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Case Studies

Thriving in a time of crisis and disruption

Few, if any, businesses can say they saw this pandemic coming. For some AEC industry firms, the business ramifications have been severe. While the market sectors you serve do play a role, there are other factors that can significantly impact the resiliency of your business during a time of crisis.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re going behind the scenes with one engineering firm that isn’t just coping with the COVID-19 disruption, they’re looking at it as an opportunity to reinvent their business.

Fortunately for 175-person engineering firm Borton-Lawson (Wilkes-Barre, PA), that business focuses on two client sectors with ongoing operations— public and private infrastructure, and industrial and energy. Three years ago, the firm also rolled out Beyond Engineering, a technology-focused initiative that is proving itself well positioned to meet the current moment.

To President and CEO Frank Joanlanne, the opportunity is not just […]

By |2020-06-03T16:20:16-04:00June 2020|Business Strategy, Case Studies|

Client relations in the era of COVID-19

As COVID-19 turns business as we know it—and our global communities—upside down, there are no easy answers or sure projections. While some AEC and environmental consulting firms have not experienced a disruption to projects, others are seeing warning signs and are increasingly nervous about what’s next and some are already slashing costs to contain the bleeding.

Multiple industry surveys reveal that the business impacts, like the virus itself, could vary widely and may well get worse before they get better. I’m hearing from many firm leaders who are doing their best to balance the day-to-day pandemic response with planning for project delays and revenue declines.

None of us knows when our business life will return to any sense of normalcy, but we do know this: firms must prioritize their relationships with current and prospective clients now so that those relationships come out stronger on […]

Are you waiting for opportunity to knock? Or making it yourself?

We talk a lot about market sectors in the A/E/C industry—whether they’re up or down, which ones we can compete in, and which strategies will help our firms stand apart as leaders. What we don’t talk enough about is how our firms can be out in front, helping to develop a market and essentially creating demand for their services.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re talking with a firm that isn’t content to wait on future opportunities—they’re making them. At 300-person MEP and building services firm Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JB&B) (New York, NY), they’re rolling up their sleeves and bringing constituencies together to build a market from the ground up.

JB&B has been working in institutional life sciences design—and in New York—for years. So when local real estate brokers began asking what it would take to reposition a property to serve these […]

Curating conversations: how one firm took a nontraditional approach to market positioning

In the years that Friedman & Partners has been in business, we have again and again seen the power of successful thought leadership efforts to ignite business. And yet, there are still many firms that get stuck in effectively adapting this proven marketing strategy and implementing it consistently.

That’s why, in this issue of The Friedman File, we’re sharing how one firm has taken a creative approach to becoming a trusted advisor in a niche market. Here’s what 120-person A/E firm GLMVArchitecture (Wichita, KS) did in their zoos and aquariums practice, and what they’ve learned along the way.

“In many industries, we become insular in the way that we think,” says organizational development consultant and self-proclaimed zoo nerd Michael Clifford, GLMV’s Curator of Innovation and Partnerships, who runs the firm’s ECHO Initiative. “Zoos are established organizations, often run by municipalities and private 503(c)3s, and are not […]

Surprising truths about building a learning culture (one firm’s story)

The rate of change is moving at an increasing speed. Technology continues to change the way we design, build and run projects and our firms. In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re telling a story that we hope will inspire you to decide what kind of culture you want to build and be bold about going after it. It’s the story of how one firm has gone all-in on creating a culture of learning and innovation. They’re doing it in a way that is sometimes at odds with conventional wisdom— and growing a profitable business at the same time.

The big why: innovation + a growth mindset

Turner Fleischer (Toronto, Canada) (www.turnerfleischer.com), a 150-person architecture firm specializing in private-sector projects is determined to be on the forefront of technology and education. This is their strategic priority, and over the […]

Why two firms went Lean and transformed their business

Whether it’s the cost pressures of commoditization and consolidation, or positioning and managing resources to ride boom-bust market cycles, the AEC industry faces plenty of business challenges. Successfully managing them often comes down to your client and how (or whether) your firm stands out in their minds.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re looking at how two very different firms have differentiated themselves and transformed their internal business by becoming early adopters of Lean. Long known as a manufacturing approach that promotes operational efficiency and value to customer, Lean now transcends industries, and has particularly gained traction in construction and with healthcare-focused firms.

It was industry-wide pressure that led 600-person geotechnical engineering and environmental consulting firm Haley & Aldrich (Burlington, MA) (www.haleyaldrich.com) to explore Lean more than 10 years ago. It started as an internal “behind the walls” discussion […]

By |2019-02-06T11:13:00-04:00February 2019|Business Strategy, Case Studies|

How one firm took their values off the shelf and put them to work

Growing a firm comes with many challenges, but maintaining a strong company culture can be one of the more difficult. It’s also becoming more important as firms compete for the talent they need to meet their goals.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we go behind-the-scenes with 110-person Nitsch Engineering (Boston, MA), a fast-growing firm that is putting its values-based workplace culture at the center of its growth plans.

In the past 5 years, the firm has grown by 45% in staff size and revenues, moving from a successful one-office firm to a larger regional player. Along the way, they’ve prioritized building on the firm’s award-winning progressive culture to attract and retain high-performing employees.

“I wanted a way to measure our culture – I’m an engineer,” says Chairman and CEO Lisa Brothers, PE. “I wanted to define that culture and keep it intact as we […]

How two firms are incubating the future of design

The A/E/C industry can get knocked for being inwardly focused, slow to change and not offering enough room to experiment and innovate. In a fast-moving world that is increasingly populated by Googles, Amazons and other disrupters, that is not a recipe for growth!

In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re sharing how two forward-thinking multidisciplinary firms are turning that old stereotype on its head, using incubator models to transform their businesses, impact their communities and attract young creative thinkers.

A virtual place to innovate

Amp, a virtual incubator program at CannonDesign, isn’t a physical space. It’s a construct— one dreamed up by young professionals in the firm’s Buffalo office who saw it as a way to “amp up” creativity and develop new business strategies and client solutions.

It promotes collaboration and innovation by giving employees time and resources to develop and test ideas large and small. […]

By |2018-04-10T13:54:06-04:00April 2018|Business Strategy, Case Studies|

How one engineering firm is changing the world — and the workplace

The AEC and environmental consulting industries have long attracted people who are passionate about what they do and driven by a sense of mission. In all the years that we’ve been publishing The Friedman File, we’ve shared many successful strategies that are based in part in that dedication. It’s a large part of why this newsletter exists.

In this issue, we’re highlighting a firm— Mazzetti+GBA (San Francisco, CA)— that is taking that passion to another level. Over the past 5 years, this 200-person MEP engineering and technology consulting firm has integrated its commitment to create a better world into its business practices and firm-wide culture by becoming a Benefit Corporation.

Benefit Corporations blend the structure and tax liability of a C-Corporation with the mission ethos and transparent reporting of a non-profit organization. They’re relatively new and are few and far between in this industry. […]

This is not your typical architecture firm, and that’s by design.

When a downturn strikes, it can be tempting to take whatever work is available to keep the doors open. For a smaller firm in a competitive market, that can be a matter of survival.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we talk to one firm that made a different, bolder choice: to double down on serving one client type as thoroughly as possible. As a result, the firm not only survived the downturn, it grew exponentially during the lean years.

How it happened

Today, 250-person Huckabee, Inc. (Fort Worth, TX) is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a highly profitable, debt-free firm and a sought-after thought leader in Texas’ K-12 schools market. The firm has more than quadrupled its staff in that time, and in 2016 was named by ENR as the top educational design firm in Texas. It’s also been recognized as one of the […]

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