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Professional Profile: Alan Jones

Lab Manager speaks to Alan Jones of CRB

MaryBeth DiDonna

Alan Jones is vice president of business development at CRB. Lab Manager recently spoke with Alan about his career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Is this what you have always wanted to do?

A: I earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial technology with a concentration in sales and service—so, yes, this is what I've always wanted to do! I've always enjoyed working with customers to help solve their problems, whether providing product support or a professional service. When I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1995, I worked with a design and construction firm that focused on the clean process systems in pharmaceutical facilities. Shortly after that, I started to focus strictly on building relationships with companies in the life sciences industry. 

Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: For most business development professionals, a typical day doesn't exist. Perhaps that's what I love about the job so much; no two days are alike. In my new role at CRB, I will lead the effort to align our business development efforts across the company. Initially, there will be multiple strategic meetings to discuss the business development organization, processes, and procedures. Regularly, I will attend industry conferences, follow up with existing client relationships on project opportunities, mentor and train, and monitor the sales pipeline.

Q: What are your most effective strategies for developing relationships between lab design/build professionals and lab managers, owners, and other leadership personnel? 

A: Clients like to do business with people they like and trust. I believe continuous follow-up with the client offsite and on-site builds trust that—first and foremost—I will be their main point of contact during the project. We also like to connect our professional experts with the lab manager/owner because, after all, they need to trust that we have the talent capable of executing the scope of work. Last but not least, we offer the lab manager/owner the opportunity to tour a similar building or project to help build their confidence that our company and team can meet their expectations.

Q: What tips do you have for those preparing for a kickoff meeting about a lab build or renovation project?

A: The project manager should come prepared to clearly explain the scope of work and the timeframe for executing the scope of work. If they aren't sure of the cost, we can help determine a preliminary budget estimate. The project manager should also plan how they want to obtain the design and construction professional services. Our recommended approach would be ONEsolution™, an integrated project delivery approach for executing the project from design through construction and commissioning.

Q: What's a common misconception about your job?  

A: The biggest misconception is that business development professionals sell a job and then don't check in on the project or respond if issues arise. I always stress that business development is that point of contact for our clients to contact when problems occur on a project. I always want my client to feel comfortable reaching out until the project is complete and they're 100 percent satisfied. And I want them to know that I will follow up. My goal is to align our team with the client's team, project goals, and objectives. We want our clients to be successful and help them advance in their careers, and we can achieve that goal through successful project execution.

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you've faced? How did you overcome it?

A: The biggest challenge was strategically deciding to focus on site selection and incentives consultants while working at Duke Energy to recruit companies to our service territory. We had five recruitment managers trying to cover seven vertical markets across the US. We learned that a majority of industrial customers hire a third-party firm to assist with site selection. Once we pivoted and built relationships with those third-party firms and our success rate winning new clients accelerated exponentially.

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?  

A: Mine is the Elion-Hitchings Building in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, the former headquarters of Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Unfortunately, the building is being demolished as it was deemed unsafe. Many people found the building innovative and futuristic, while some just found it ugly. I was glad to have the opportunity to do some lab renovation projects there during the late 1990s.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years in this new position? 

A: I'm fortunate to return to CRB at a time when the company is experiencing remarkable growth. My mandate is to raise our business development success, build strong customer relationships at all levels, deliver successful outcomes for our clients, and increase our repeat business with our current customers. There is much hard, interesting, and fun work ahead. I can't wait to get started.