In just a few months, WSP Canada will be celebrating our 25-year anniversary working with a top client in Land Development: Costco Wholesale. If one thing is clear after a quarter-century of engineering and planning collaboration, it is that client relationships, like any, require flexibility, trust and consistency. Vice President of Land Development, Tom Rotella, chimes in.
For 24 years, Tom and his team have been working closely with Costco Wholesale in Canada, leading land development projects to help the client expand their business across the country. Tom, who has been with WSP Canada since the start of our collaboration with Costco, has seen his career evolve rapidly in conjunction with their client’s expansion; and his work with them continues to remain a highlight of his career. With dozens of Costco warehouse development projects under his belt, Tom reveals four simple ways to build a lasting client relationship by drawing on his experience in working with this long-term client.
My team works closely to solve problems and work together with Costco from site selection to warehouse opening.
In a recent discussion with Costco’s leader of Real Estate Development, I asked what they thought about WSP and what differentiated us from others. He replied, “It’s all about the people; members of the WSP team always want to help and drive the project to success.”
This disposition to be helpful stems from having the right people on a team. This is achieved by empowering everyone—from project managers to planners, engineers, landscape architects, etc.—to inspire each other to work cohesively towards a common goal. There is no me vs others on a team, everyone’s voice is heard, everyone’s concerns are addressed, and everyone plans and moves together. This has pretty much defined success in any of our land development projects.
Because land development projects typically span many years, there is a real sense of accomplishment when milestones, such as “green ink” (Costco’s way of approving that the site has been accepted to proceed), are met. And there are many of these milestones: planning approvals, buildings permit approval, start of construction, and of course, warehouse opening. Celebrating these milestones is rewarding, but the work between these points require tenacity and persistence.
Even with a highly skilled and experienced team, staying committed on a project for many years is not easy. It’s important to highlight at every opportunity that we are in this together.
This is applicable to many areas of our personal and professional lives, definitely beyond client relationships, too: your work can’t be just a job, just another task or just another project. If you’re in it, and you’re in it together with the client and you truly care, your client will know this.
Through any aspect of the project, it is critical to always identify and address the issues that are important to the client. Make this a priority and create thoughtful ways to help address them.
Our clients expect us to set and meet expectations, and to deliver the project on time and on budget. Repeat this consistently, and you will have won the trust of your client. This can, however, be challenging to achieve as it is necessary to ensure full engagement of the project team.
One of the first things my team does is to ensure that everyone on the team is engaged, and that each and every one of us knows the role that we play in helping to deliver a positive outcome. This can be accomplished by convening on a regular basis or developing a safe communication channel where everyone gets to pitch in and help each other. A quarter of a century later, our team is driven to be responsive, dedicated, reliable and committed to providing quality work in a timely manner.