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

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

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

Feastability

Portmanteaus words are a way to add colorful meaning to a thing or occurrence; some terms have become so commonly used they are part of our vocabulary. From the Chunnel to tween and medivac, these words inform us in a twitter-style efficiency. Entrepreneur Magazine often showcases portmanteaus words and the digital age has created many new ones like: Cellfish – an individual who continues talking on their phone when it is clearly being rude or inconsiderate of other people Internest – the cocoon of blankets and pillows you gather around yourself whilst spending long periods of time on the internet Youniverse – a person who has knowledge only of him or herself Nonversation – a completely worthless conversation; small talk Screenager –the typical adolescent who indulges excessively in screen entertainment Masturdating – going out alone to dinner or a movie Badvertising – poorly crafted marketing Hangry – hungry

Breaking Into a New Market

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

Feedback Etiquette

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: Do 1. Collect relevant documents including notes from the process and the actual proposals during or immediately after the

Here’s Your Fee

In speaking with a Principal of an established architectural firm that recently entered the Front Range market, I came to find out he and his colleagues were perplexed by firms’ common practice of sometimes using professional fees as a differentiator when submitting on projects. “What’s the deal with professional architectural fees in this market?“ he asked. Not sure where he was going, I replied, “How do you mean?” He went on to explain that his firm, established in other geographic markets, is not accustomed to deviations in fees between firms. It appears that in the Front Range market, fees carry weight in owners’ hiring decisions and teams are willing to set their fees to differentiate themselves. While our market has a common industry fee (by project type) and although the standard fee has never been corroborated, it is known by all. My new colleague was clearly frustrated as

Denied

After 12 years it finally happened, we were rejected for non-compliance. Like a beat down from Mutombo, we were stunned. After attending a the pre-bid assembly, building a solid team, preparing a thoughtful proposal, and so much more, we received notification that our submittal was missing one form and, thus, was incomplete and rejected. What to do now?? We were crushed, but quickly went to work. First, we confirmed the accuracy of the error. It was true, we did not submit one form out of the 100 requested (okay, I exaggerate). Secondly, we pleaded our case as to why we should be considered despite our error--crickets. Lastly, there was not much left to do but have a beer, wallow, and contemplate the lessons this setback taught us. 1) It reminded us that procurement policies are stringent on public projects. Procurement departments are charged with the responsibility of making

Liar, Liar

So, the dilemma unfolded, a crossroads of sorts. What to do? I am sure that most A/E/C professionals have been faced with a situation where they had to decide between telling a client what they would like to hear versus the painful truth. We received a RFP calling for a combined design and construction schedule of six months. Upon analyzing the project details, it was clear that an eleven-month schedule was required. This left us with the option of proposing a schedule and fee that matched the client’s delusions, or present the reality. Do we tell the truth and risk losing the project? Do we tell the client what they want to hear? Should we lie? The answer was obvious - present the truth. As an owner’s representative, it is counterintuitive to mislead the owner. We are, after all, supposed to watch out for their best interests. We secured

Present Like A Super Bowl Announcer

Being from Chicago, I was blessed by having the Bears’ games announced by Pat Summerall and John Madden (I won’t even mention Harry Cary since this blog is football-themed).  I learned from these greats and others that presenting is an art form and every presentation matters.  What can you learn from these professionals? 1. Know when to stop talking.  Some call it diarrhea-of-the-mouth, but the fact is, what you say may not be as important as you think. If someone asks a question they usually just want an answer, they don’t need the entire history of how you came to your conclusion. 2. Know your audience. The Super Bowl announcers do a great job of getting their message out to a mass audience. This game draws a wide demographic, not just the religious watchers, to what will be an epic clash. When you present, keep in mind that not

Trick or Treat?

Recently, we were interviewing for a project and upon entering the room, I was perplexed to see a table full of treats that would rival a school bake sale. Turns out, our competition thought the client was diabetic and brought them the fuel to get through the day. We didn’t bring anything; should we have followed up with tea, perhaps? The experience heightened my awareness of the give-em-treats approach. It has been interesting to observe our clients' reactions. Let me share a few stories that come to mind. A team came into an interview and gave a solid presentation. Everyone in the room felt positive about the possible fit between the firm and client. Upon their departure, the firm’s Principal handed out a custom branded box with the potential client’s logo along with theirs. Inside the box were branded items and snacks that totaled approximately $25. The client