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How Will Your Firm Handle a Cyberattack?

When discussing cyberattacks with anyone knowledgeable on the topic – security experts, victims, insurers, even the criminals themselves – their ominous warning is the same: it is not if your firm will be attacked, it’s when. In this issue of The Friedman File, we speak with two firms who suffered and survived the nightmare of a ransomware attack, and we offer several crucial steps that every firm should take to protect itself from this growing and potentially catastrophic threat.

A Threat to the Firm’s Existence

On Monday morning, March 25, 2019, Grimm & Parker Architects’ President & CEO Melanie Hennigan led a successful client interview for her firm. Satisfaction quickly turned to disbelief, then to dread when she was informed on the ride back to the office that her firm’s computer network had been encrypted by cybercriminals demanding an exorbitant ransom.

“You don’t realize the pit you feel in your […]

By |2021-08-11T10:31:18-04:00August 2021|Business Strategy, Case Studies, Leadership|

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 […]

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 […]

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|
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