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Author Archives: Bruce D. Turner, AIA
The AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx – and previously the Small Firm Roundtable SFRT) recently published its inaugural newsletter. Click here for a link to the letter from the Chair. There you will find the first articles and a link to sign up for the Small Firm Exchange (nationally), which will put you on the email list for the newsletter.
As mentioned in previous SFx posts, AIA New Jersey is also interested in organizing local Small Firm Exchanges (Roundtables) throughout the state. Please stay tuned for additional information, but if you have an interest, you can always contact me directly.
Bruce D. Turner, AIA
email: [email protected]
In this month’s ARCHITECT Magazine, July 2016, pages 52-53 feature the AEC Cares project from the National Convention in Philadelphia. The project was a “blitz-build” renovation of the Philadelphia Athletic Recreation Center. As described on the AEC Cares website: “In 2016, AEC Cares partnered with the Community Design Collaborative to renovate the Philadelphia Athletic Recreation Center. Used by hundreds of children in the Sharswood neighborhood for after school and sports programs, the center was in desperate need of repair and upgrades.” As their sixth annual blitz build, project Philadelphia, as it was dubbed, took place on May 18th, 2016, the day before the 2016 AIA National Convention in Philadelphia. AIA WJ Emerging Professional, Jeffrey Brummer, AIA, was a member of the design team. Jeffrey is located on the far left side of the design team photograph on page 52 (and below).
Visit www.aeccares.com for more information. There are videos on the website highlighting the program.
Story submitted by Mark Barone, AIA, President-Elect of AIA West Jersey
The Small Firm Exchange (SFx – previously called the Small Firm Roundtable, or SFRT) seeks the anonymous input of small architectural firms (10 persons or fewer) on a variety of business practices. Below is a full article by Kevin Harris, FAIA explaining the request. This article will soon appear in the CRAN Journal. But, to help us get a jump on this we are asking for you to participate in the survey now. The survey is very brief and should not take long to complete.
To access the survey click HERE!
ARCHITECTURAL MODELS FOR SMALL FIRMS
As architects, we are all familiar with the process and benefits of modeling our designs prior to construction. Models are an effective medium to study proposed creations and help communicate those concepts to our clients.
Constructing a model takes time however, it can give us an opportunity to take a break, reflect on new insights, and manipulate the parts until all seems right. Working with a model is a process that helps us elevate our plans from good to better.
As part of their ongoing effort on identifying what information could best benefit members of the AIA, the Small Firm Exchange (SFx) distributed its Small Firm Survey (Beta version) during the 2016 AIA Convention. Its purpose was to identify and measure the variety and commonalities existing in small firm models with the goal of providing meaningful insight to all architects practicing in small firms. It collected data on firm location; staff number, credentials, and commitment; project numbers, types, locations, and budgets; business plan existence and update frequency; contract usage; fee methods; gross revenue; and identified interest areas for additional studies.
The surveys were distributed as paper copies in both the SFx and AIA Fellow/VIP Lounges at the convention. Participants in this “Beta” test group formed a small sampling however, one large enough to reveal certain patterns of important concern to small firm practitioners.
Most notable is the fact that very few responded as having, or updating, a business plan. Those that did have one admitted at best to infrequent review or updating of this important planning tool. A business plan is widely acknowledged as a basic guide that is to be used throughout the lifetime of any business. In order to be of value, the plan must be kept up-to-date!
This brings up the rhetorical question that, as a profession, why don’t architects apply those concepts of creative process improvement modeling used to arrive at better designs, to plans used to guide their own businesses? Why indeed!
I am also guilty of spending little to no time on developing, studying, or “modeling” my own business plan. This SFx survey has piqued my interest on what other things I might learn from observing other practices. What patterns are applicable to my own firm? For example, since I want to improve my financial success, is there a correlation between firm income and the number of projects each year? Or does the number of staff in my outfit restrict the types and sizes of projects I can best handle? What type of contracts do others use? Are there better patterns to distribute the responsibility hats worn by a sole proprietor when in a firm of 2-4 people, or is it any better with 5-10? Is a larger firm more profitable than a sole practitioner without support staff? The data sampling of small firms must be greatly enlarged to properly study these and other relevant questions.
