You've won the job, now earn some money

Sheena Sood

Consultants should learn from contractors and charge for extra work advises Sheena Sood. As consultants get bigger, fees for all will be squeezed and scope creep will be the enemy.

Mega-merger mania and a recovering US construction industry with its sights set on UK footholds means yet more pressure on fees for consultants only just dusting themselves off from a recession.  

"Consultants would do well to learn from their contractor colleagues for whom variations are an inherent part of their delivery and provide the means to maximise income."

Competing with the giants who promise to do more for less is the new reality; bringing with it, if not here already, tight fees squeezed of every sensible contingency. Earning a decent profit out of jobs won on this basis requires a new level of super-human discipline in resource planning, efficiency measures and risk management, but just how much attention do you give to your fee once the job is won?

The projects that end in disputes tend to be those that bear all the hallmarks of a project gone wrong so prove useful material for those willing to learn the lessons. One clear theme that emerges from the problem projects we see is the little attention that is given to the fee.

Here are three simple lessons once you have celebrated the win:

  • Understand what you have agreed to provide for the price that has taken your bid team months to achieve – what is the exact scope of service? You can make money by providing that exact scope not by providing services not included within your price. Scope creep is hard to control, with demanding clients and professionals willing to roll up their sleeves to help their client and see the job done, but knowing the delineation between agreed scope and an additional service is the key to making more money from that hard-fought win. Your internal project management should be devised to pick up on this.
  • Understand your contractual entitlement to additional fees.  What steps do you need to follow to get additional fee?  The lawyers negotiating the contract may well have tied the process up so that it equates to climbing Mount Everest – but if Mount Everest is what you have to climb to get the additional fee then make sure you do it.
  • Educate your team.  A good handover from the bid-team to the delivery-team at project inception on the exact scope of services and the required steps to obtain more fee is invaluable.  Provide a succinct written summary for the team to reference throughout the job and ensure new employees are educated at induction.

Consultants would do well to learn from their contractor colleagues for whom variations are an inherent part of their delivery and provide the means to maximise income. The contract price is the contract price but a contractor will earn money around the edges of that price. Why do consultants find it so difficult to approach a client seeking more of its specialist services than it agreed to provide?

When the client is the contractor that is even harder to understand!

Mega-mergers may well mean opportunities for clients looking for specialist and niche. Hopefully this will provide a step-change for consultants to limit what they provide for the agreed price and sell more of their skills outside of the agreed scope.  

 Sheena Sood leads the Construction, Engineering and Infrastructure team at Beale and Company Solicitors www.beale-law.com