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 […]
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 […]
It’s year-end, and you know what that means: budget season. It also means that your marketing efforts and expenditures may be under the microscope. As firms grapple with how much to spend in this critical area — and what to spend it on – one of the most common questions we hear is, “What percentage of net service revenue should we spend on marketing and business development?”
While there are benchmarks, the real answer is, “It depends.” And, in fact, there are other important questions that I encourage you to answer first. In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re diving deeper into marketing and BD expenses and how you can create a budget that’s aligned to your business goals and better designed for success.
The role of benchmarks
On average, it’s fair to say that AEC industry firms spend 5-6% of net service revenue on […]
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 […]
If your firm has implemented a strategic business development process, then you’re spending plenty of time identifying and researching prospective clients, pre-positioning for work, and making thoughtful go-no go decisions.
But what happens when you’re in the room where the final decisions are made? Over many years of conducting client interviews, we’ve heard the horror stories and the success stories. If you want to impress your clients—and win more work—then it may be time to raise your shortlist and client presentation game.
As one client we spoke with recently put it: “Nine times out of ten, deals are made in the interviews. You think you have the front-runners selected from the proposals, and then they go in and bomb. It’s all about how they connect with our group.”
While there is no cookie-cutter formula to a winning presentation, there’s also not as much mystery as you […]
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 […]
Many times, when AEC and environmental consulting firms think about business development, they’re focused on bringing in new clients and expanding their reach. While this is an incredibly important part of your business growth, what’s equally important is building your relationships with the clients that you already have.
This month in The Friedman File, we’re focusing on how you can—and must— actively strengthen your relationships with existing clients on an ongoing basis. It can be easy to fall into the trap of putting this type of engagement on autopilot, especially when you’re managing a heavy workload. But having solid client relationship management practices in place can streamline the process and help to protect your firm from changing economic or market cycles.
Not only is it more cost-effective and easier to sell more work to your existing clients (and have them refer you) than to continually […]
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 […]
As readers of The Friedman File know, business development is one of Friedman & Partners’ specialties. And over the years, I’ve witnessed many AEC and environmental consulting professionals and firms shroud this topic in a level of mystery and complexity that’s just not serving them well.
In fact, when I conduct business development training, I ask people to share what comes to mind when I say the words “business development.” Often what I hear is that BD is “salesy” and reserved for extroverted, outgoing people who like to play golf. In other words, many folks are telling themselves a lot of false stories about BD!
So, in this issue, we’re examining what business development is—and is not—and what it really takes to succeed at it. I truly believe that anyone can learn the skills and develop the mindsets to get great at BD. Here are a few […]
We’re switching gears with this issue of The Friedman File to address a question that often comes up during our training workshops and client engagements: What should we be doing with social media?
Many A/E/C and environmental firms remain skeptical about social media—and that skepticism can be well-founded. While some firms have jumped in with both feet and even mastered this area, too many are overwhelmed or simply not sure where, or even IF, to focus their efforts.
For most firms, creating a sustainable, realistic and effective social media strategy means starting small and mastering what we call Marketing 101 before moving on to more.
The social channel you need to master? LinkedIn.
Why Linked In?
LinkedIn has carved out a clear niche as the world’s largest social media platform for business. Starting out as a top recruiting tool, it quickly became the place to network. Now, with […]
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 […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]
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 […]
This issue of The Friedman File is a bit different. First, we are proud to share our brand new web site with you: www.friedmanpartners.com, especially the section that houses this newsletter. However, instead of sending an announcement, I want to share our process, and offer five takeaways that you can put to work in your own firm’s marketing efforts.
Over the last several years, Friedman & Partners has evolved and expanded service offerings, amassing a broader portfolio of consulting and executive coaching on growth strategies for AEC and environmental consulting firms. Like many firms, our web site has been slow to keep up and was not communicating that as well as it could. It was time for a reboot.
Since Friedman & Partners has been involved in marketing content strategy and development for many years, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges and roadblocks that arise […]
Mergers and acquisitions are currently on the upswing in the A/E/C industry, and that activity shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. But just because it’s happening more doesn’t mean it’s happening successfully.
Depending on whose statistics you follow, the failure rate of mergers and acquisitions as a whole ranges from 70% to 90%, and the A/E/C industry is no different. There is no magic formula for success, but there are factors that will enhance your chances. In this issue of The Friedman File, we talk to two firm leaders about their successful merger—and the lessons they learned from doing it right (and from an acquisition that didn’t fare as well).
Know your potential match
While some firms go through extensive searches to find the right partner, Willy Stewart, P.E., and George Stanziale, Jr., ASLA, CLARB, of 200-person engineering, planning and landscape architecture firm […]
When it comes to project acquisition, many A/E/C and environmental consulting firms have learned (and some the hard way) that it pays to take a strategic approach. Yet, when making critical hires to grow their business, strategy and targeting can often go out the window.
In this issue of The Friedman File, we examine how the lessons of client and project acquisition apply to the hiring of C-suite positions, practice builders, senior marketers and business developers, and other senior management roles.
It’s currently a candidate’s market, and the types of leaders who can make a big impact in your organization are no strangers to being recruited. To bring them on board requires a clear strategy, a compelling message and a carefully executed interview process.
Stage One: Defining the Opportunity
Know what you want and why
When you pursue a project, if you don’t have a vision or know […]
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 […]
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 […]