There are several definitions in the dictionary for the word leverage, but the one I like the most is: use (something) to maximum advantage.
Because your most limited resource is time, I would recommend that in your engineering career and life, you leverage your time. In other words, you use your time to gain maximum advantage.
I recently was coaching a senior engineer, and he was telling me about a huge challenge that he had with his team, around predicting future workload. After talking to him for 15 minutes, I realized that his challenge wasn’t this problem, it was the fact that he didn’t have enough time to solve the problem. He was spending his time on other things, that were in my opinion, not as critical.
In this article, I want to give you three items to consider when thinking about how to spend your time. Think about a lever that you can pull. The longer the lever, the stronger the force. In this situation, the length of the lever is directly related to the importance of what you decide to work on, and the impact that task can have…
#1 Make Your Engineering Company More Money
If you spent your time on actions that could increase the bottom line of your engineering firm, good things will happen to you. I realize that not all engineers may be able to directly go out and do engineering business development, but there are always things you can do to improve the financial health of your firm.
Some of these items might be:
- Ensuring your technical work is of the highest quality so your firm gets repeat work and referral business,
- Develop your expertise in your field by speaking in public which will advertise your company to prospective clients,
- Ensure that you (and your team members) are billable as often as possible to reduce overhead
- Keep an eye out for computer programs or tools that could reduce company expenses
These are just a few items, but my experience with engineering executives has told me that if they see the company’s bottom line improving because of you, you will be moving on up sooner rather than later.
#2 Focus on Making Your Engineering Clients as Happy as Possible
The idea of making your clients as happy as possible seems like a no brainer, but I want to emphasize it because it is so important. This point is obviously tied in with point #1 because if your clients are happy, they will most likely come back for more work, hence increasing your company’s bottom line.
None-the-less, engineers don’t focus on this one enough. Your clients are the primary revenue source for your company. Their money is used to finance your paycheck, so it is in your best interest to keep them happy, and of course in a way that is focused on being ethical and honest in your engineering work.
Here are some things you can do to keep your engineering clients happy:
- Be as responsive as possible without compromising your ability to finish your work,
- Be proactive with your clients and call them for no specific reason, other than to ask, “How are things going and how can I help you in your business?”
- Always be honest with your client, even when you have to report bad news, they will appreciate it (maybe not immediately, but over the long haul).
- Look for ways to help your clients save money or make more money. This could be done by proposing value engineering solutions on some of their projects.
Your engineering clients are critically important to the success of your firm, therefore time spent on making them happy is time well spent.
#3 Focus on Your Own Happiness and Work Life Balance
Alright, so you are helping your engineering company make more money, and keeping clients happy, how about your own happiness? It is important, and maybe more important than you might think.
First of all, you have to define what happiness means to you, and if you define it as being successful, well then you have to define successful.
Does successful mean more money, a promotion, or more free time? I am pretty sure that if you focus on the first two items in this email, you will have the ability to at least implement more flexibility into your career. Maybe that means you can work from home one day a week, or start at the office earlier and leave a bit earlier.
The bottom line is that if there is an engineer working for me who is bringing more money into the company and keeping our clients happy, I am not going to tell him or her what to do. In fact, I am going to make sure that he or she is happy.
Always Think Leverage…
So my point in this post is that you can make or break your engineering career by using leverage to your advantage. This concept is a critical part of the 80/20 principle also known as The Pareto Principle which you can read about in Richard Koch’s wonderful book here.
Life is too short to spend your time on things that don’t matter. So please leverage your time, and your engineering career and life will be so much more fulfilling.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success