Point of Beginning

Sight Lines: A Rock and a Hard Place

April 15, 2009
One town tables a mapping project because the fees are too high while another is outraged that a local firm would use offshoring to reduce its costs. How can surveying and mapping firms win the price battle?



Two stories highlighted in POB’s Surveying in the Headlines caught my attention this week. One article noted that a city in Iowa has tabled a mapping project because the fees being charged by the engineering firm were deemed too high. The other article discussed how the offshoring practices of a cost-conscious Minnesota mapping firm have outraged the local community.

At first glance, these two stories don’t seem to have much in common. Two different communities, two different firms, two different problems. And yet both situations underscore one of the biggest challenges being faced by today’s surveying and mapping firms: How can you get clients to pay a fair price for your services-a price that allows you to pay a fair wage to your employees and cover your expenses while having enough profit left over to earn a living and reinvest in your business? Charging a fair price was hard enough when the economy was good; now that we’re up to our elbows in a difficult recession, it’s become nearly impossible for many firms to compete without resorting to desperate measures.

I’m certain that these same two scenarios are replaying themselves in various cities around the nation, even if they aren’t making it into the headlines. Despite the lip service people pay to “buy American” and “hire local workers,” the bottom line in most cases is that price is paramount. Firms that have figured out how to lower their costs without compromising their services-through technology, strategic business initiatives and other means-are definitely ahead of the game. The question is, how long will this strategy hold? Ultimately, clients must value the services that are provided, and this requires surveying and mapping professionals to have a keen understanding of their needs and a willingness to think outside the box.

What do you think? Please share your comments below.