What is your first thought when talking to a prospective client? Do you try to sell them on your latest new service? Are you thinking about the next bill you have to pay?

ll too often, the focus is predominantly on the bottom line. It’s understandable--after all, businesses have to make a profit to stay in operation, and individuals have to earn a living. The economic climate over the last several years has forced everyone to focus intently on revenue. As income from key market sectors has dwindled, firms have reacted by looking around to see who else has money to spend and how they can get some of that business. Many have acquired new technology. Others have reinvented their marketing strategy and increased their networking efforts.

But how many firms first take the time to identify specific needs and figure out how they can meet those needs?

Companies that have pursued this approach have been successful in a way that they could not possibly have envisioned even just a decade ago. One example is Dewberry, a multidisciplinary firm that pushed the envelope on web-based applications to help its clients become more efficient and flexible--and has ended up with a host of popular tools and services in the cloud.

The civil engineering firm Ruekert/Mielke is another example. The firm has proactively sought ways to make utility location data more easily accessible to its clients, even when doing so seemed to conflict with its own service offerings. “Technology is dumbing down the way we used to do things, but it’s also creating new opportunities, so it’s a continuous cycle,” says Thomas Tym, principal and senior project manager. Indeed, the company’s data management and GIS consulting business has grown even as fieldwork has diminished.

Seeing a need for mediation services, John Stahl, PLS, CFedS, owner of Cornerstone Professional Land Surveys, devoted himself to fully understanding the legal foundations of surveying principles so that he could more confidently express his professional opinion and help resolve conflict. Both Stahl and his clients have benefited from this approach.

Profitability matters. Technology, marketing and networking are all important. But if the needs of clients and prospective clients aren’t driving your business, then your efforts will fall short.

Conversely, by looking for needs and adapting to meet them, you might well find your business evolving in ways you never imagined.

Do you have a success story you’d like to share? Email me atpobeditor@bnpmedia.com. Look for additional interviews and insights on technology and business strategy atwww.geodatapoint.com, a new website developed by POB to serve the needs of geospatial professionals.

Share your thoughts on this column atwww.pobonline.comorwww.rpls.com. To contact the editor, send an e-mail topobeditor@bnpmedia.com.