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Business Strategy

Confronting Loss in Your A/E/C Firm: One Firm’s Story

Loss was all around us in 2020. Recent polls found that between 20% and 33% of all Americans knew someone who died from COVID-19, while many millions lost jobs, life-affirming activities and other cherished freedoms during the pandemic.

In this installment of The Friedman File, we discuss how loss affects A/E/C businesses and the people who work in them. We examine this sad fact of life through the lens of a resilient architecture firm that encountered great loss in 2020, and – with strategic foresight and a rock-solid culture – expressed their collective grief and marched forward undeterred.

The Best Laid Plans…

JLG Architects was looking forward to a big 2020. The 150-person employee-owned firm carried a record backlog into the new year and was pursuing a jewel of a project – the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota. With 11 offices in Minnesota, […]

By |2021-04-12T16:27:53-04:00April 2021|Business Strategy, Case Studies, Leadership|

Lessons in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: stories from the front lines

Even before much of the nation erupted into protest at the brutal death of George Floyd last May, social justice was on the minds and tongues of Americans to a degree unseen since the turbulent Sixties. For much of the past decade, in corporate boardrooms and small firms across the United States, leaders assessed and addressed their organization’s commitment to DEI – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we examine how socially conscious AEC firms are creating DEI initiatives that contribute to improvements in employee morale and overall financial and operational performance.

The Business Case for DEI

Whether driven by a grassroots effort among rank-and-file employees or a top-down strategy, even the most selfless pursuit of practices and policies that further the goal of DEI come with an undeniable incentive — businesses that embrace DEI perform better.

Global management consulting firm McKinsey […]

2020: Lessons learned and where we go from here

If there’s one phrase that describes 2020, it is not “business as usual.” The ways in which A/E/C and environmental consulting firms have fared in this unprecedented year have been as varied as the businesses that they run. In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re sharing some lessons learned, how firms have coped (or thrived) and what we see as ways forward in a still uncertain landscape.

Leading during crisis

While I’ve long advocated for transparent management, 2020 has required that on a whole new level. At times of economic uncertainty, employees look to their leaders to chart a course, to have a plan and to enact, if necessary, transformational changes or survival measures. It hasn’t been easy to be a leader this year, but many have risen to the challenge: enlisting staff in the need to create new services, implementing firmwide business development […]

Baking business development into your culture: how this firm did it

In my many years of advising AEC and environmental consulting firms on effective business development practices, I’ve seen that firms who are successful have several things in common:

  • They understand the need to position themselves within their key markets using a one-to-many marketing strategy (instead of relying solely on 1:1 relationship-building).
  • They put systems in place that allow that strategy to deliver valuable data that can drive and inform BD strategy and implementation.
  • They align both business development and marketing efforts to clear and client-focused business plans for each of their key markets.

This level of strategy and focus is what allows firms to successfully drive growth, brand and client relationships. But it’s not always easy to implement. Trying to drive the effort from the marketing department without enforcement and accountability from the top is rarely effective. Employing marketing and BD tactics without clear […]

Client selection is more important than ever

When the economy starts to look rocky and project opportunities may be diminishing, it can be tempting to start saying yes to work that’s not a great fit (but it’s work) or chasing RFPs.

I saw a lot of this happening during the Global Financial Crisis (2008–2009), and I’m seeing it again now. In times of uncertainty, of course, we may be more willing to take on a project that is not ideal. But too often, firms start to convince themselves that throwing best practices out the window is their best option.

In this issue of The Friedman File, we’re talking about why that’s not a good idea and offering some helpful guidelines for creating and implementing a thoughtful client selection process, one that strengthens your firm for the future.

What we’re doing that isn’t working

Many firms do have informal go/no-go processes in place. But the […]

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 […]

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 |2019-02-06T11:13:00-05:00February 2019|Business Strategy, Case Studies|

The one social media tool you must master

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 […]

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