Driven by the need to have core professionals in its folds, experts have challenged town planners to rise to the level of generating ideas through innovative thinking and marketing.
They were also told to engage in more training and manpower development to sharpen their skills and competence on the job.Speaking at the 2017 professional development workshop titled:”Maximising the potentials of planning practice” organized by the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) in Lagos, the experts emphasized the need for them to deepen their client-consultant relationship, develop sound managerial ability and exhibit sound ethics of business communication in carrying out their activities.
The second national vice president, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Toyin Ayinde who spoke on: Effective business communication and ethics for consultancy in the built environment” said over the years that the profession has emerged from mere health/social studies into the stream of conventional professional practice, yet, it has not gain popularity and dignity expected as a result of communication gap between the public and the professionals urgently requires to set for itself tested and practicable principles for effective business communication and ethics for consultancy in the built environment.
Ayinde stressed the need for members to learn the rudimentary of communicating effectively in the business of town planning. He noted that effective communication affects aspects of the profession such as marketing, public relations, crisis management, making presentations, conducting job interviews and facilitating problem-solving sessions, among others.
NITP’s first vice president and Principal Consultant (Operations), Nigerplan Integrated Services, Limited, Lekwa Ezutah on his part counseled that members must possess all the good old fashioned qualities of; trust, respect for clients individual differences, focus more on building rapport, keep to schedule, know and satisfy their clients need as well as go the extra miles to create delights and offer more than the clients pay.
In a paper titled; “Marketing strategies for growing and retention of clients”, Ezutah said most clients are limited due to lack of appreciation of planning by town planners, he therefore advised that members must build their capacities in technical knowledge and skills, know how to diagnose and find solutions, think in terms of spatial relationship, develop sound leadership ability and improve their management skill including financial management capability.
Mr. Olujide Oke, a quantity surveyor and Managing Partner, JIMS partnership, cautioned that consultancy practice is a trade where much integrity is required urging colleagues to integrate a duty of care and diligence in their discharge of duties especially in this era of highly knowledgeable clients who look forward to maximum sincerity and trust worthiness from the word go, in business transaction.
According to him, the professional body must constantly emphasize ethics and moral standard with professional codes given out to members and sanction grids put in place to serve as deterrence to erring members.
“Association such as ATOPCON owes itself and members a duty to constantly evolve and be at the front edge of research for new skills of delivering value adding services to the clients. Government at all levels must encourage the profession by patronizing consultants for their projects. Marketing is a sine qua non and professionals must in one accord rise up against quackery who take advantage of the pervasive ignorance in the society about the profession to corner jobs meant for consultants.”
Earlier, the President, Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria (TOPREC), Prof. Layi Egunjobi recalled the tremendous growth of the profession and increase in membership in the country, and commended the organizers for timely intervention through the workshop especially in an era where there are no commensurate planning jobs to match the increase in numbers of consultants.
Egunjobi stated that with awareness that certain potentials are needed to flourish in the midst of the situation, possessing the potentials will go a long way in helping practitioners to reap the benefits of being an agile ‘lizard’ planner rather than becoming an arm chair ‘frog’ planner.
ATOPCON President, Olaide Afolabi said the workshop is an opportunity to share fresh ideas, discuss issues and challenges facing the profession with a view to becoming creative and capable of improving practice and fortunes in the profession.