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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 […]

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) (, 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 […]

Can an introvert succeed at business development? (Yes, here’s how.)

If you’ve been reading The Friedman File for any length of time, you know that I’m a strong proponent of building a firmwide culture of business development (BD) by having everyone contribute in ways that are consistent with their career juncture, functional role, and BD acumen. It’s been my experience over my 27 years in the A/E/C and environmental consulting industries that growing your BD skills means growing your career – and your firm.

Yet one of the most common questions that comes up in Friedman & Partners’ BD training workshops is “That sounds good, but what if you’re an introvert?”

The reality is that many professionals in this industry, especially engineers and environmental scientists, are introverts by nature. At a recent class I taught for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), 66% of the room identified themselves as such. […]

By |2018-06-08T18:48:03-04:00June 2018|Business Development, Leadership|

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 […]

Is the way we work still working?

Long hours at the office, all-hands-on-deck deadlines, always-on technology and the road warrior lifestyle – that’s business as usual in the A/E/C industry. But is it killing us?

In this issue of The Friedman File, we examine an area of critical importance: executive and employee wellness. We spoke to firms that are making it a priority – and seeing impact from productivity and effectiveness to recruitment and retention.

At international planning and design firm Sasaki Associates (Boston, MA), the wellness conversation is personal, and the 250-person firm is tackling it head-on. It started when, during the firm’s leadership transition two years ago, now-Managing Principal James Miner found himself in the emergency room with alarmingly high blood pressure and a personal wake-up call.

It inspired him to start a new conversation at Sasaki. During an emotional staff meeting, he shared his personal story and his vision for […]

By |2017-07-18T15:14:54-04:00August 2016|Leadership, Recruiting & Retaining Talent|

A traditional firm breaks the mold with a bold new growth vision

Can you teach an old firm new tricks? One firm’s story…

Across the A/E/C and environmental consulting industries, firms that have been around a long time get lulled into doing things the way they’ve always done them. That’s not always the best path forward — even when it’s working well enough. In this issue of The Friedman File, I’m sharing the story of what happens when a firm that’s been around for 120 years starts thinking very differently about its future. (In the interest of full disclosure, the firm highlighted is a client of Friedman & Partners.)

Alden Research Laboratory (Holden, MA), a 100-person hydraulic modeling, flow testing, fisheries biology and engineering firm, has a clear market niche. Just 2 or 3 private firms in the U.S. do what they do and their workforce is comprised of highly specialized technical experts. For more than 100 […]

By |2017-07-18T15:19:04-04:00June 2016|Business Strategy, Case Studies, Leadership|

The well-being revolution

In the last issue of The Friedman File, we posed a question that unleashed a firestorm of feedback: Is the way we work still working? Judging by the response — more than any topic we’ve covered in 10 years — the answer is no. It’s not working.

Why are so many leaders burned out — and so many emerging leaders rethinking which ladder they want to climb? How can A/E/C and environmental firms evolve and thrive as technology, generational expectations and definitions of leadership are changing?

Companies like 1,900-person architecture firm Perkins + Will (Chicago, IL) and HDR (Omaha, NE), which won a Nebraska Governor’s Award for its wellness program, are putting resources behind fostering a healthier staff. Yet, emerging leaders and those who manage them say physical wellness is just a start. Flexibility, life balance and more sustainable workloads loom equally large for those […]

By |2017-07-18T15:17:06-04:00October 2015|Leadership, Recruiting & Retaining Talent|

Why no news is not good news… the need to over-communicate in difficult times

On the surface, it seems like such a no-brainer. We need to err on the side of over-communication when uncertainty and stress levels for many firms are sky high. So why is it that I and my A/E Advisor consulting colleagues hear so many stories about a lack of communication from the top down — often in the firms that are struggling the most?

Is this attributable to the weak communication skills of some industry leaders? A belief that staff are so deep in the trenches that they don’t have time or don’t value frequent updates from the “front”? An unfounded, “bury-your-head-in-the-sand” feeling that everyone is doing just fine? Whatever the reason, information-sharing within firms has not, and never will be, optional in an industry that sells knowledge and expertise to clients and seeks to retain this expertise as long as possible.

In the A/E/C […]

By |2017-07-12T14:53:01-04:00September 2009|Business Strategy, Leadership|

Tough lessons from an economic meltdown

For several months, I’ve struggled with how I can offer a valuable, meaningful message during what seems to be an increasingly difficult time. The anecdotes I’ve recently gathered from clients, other A/E/C firms, and fellow management consultants are, by and large, neither pretty nor encouraging.

In this issue of The Friedman File, I want to avoid trite pieces of business development (BD) advice focusing on targeting low-hanging fruit, leveraging your strengths, blah, blah, blah. Instead, I’ve decided that it makes more sense to focus on some less obvious, more complicated lessons learned that focus on human behavior so as to hopefully give you some future food for thought. It may be too late for this downturn, but since marketing and BD are best conducted on a daily basis rather than as if cramming for a test, your firm can begin to change its behavior […]

By |2017-07-12T14:54:53-04:00December 2008|Business Strategy, Leadership|

Involving your staff in the business development process

Exposing your technical staff to effective business development (BD) strategies and tactics is a sure-fire way to maximize your business development ROI (return-on-investment) — and get ideas about who might be part of the “next generation.” As a business developer, your careful thought, planning, and in many cases, training is critical to inculcating client relationship skills to all of your staff.

What is your firm’s view on how your technical staff can contribute to the BD process? Too often, the model business developer that is held out for everyone to see is the sales person who has just landed the “large carcass” after a round of golf — on which the firm feeds for the next six months. If your firm does this, you are missing the important contributions of PMs and project staff who continue to please clients and have demonstrated the ability […]

By |2017-07-12T14:57:47-04:00July 2007|Business Development, Leadership|
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