Owner’s Representation

Scary Merger Names Part 2

By |October 30th, 2018|

The A/E/C industry has seen many mergers and acquisitions in the past few years. As a follow up to the original “Scary Merger Name” blog, we gave some thought to a few more that would be fun to see!

Zehren & Associates+Zmistowski Design Group+Zone 4 Architects = Zzzz Architects

B2sj Design Group +Zone 4 Architects+Yow Architects = BS 4 Yow Group

Greenfield Architects + Brown David P + Blueline Architects PC  = Rainbow Color Design

Hairabedian ARG Architects + Klipp (now GKK now Cannon) = Hair Klipp

Conger Fuller Architects + Shike Design = Fuller Shike Architects

Craig Melvin Architects + Hobbs Design Firm = Celvin and Hobbs Architects

Vaught Frye Architects + Theodore K Guy Associates = Frye Guy Architects

Barker Rinker Seacat and OZ Architects = BROZ

Way Architects + Unreal Construction LLC = Way Unreal Design / Build

Reynolds + Arapahoe Architects = Reynolds Arap Architects

Gunson Architects  + Abo Group = Guns and Abo Architects

Bucher Design Studio Inc.+ Fisher Associates Architects = Bucher Fish Architects

RNL Design + McDonald Architects = RNL McDonald Architects

Sunlit Architecture + Moon Hill Design Inc = Sunlit Moon Architecture

Steamboat Architectural Associates + Sprocket Design Build Inc = Steam Sprocket Associates

Way Architects + Fenno Hoffman Architects = Way Off Architects

O’Bryan Partnership Inc + Myller Scott Architect+Godden | Sudik Architects, Inc. = O’My God Architects

Nunn Construction + JE Dunn = Nunn Dunn Construction

Melinder White + White Construction + The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. = Miles of White Construction

GH Phipps Construction + FCI Constructors = C in the FGHI Constructors

Turner Construction + MW Golden Constructors = Turn Gold Construction

Mark Young Construction Inc. + Mortenson = Young Mort & Sons

Maxwell + Iron Mike Construction = Max Iron Construction



“Dear Abby, I’ve Been Married 20 Years And ….”

By |October 16th, 2017|

This year my wife, Vicki, and I celebrated 20 years of marriage; and we can both tell you we are grateful, it’s been mostly harmonious. What makes it work? I’m no Dear Abby, but as I reflect on how my wife and I interact, I realize there is an alignment between the actions that help personal relationships succeed and those that bolster client relationships.

(1) Put the toilet seat down. OK, not literally, but identify what makes your client insane. People can drive others crazy through their idiosyncrasies. Watch body language as you just may have a habit that is getting under your client’s skin, such as how you greet them, address them, or smack your gum. This isn’t about you; it’s about them and their issues, so don’t take it personally.

(2) Tell her she is beautiful. This is easy for me to tell my wife because it’s true. That said, when she was nine months pregnant and was miserable with edema and emotionally done being pregnant, I made a conscious effort to remain patient and make her feel loved. Everyone has insecurities and knowing what your client’s are, and managing them correctly, is critical. Ever stop to think that your client is scared to death about screwing up a project? A compliment and or a bit of encouragement from an industry professional can go a long way in calming nerves.

(3) Throw them a life line. Recently we were on a flight and I got stuck in a conversation with my new-found neighbor. Being the astute partner my wife is, she pulled me aside letting me know she had something in her eye and asked for my help. After the winking surgery was complete the [...]

Should You Be Using AIA Contract Documents?

By |August 16th, 2017|

In 2011 I wrote a blog comparing the two primary contract platforms in the A/E/C industry, AIA contract documents and ConsensusDOCS, https://wemberinc.com/consensusdocs-vs-aia-construction-forms/.   After a recent training session with a team of legal professionals, I was surprised by their strong support the use of the AIA Contract Documents. The AIA promotes the use of their documents through following statements below, also found on their website: https://www.aiala.com/why-use-aia-documents-2/

AIA documents are fair.  AIA contracts and forms are consensus documents that reflect advice from practicing architects, contractors, engineers as well as owners, surety bond producers, insurers, and attorneys. AIA documents balance the interests of all the parties, so no one interest, including that of the architect, is unfairly represented.
AIA documents reflect industry practices, not theory.  Where practices are inconsistent or no guidelines for practice exist, the AIA documents provide a consensus-based model for practitioners to follow.
AIA documents reflect changing construction practices and technology.  AIA documents are revised regularly to accommodate changes in professional and industry practices, insurance, and technology.
AIA documents reflect the law.  AIA documents are revised and updated to incorporate changes resulting from court interpretations and rulings, legal precedent, and nuances.
AIA documents are flexible.  AIA documents can be easily modified to accommodate individual project demands. Such changes are easily distinguished from the original, printed language.
AIA documents are easy to interpret.  AIA documents use the common meaning of words and phrases. Industry and legal jargon is avoided whenever possible.

