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Technology Enables Staff, Culture Empowers Them

Many of our colleagues are working to adapt to the new reality of working remotely. As a team that has been operating this way for sixteen years, we say, welcome! In speaking with colleagues about this stay-at-home time reality, it is good to hear that so many are having an easy time setting up the remote technology to allow employees to make the transition while maintaining productivity. The unfortunate news is that there never was a technology problem; solutions like Skype, Zoom, TEAMs, and Webx have been effectively implemented for years. The truth is that the actual challenge is more complicated than laptops and file-sharing; it’s a cultural shift. As a leader of a firm built upon a remote business model, I have been asked many times over the years about our “work from home structure” (yes, often in air quotes). The dialogue almost always includes a statement of

The New Normal: Virtual Interviews

It didn't take long in this time of social separation for one of our clients to face the challenge of how to manage the procurement interviews. Our client remained bullish on keeping public sector projects moving forward and shifted to hosting the interviews online. In the end, the same interview elements that win awards from an in-person setting proved to be the same for the online format. It was gratifying to witness all of the teams rise to the occasion and represent their firms professionally. Whether you are an owner or a member of the AEC community, you are likely going to face setting up an interview or presentation soon. Having worked within a virtual office setting for over sixteen years, we have seen what helps and what hinders the effectiveness of online meetings. There is a myriad of technologies you can use for online meetings, as the interviewee,

Leveraging Remote Technology

So, you're on WebX and feeling like you solved your work-from-home challenges. Your staff is staying connected and working on tasks. But there is more. The success of continuing effective collaboration in a remote business model is dependent on the training of employees in best practices and clarifying expectations are the real make-it-or-break-it. (Technology Enables Staff, Culture Empowers Them).  After sixteen years of managing an all-remote business structure, there are some pillars to success for both external and internal interactions that my team and I have discovered. Virtual Meetings with Clients and Colleagues Everyone on your team needs to be empowered to set up a virtual meeting. We use Microsoft Teams to conduct our external and internal meetings. It proves to be easier and more effective than calling someone's cell phone. Set up the meeting for success. If you initiated the meeting, it is your responsibility to take a

Scammed

Earlier this year, I received a call from my controller asking me to confirm the wire transfer that I requested for $35,000. Surprised, I asked, “what wire transfer?” She had received not only a request but responses from me by email approving the transfer.  Fortunately, she was astute to realize we have never done a wire transfer before and that we don’t send money without approved invoices. So, what did we do? First, we contacted our IT director who commended us on our prudence and said there is nothing you can do, and at that dollar amount, the police or feds won’t care enough to try and catch them. Second, we looked at the email exchange. What became clear was that this was very well calculated and planned; the email, logo signature, and even the language I would normally use was so accurate it was really convincing. It was

Stereotypes

It takes time to develop stereotypes, and with the owner’s representation being a newer niche service in the AEC industry, we have not fully formulated a stigma, but it appears to be in the works. As an architect turned owner's representative fifteen years ago, I have gained a perspective as I guide clients through the design and construction process. I quickly learned that there are owners sometimes buy into widely held beliefs stemming from architecture and construction professionals' stereotypes. Despite consistent efforts to shed our respective stereotypes to owners, they continue to resurface time and time again. Most people form their understanding of the profession of architecture from the cinema or news articles about high profile projects, such as airports or art museums. The prominence of “starchitects” took off in the dot com era of 2003, and some owners we contract with are still reacting to the perceived attitude

Work from Anywhere (that your project requires)

One of the most common questions I receive about running Wember is about our work-from-anywhere business structure. Our company does not have an office. Yes, the cobbler's son has no shoes, and we, who manage design and construction, do not have our own office. How could this be? Let me explain how it all started. After winning a large program of work with Anythink Library, I hired my first employee; I was ready for the big time, and we started looking for an office. After the first project kick-off meeting with our client, she casually walked by one of the offices in their administration building and said casually, “here is your office.”  We settled in and delayed renting. Our next client went on to say, “…and here’s your office.” We quickly realized the benefits of working alongside our clients and questioned our intent to rent. Over time we began

The Construction Labor Shortage is an Owner Issue

It is predicted that there will be a pilot shortage. Over the next two decades, 87 new pilots will need to be trained every day to be ready to fly a commercial airliner in order to meet our insatiable demand to travel by air. Industry leaders are finding ways to attract today’s youth to a career in aviation, but given the time and cost it takes to become a pilot, the solution must be multi-faceted. Many ideas are being implemented including the use of autonomous aircraft, shortening the pilot training time frame and by the opening of aviation education facilities, such as the Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight Campus in Centennial, Colorado and Metro States Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science. Like the aviation industry, labor shortages continue to be a significant challenge in the construction market. Owners are not willing to simply accept higher costs

Deciding Between Renovating a Clubhouse or Building A New One

Typically, when a clubhouse hits around 15 years since a major renovation has been conducted and the membership is beginning to feel either the neglect or lack of modern amenities, the ownership starts thinking, is now the time to embark on a major change in the form of a capital improvement project? The next elephant in the room to address is deciding whether to renovate or build new. The gut reaction might be to renovate the existing facility, as the perception is that this is the fiscally responsible option to appease the membership. However, renovations, depending on the scale, are not always less expensive than new construction and can come with difficulties not seen with new construction. Some of these difficulties would include asbestos or other hazardous materials abatement, difficult site conditions, poor soils, and outdated mechanical and structural systems. When considering a renovation, ask yourself the following:

Cars and Relationships

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

Scary Merger Names Part 2

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