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Case Studies

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+00:00February 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+00:00April 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 […]

Can rebranding transform your business? Consider this firm’s story

Regular readers of The Friedman File know that we feel strongly about the role thought leadership can play in carving out a strong market position. In this issue, we’re going behind the scenes with one architecture firm that has gone all-in with this strategy to see how it has transformed their business.

To appreciate the full picture, let’s go back five years. As healthcare architects, Array Architects (Philadelphia, PA) had been competing against some of the largest firms in the country, but they knew that trying to keep up with those firms on portfolio wasn’t a winning formula.

They also saw margins eroding coming out of the recession. Their clients, like many, were under market pressures requiring them to stretch their design and construction budgets. It was becoming a race to the bottom. Array was also facing an ownership transition challenge. Older partners were nearing […]

By |2017-06-12T09:52:01+00:00February 2017|Case Studies, Marketing & Branding|

What doesn’t kill a company makes it stronger: inside CannonDesign

Imagine that a senior manager in your firm and an external consultant were engaged in activities that did not just cross an ethical gray area — they were illegal.

It’s unthinkable. Yet it happened at 950-person A/E firm CannonDesign, and today, the firm is a better business partner because of it.

In this issue of The Friedman File, I’m sharing their remarkable story, one that I believe every A/E/C and environmental consulting firm can learn from. Whether your firm is involved with government contracting (as CannonDesign is) or not, read on to learn why transparency, communication and professional ethics must be baked into your firm’s culture — and how to make that happen.

In 2013, CannonDesign made headlines when they became publicly embroiled in a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office into an external consultant they had worked with for 18 months in 2010 and […]

By |2017-07-18T15:14:11+00:00December 2016|Business Strategy, Case Studies|

What your clients want you to know about your next shortlist presentation

Shortlist presentations could be called “stress list presentations” for the amount of angst they cause A/E/C and environmental consulting firms.

The timeframes are short and the preparation is long. What’s worse is that many firms that do the hard work required (opportunity research and selection, prepositioning, and thoughtful, client-centered proposal writing) to routinely get shortlisted still struggle to win the big show.

How can you improve your win rate? In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re going to the source: your clients. In the numerous loss debrief interviews I’ve conducted on behalf of my clients over the years, I’ve heard many recurring themes.

(If you’re in the fortunate position of having plenty of sole source work or master service agreements, this intel can also help you make a stronger case for your ideas, internally and with clients.)

What clients see

  • Firms that have rushed their preparation […]
By |2017-07-18T15:13:49+00:00October 2016|Business Development, Case Studies|

If you’re tired of hearing about thought leadership, read this

In this issue of The Friedman File, we take a closer look at the changing world of marketing — and how to effectively seize the biggest opportunity that is sitting right in front of us.

The two most effective ways to engage a business audience are improving thought leadership and using a multichannel message strategy, according to marketing research firm Marketing Sherpa (Jacksonville, FL). In other words, having something valuable to say and saying it consistently via several methods.

These are proven strategies that firms in the A/E/C and environmental consulting industries are perfectly positioned to use to become visible leaders in their markets and better integrate their marketing and business development. Yet too many firms remain focused on parroting out projects won and people promoted instead. And, unless you’ve just hired the world’s foremost expert on healthcare design or geothermal engineering, clients aren’t listening […]

By |2017-06-12T09:42:59+00:00August 2016|Case Studies, Marketing & Branding|