I find the definition of many of the terms used in the clauses above could be debated, especially when determining what is “fair” and “flexible.”  But one item stands out from the rest: #4, “AIA documents reflect the law.”  It [...]

Cars and Relationships

By |July 9th, 2017|

My wife’s car was twelve years old and between the paint touch-ups from my guy Benny and the engine that rattles more than an angry snake, it was time to move on. I reached out to my brother and resident deal-hunter for advice. He told me not to be afraid of buying a car out of state if it was the right car. He expanded on the concept by indicating that when you buy a car from a far distance the built-in road trip back to home allows you to form a bond with the car and your travel mate making the new car an experience rather than a purchase. Although I love watching shows about junkyard cars coming back to life, I would not claim that I am a “car guy.”  That said, I do understand the attachment that comes along with major purchases like this, especially ones that offer a bit of a vacation.

So we did it. We bought the used car my wife had found in Salt Lake City and my thirteen-year-old son and I flew out in the morning. We completed the purchase and cruised the ten plus hour drive with impromptu stops to enjoy the sites along the way.  My techie, knowledge devouring son had read the entire manual by hour two and discovered things about the car we didn’t know we purchased, like remote-start. Around the bend arrives Grand Junction–time to hike through the canyon; at Rifle–grab an ice cream, and so on.

During the hours of windshield time I pondered what my brother had said and realized that starting a relationship with a new client and project team has this same opportunities as the car-purchase-inspired road trip. So [...]

Damn, I’m 45

By |June 20th, 2017|

“Turns out, 45 years old is just 45 years old. An age that means you are old enough not to feel young anymore, but not old enough to complain about it. It’s like the middle child of ages… no one is impressed or thinks your turning 45 is a big deal but you.”  Huffington Post

When Wember turned 10, I was 42 and I wrote this blog, https://wemberinc.com/wember-turns-10/; it’s fun to be 10 after all! Today, I turn 45 and reflect on advice that I have received over the years from those who matter most.

Don’t do dumb shit ~ Only a father could give you such words of wisdom
Be on path by age 30 ~ If you’re going to be taken seriously, by age thirty you have better know where you’re headed.
Life’s not fair and then you die ~ Growing up the youngest of six it felt that many things were not fair, you have to get over it. The irony of my mom’s advice is that she passed at 62 from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is contracted by one in a million. Even when sick in bed she would state, “life’s not fair and then you die.”
Grit and perseverance outdoes raw talent. Raw talent fades, perseverance is a trait to be nurtured; if you have it you will accomplish what you set out to do.
Family, friends, beer and then hockey. Have your priorities straight and keep them that way.

My dad swears to me that 45-50 is the golden age of life; you are old enough to be respected, you have your full physical capabilities and, if you have planned properly, you have the financial advantage to [...]

Who Should Own the Contingency?

By |March 2nd, 2017|

A good contingency plan requires continuous thought and planning, whether you are going on vacation to Mexico, climbing Mt. Everest, or tackling a capital improvement project–things go wrong. As a father of three, and a business owner, I find myself commonly swerving through what could go wrong next and how to circumvent potential obstacles and recover from bumps in the road. I am not being pessimistic; I am being a survivalist.

When it comes to navigating a project budget, proper management of the contingency is an area that can influence a successful project outcome. Who manages it? Who carries it? And, how do you make sure it doesn’t get inflated to the point of stopping your project? While there are many discussions on the subject of contingency we could hash over, this blog addresses why an owner and general contractor would want to have a portion of the contingency in the GMP.

1)  Does it exist?
Having the contingency in the GMP as part of the budget gives the general contractor, and the other consultants, confidence. They are able to adjust their risk management by being informed and not operating with a blind spot. Owners can tell a project team the contingency exists, but many have been burned by having those funds removed when there is a change in leadership or poor budget management.

2) Can I access it?
Just because a contingency exists in the master budget, doesn’t mean that the owner will release it. Having the contingency in the GMP prompts the necessary conversation of how it can be used and when; this communication often leads to smoother approval processes.

3) Trust.
By setting up the contingency in a transparent manner, the hired team members appreciate [...]

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    Myth #1 Busted – We Have Long-standing Relationships With All Clients

Myth #1 Busted – We Have Long-standing Relationships With All Clients

By |February 7th, 2017|

Last year I was honored to be selected to serve on a panel of owner’s representatives at the 2016 AIA Symposium. While the discussions that ensued were informative and thought provoking, it was the dialogue that occurred off stage that stuck with me most. I was repeatedly approached by inquiring architects who wanted to know “Why don’t Owner’s Representatives issue better RFPs and guide their clients through a more refined selection process?” While I am not the owner’s representative industry spokesman, I defended myself (and our colleagues) by explaining that owner’s representatives are not always the culprit of these poorly crafted RFPs.

