Shifting emphasis to include employees as well as customers is a key strategy.

When outgoing PresidentRobert Armistead, P.E., spoke at MCAA’s convention last month in Maui, he said his mechanical contracting company had to make some tough choices in the last couple years. Engineering firms had to do the same.

Here are changes Armistead Mechanical made:

• Devote more time and effort to strategic business development and positioning within the marketplace than in prior years;

 • Focus on winning the right type of work;

• Focus on process improvements to take productivity and efficiency to the next level; and

• Place great importance on leadership and taking care of its people.

“Many of our younger employees had never experienced the ugly side of the business cycle,” Armistead said. “Keeping them motivated and engaged through these challenges has been vital to having a successful company coming out of the recession.

“Leadership through educating, motivating, supporting and encouraging our people has been, and will continue to be, our top priority.”

Armistead’s comments to the Mechanical Contractors Association of America fall in line with construction industry consultant FMI’s 2011 U.S. Markets Construction Overview. 

“The industry still faces a shortage of talent across the board, from design engineers to project managers, superintendents and future executives,” writes FMI PresidentHank M. Harris Jr.“Firms would do well to take the long view of this issue as they navigate the current downturn.

“It is time for all companies to be clear and purposeful about what business they are really in and how they are playing the game.”

Continuing the sports analogy, the report’s authors call people with technical skills the emerging new superstars of the construction industry. This should bode well for engineers. FMI reasons that customers want to do business with people who possess the skill sets to put together a project and do the work.

Similar to the adjustments Armistead mentioned, many construction firms will have to shift their emphasis to include employees as well as customers. After all, FMI states, employees will be the ones who ensure customers remain loyal to the company.

One avenue to bring good people to the industry remains green construction. Sustainability represents a core value for young people.

“Many architects are on board with the concepts of sustainable design, which in turn will influence many institutional and similar owners,” Harris writes.

Indeed, FMI predicts U.S. green construction will increase to $22.7 billion in 2013 from $19.7 billion in 2009. By 2013, it will exceed 5% of all U.S. nonresidential construction put in place, up from 1% in 2002.

“Particularly in the institutional markets, an increasing number of owners recognize the benefits of building green and are looking for construction partners to assist with the implementation of innovate green building practices,” FMI  states.

Green buildings will continue to be a bright spot in a nonresidential construction market still making a long, slow recovery. As you assess where you want to take your firm and how to lead your people, you should consider where green construction design fits into your vision.