Below is a sample “dashboard” that visually communicates the data gathered from the initial “Beta” version. Similar outputs will be applied to the digital version, and will be made available to all who participate. Follow this link to the survey: http://tinyurl.com/AIASFxBusinessModelSurvey
Answering basic business questions and conducting mid-stream course corrections is required for your basic business survival. Having access to a database illustrating how your peers address these same issues will go a long way towards guiding you towards a more financially sustainable practice.
Download the survey link NOW! http://tinyurl.com/AIASFxBusinessModelSurvey
Updated small firm model statistics will follow in a future issue of the CRAN Journal.
CRAN Journal – Summer 2016
Article by Kevin Harris, FAIA
Below is the sixth in a series of “Working with the Media” articles. With your help, we hope to be able to leverage our strength in numbers to help promote architects, architecture and AIA-NJ. The other installments of the Working with the Media series can be found here.
Previously in Working with the Media, we focused on the basic elements of delivering your message in an interview. In a nutshell, this strategy recalled the principles of the “inverted pyramid,” by which the interviewee emphasizes the most salient points first, followed by supporting details and minutiae. This strategy helps to ensure that your most important insights are recognized as such by the reporter.
That said, a reporter will often begin working on a story with a specific “angle” in mind. Perhaps they’re looking for commentary on a new piece of legislation from an architectural perspective, or maybe they’re writing about a controversial development project. These interviews carry several professional sensitivities, making it important as ever to prepare a clearly mapped message. While it’s always ideal to cooperate with reporters as much as possible, there will be times when a reporter is seeking response to a question you’re unable to answer for legal or other reasons – or because you don’t have expertise on that specific topic.
If, in the course of an interview, you are asked such a question, you may want to “bridge” your answer – that is, gently transition the topic of conversation in your response. This is naturally preferable to a “no comment” response, since you may be able to offer some valuable information for the reporter without hitting on the topic’s specific sensitivities.
A few phrases that can help you bridge your conversation:
- “While I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics on that right now, I can tell you that…”
- “I think what’s most relevant is…”
- “I can’t speak for any of the involved parties, but it is generally true that…”
The goal in bridging your message is not to be evasive and avoidant, but to guide the conversation to a space where you can provide valuable commentary without overstepping any professional boundaries. In some cases, the journalist’s “probing” questions may actually have the simple goal of moving the conversation forward, and your relevant comments, which don’t necessarily answer the question directly, will give them the additional color they were seeking.
Ultimately, while bridging within an interview may feel somewhat unnatural at first, it’s preferable to providing a reporter with an on-the-record comment that could have negative legal (or other) ramifications.
If you would like to read the previous articles in this series, please see the following links:
Beckerman PR Real Estate Team
I hope you are familiar with our Working With The Media series. Having read these articles you might wonder if any of this really makes a difference? Well, here is concrete example of how it can work.
I recently read an article in my local newspaper announcing the groundbreaking for a new local public charter school. As we often see, the article named local and state politicians that were present, quoted the executive director of the new school and named both the developer and the contractor for the project. What was missing was the name of the architect.
I did a Google search to see if I could identify the architect for the project, but was unable to find any reliable information. However, I know the contractor and I know a local architect that does a lot of this type of work. Therefore, I sent them both text messages to try to confirm the name of the architect. While I waited for their responses, I sent the following email to the newspaper:
I read with great interest your article, Vineland School Breaks Ground, Saturday, May 28, 2016. I am glad to see this new school coming to our community. I also noted that the article referenced a local contractor with whom I have completed multiple successful projects – Capri Construction.
However, I was very disappointed to see that the article does not mention the architect for the project. This is especially troubling when one considers the focus on STEM (or STEAM) in education today. Architects, and careers in architecture, are a direct result of the STEM/STEAM educational program. It is sad therefore, that the architect is overlooked or deemed irrelevant to an article about the very buildings they are helping to bring to life by virtue of their STEM/STEAM education.