Upon returning from the conference, I was curious, what percentage of RFPs do we help owners generate? While it is true that owner’s representatives sometimes have a long-standing relationship with certain clients, we aren’t always involved in the procurement of architects, or even general contractors for the matter.  I inventoried the projects we managed in the last three years and determined that 55% have the architect in place before we were brought on board. Of the 45% that had not yet procured the architect, over half had already begun the process and our first tasks were to assist on the shortlisting and interview processes. The fact is that over the last three years we led the procurement process, and thus the writing of the RFP, for the design team at a rate of 18%.

While these statistics might come as a surprise to some, it sounded about right to me; there are certain causal scenarios that we see frequently playout. Master planning, for example, often leads to the procurement of the already contracted design firm for continued services. While the budget might be in [...]

2016 – A Look Back

By |December 22nd, 2016|

John Glenn passed away, Donald Trump is President Elect, and developers are turning Nazi camps into luxury resorts; 2016 appears to be the year of “What just happened?”

More close to home, I have reviewed the AIA, AGC, and the Deltek reports, spoken with numerous industry professionals, and analyzed trends on the projects we are managing to conclude the following opinion: generally speaking, there continues to be skeptical optimism related to continued growth and architects feel less positive than general contractors; this makes sense since much of the design work associated with the uptick in 2016 is complete while contractors are still riding the delayed wave of new work. Companies hired more staff in 2016 than in previous years and we saw a trend of professionals changing companies at a higher rate than previous years.  Many seasoned professionals are retiring and the absorption of smaller firms by larger ones, although slower than the 2015 record of 234 sales of U.S.-based A/E firms a 5.4% increase over 20141 is still occurring.

Size Matters
We experienced clients basing project decisions on the continued escalation of design and construction costs. We also saw a  trend of projects increasing in both size (square feet) and programs of work (i.e. large school programs). Clients desire for risk mitigation increased and owners defaulted to the large-sized, resource rich companies. These larger firms didn’t just win the large jobs in 2016, they won jobs of all sizes; it seems significant portfolios, robust teams and the ability to quickly generate designs was the winning strategy in 2016.  As the big guys continue to absorb small firms, albeit at a slower rate than the 2015 record-year, you would think they would depart from the recession mentality [...]

Breaking Into a New Market

By |December 4th, 2016|

I was recently asked by a smaller-sized architecture firm how to win work for a project type with which they had no prior experience. Many of us have faced this quandary. It can be frustrating; but, with tenacity and smart business decisions it can be done. We went on to discuss some options.

1.  Hire for it. At one point, we had no school experience and wanted to break into the market. When we had an opportunity to add staff we didn’t hire our best friend, we looked for a resume that fit our strategic plan. The project manager brought along a deep rolodex (okay, CMS) and the market has been open ever since.

2.  Devise a creative teaming approach that provides a unique strategy or solution; it will almost always garner attention, if not win you a top contender spot.

3.  Start shaking hands.  Although it’s not typically an instant return-on-investment, a grassroots, relationship-based strategy can get you a foot in the door. Expect to start small and enjoy the inevitable growth.

4.  Remember the forgotten. When the urban markets heat up rural markets are often neglected. Go the distance.

5.  Take a risk. This is my favorite option as is can produce results quickly. Firms that are established in a particular market will play it safe submitting on RFPs often with pre-packaged proposals. Find a unique angle and go all in.

~ Paul Wember, Owner’s Representative

Feedback Etiquette

By |June 30th, 2016|

The cursed proposal, and the hopefully-to-follow, nerve-inducing interview, are both part of what the A/E/C industry endures to win work. The process costs teams thousands of dollars in staff resources, printing costs, even on small projects. It is a serious decision and investment to submit.

When working with owners during the procurement process, we advise them to respect the efforts put forth by the submitting firms, particularly those who weren’t awarded the work. We communicate that they prepare detailed feedback to those who inquire. Typically, not all firms will place the call. In our experience, general contractors are more comfortable (1 in 3) than architects (1 in 5) reaching out to us or the Owner.

We provide the following list of dos and don’ts for our clients to consider:


1. Collect relevant documents including notes from the process and the actual proposals during or immediately after the interview.
2. Record comments from the selection committee immediately after the interviews occur. Your opinion is nice, but, remarks like “I had you as number one,” are of little value when trying to improve.
3. Respect that this is a difficult call to make.
4. Express a sincere thank you to those submitting.
5. Be honest—provide specific information on how they can improve. If the person on the other end of the phone becomes hostile, simply and professionally, end the call.

Do Not

1. Feel threatened. The caller is looking on how to win future work, not burn bridges or overturn the committee’s decision.
2. Retrieve a voicemail and respond with a two-line text.
3. Ask, “Did you submit?”
4. Say, “I recycled your proposal, so I don’t have any feedback.”
5. Issue the scorecard by email as sufficient feedback. Getting a [...]