand as a practice, region, and company. We exhibit this by holding leaders accountable for their decision-making processes in hiring, promoting, empowering, developing, and elevating women and minorities. We believe that as a large firm it is important for us to be leaders in change and we follow data to monitor our progress. Personally, I have always valued diversity of all kind in the workplace and have brought that to the forefront of discussions with our leadership team. We do our best work when we are able to see problems, solutions, relationships, and design through the lenses of others. The more diversity we have on our team, the more lenses we can look through.
5. AECOM was recently recognized by Ethisphere are one of the 2021 World’s Most Ethical Companies. What do you do as business leader to ensure that everyone upholds this standard?
believe that being a leader means that you lead by example. There are number of decision points made on a daily basis that demonstrate a person’s character from filling out your timesheet correctly (or not over expensing that taxi trip) to ensuring that positioning for a project is executed in a fair manner. Additionally, where I have seen or been made aware of some questionable decision-making, I have held conversations with those individuals and let them know where I stand on doing things in an ethical manner and then provide corrective action if so warranted. So for me, it’s leading by example and holding and maintaining accountability for that culture holistically across the region, practice, and company.