In the AEC world, establishing relationships long before the design process occurs is paramount for building trust and long-standing relationships with clients. While it’s fair to say that everybody in the industry is doing it, very few have mastered the art of relationship building quite like Engineering Project Manager Patrick Grap. With an Associate of Architecture degree from Vincennes University and a Certificate in Construction Project Management from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Patrick brings an extensive background in healthcare facility design, having served as both the HVAC design and construction services lead for the Eskenazi Health Hospital in Indianapolis. Other experiences include the IU Northwest School of Medicine, the Rehab Hospital of Indiana, Riverview Health Westfield,  Ivy Tech Valparaiso, and the Marian University Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences. Between meetings and fulfilling Owner expectations, we spoke with Patrick to further understand his approach and how far it has taken him in his career.

How do you form a business relationship?
It starts by listening with intent to understand before responding and recognizing what client’s  needs and desires are, and the hope is that you can drive the conversation toward a workable design. It also involves developing a solution and bringing that to the forefront, regardless of the circumstances. I once had a client who wanted to put an MRI suite at the front of the building, which was glass and wouldn’t work with the location of the venting system. The team’s solution was to build an enclosure through the stairwell, and we turned that into something realistic that is still working for the Owner today.

When it comes to building relationships, what in your opinion is the most important consideration?
Communication and staying on schedule and at or under budget are key to earning a client’s trust and repeat business. With communication, there’s a lot of give and take when turning a concept into a reality. While working on the Eskenazi Health hospital project, there were many opportunities to lead and figure out the best options to make things work and happen. That project changed the Indianapolis skyline for the better and serving on the team helped me to realize what designers can do to make the world around us better by working effectively with others.

What are some ways designers can collaborate with Owners to ensure positive relationships?
Design matters for safety reasons  and for building sustainability. There are so many little things we can do to enhance design such as having a nurse on staff to help in healthcare design or seeking input from teachers and administrators who will be the end users of a building. Knowing how to implement these small, yet powerful touches often build credibility.

Are reputations and relationships intertwined?
Absolutely. When you have a positive reputation and can be articulate, you establish yourself as a trusted expert, which leads to a great professional relationship. This is especially important because while resumes are helpful, the fact is everyone has one, so helping yourself and the team you’re working on will set you apart.

Why do relationships matter?
They matter because in the design industry, they aren’t always easy to form when everyone else is doing the same thing. Therefore, it’s so important to stand out, prove yourself, and build trust. Forming positive relationships over time is also good because you never know when you might need something from someone who is able to help you. In a previous role, an Owner called months after the project closeout because he needed help with operating the building’s smoke detectors. We could have walked away, but instead, my team and I chose to help the Owner in his time of need. That decision alone meant more to the Owner and formed a lasting relationship. Although it has been years since completing the building, the Owner knows that I am always willing to help. I also know that if I ever need anything, he won’t hesitate to assist me. In this business, mutually beneficial  relationships mean something.

What is your best advice for forming strong relationships?
I always say that with anything you commit to, you must be dependable, honest, willing to go beyond to satisfy others, and genuinely follow through on the promises you make. In my experience, some of the best relationships have formed from having servant’s heart and showing Owners you have integrity. To go further and  define yourself as a professional, this is what is necessary for success.