Every building project involves three primary entities: the owner, the architect and the contractor. It is the three-legged stool of every project. It should be fundamental to the who, what, when, where, and why of any article. I urge you to ALWAYS include the name of the architect in any article about any building.
Remember – be it a home, school, or an office; wherever we live, eat or pray; every building has an architect!
Bruce D. Turner, AIA
President, AIA South Jersey
I was pleased to receive a very prompt response from the newspaper:
Unfortunately – the name of the architect was not included with the information provided by the school.
However, I will keep your suggestion in mind next time I receive this type of information.
This is not an unusual response. And, the conversation could have ended there. But, I decided to continue the dialogue. Once I confirmed the name of the architect – Manders Merighi Portadin Farrell Architects of Vineland – I sent that information to the newspaper. I also offered that if the newspaper ever has difficulty finding this type of information for any of their articles that they could contact me. Within a very short period of time I received a reply from the newspaper that the information was added to the online version of the story. I was perfectly satisfied with this outcome. I thanked them and thought that would be the end of it. However, the next day my original email appeared on the opinion page of the newspaper. That was icing on the cake. Not only had I engaged in a positive conversation with the newspaper about the value of including the name of the architect, but I also got the opportunity to deliver that message to a larger public audience.
This is the value of working with the media. This isn’t difficult. Any of us can do it. In fact we all can. It won’t always deliver such immediate and positive results, but we need to try. If the media hears from enough architects on a regular and routine basis we can make an impact. After all, we are their readers. They will appreciate our attentiveness to what they write.
Bruce D. Turner, AIA
Co-Chair, AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee
For more suggestions, refer to AIA Best Practices – Getting Good Press on the web at http://www.aia.org. Please note this is a password protected, member only website. Therefore, we cannot provide a direct link to the site for you. But you can find it under Practicing Architecture; Best Practices; Part 2 – Firm Management; Chapter 6: Marketing and Business Development. You might also find a lot of other beneficial material in this area of the website. You can also find samples of other quick responses here.
If you would like to read the previous articles in this series, please see the following links:
During the AIA National Convention in Philadelphia, AIA South Jersey President, Bruce D. Turner, AIA, was among a group of architects who helped deliver 136 gift boxes to patients at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. Dubbed the Big Green Boxes of Cheer, the event was organized by Andersen Windows and Cheeriodicals, a national corporate team building company that conducts philanthropic events benefiting children’s hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses, Veterans Hospitals and other charities across the country.
The gift boxes were assembled at the Andersen booth on the Expo Floor by the Andersen team, architects, and Cheeriodicals team members, and then delivered to the patients at St. Christopher’s Hospital. The boxes were made up of age-appropriate magazines and activity books, room decorations, puzzles, stickers and games for the children to enjoy.
If you are looking for events geared specifically to the small firm, look no further. The AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) published a list of programs geared specifically to the needs of the small firm. And, if you have any questions stop by the SFx Lounge near the Expo floor. People there will be glad to share their advice. See you in PhilAIAdelphia.
If you’re a small firm or sole practitioner and attending the 2016 AIA National Convention in Philadelphia, you won’t want to miss the Small Firm Exchange (SFx) Lounge. Come by to meet new people, view a demo of the AIA Kinetic App 2.0, and discuss what challenges you most in the practice of architecture. Hear more about the Small Firm Practitioner Collection, a curated lineup of workshops, seminars, events, and other programs designed to help small firm architects unlock their power and apply the latest trends to their practice.
The SFx Lounge offers a great touch-down area, with comfortable lounge furniture, where you can catch up on your work or catch a brief mini-education session to learn about programs and benefits to help you in your practice! Look for the brightly colored cubes just outside of Hall E near the AIA Expo– stop by.
As your AIA New Jersey representative to the SFx, I will be spending some of my free time at the lounge. If you see me there, I will be happy to make introductions.
The AIA Small Firm Exchange Lounge is sponsored by the AIA Trust.
I hope to see you at the Convention!
Bruce D. Turner, AIA
The Small Firm Round Table (SFRT) was recently renamed the Small Firm Exchange (SFx) to better reflect the idea that the group is meant to foster an exchange of ideas and a sharing of experiences.