Gary Ireland, 37, is business development manager for WSP North Team 2 (North West, Yorkshire & Humberside). He is also the firm's technical director.
Route to job
I graduated from Oxford Polytechnic in 1986 with BSc Hons in engineering, and joined Haden Young as graduate trainee, working in electrical design on major projects. In 1994 I was selected to join a Haden Young initiative which included two years' intensive management training. I moved away from engineering into business development in 1996, initially in Newcastle upon Tyne and subsequently in Yorkshire. I also spent a two year 'sabbatical' at Connaught Property Services, working in support services provision.
I was approached by WSP at a time when the success of Connaught was beginning to dilute the challenge, from a business development viewpoint.
Having worked mainly for a contracting organisation before joining a service provider, I was concerned that the way business was developed within a consultancy would be different.
In reality, business development is very similar to working with a contractor, probably because the industry has pulled closer together over the past few years, and the traditional client/ professional team/contractor relationship is less clearly differentiated. Ultimately business development is about service delivery, whatever that service may entail. Organisations which believe that they should secure opportunities because they have the best engineers are missing the point. They also need to provide the best service and there are certainly other areas of the industry and other service sectors where we can learn the lessons of delivering customer satisfaction to help develop business.
I moved into business development to add to my client relationship skills, perhaps so I could move back into mainstream management in the future.
However, the satisfaction that successful business development (aligned to successful service delivery) provides could prove very difficult to let go.
My advice to anyone wanting to develop business development skills is just to do it. If you have the right attitude and commitment, everything else is easy. It is also becoming a more important aspect of every business, as the days when work just arrived are sadly over. There is, I believe, a need for good business development practice at every level within our business and those who show good skills are becoming invaluable to their employers.