Employee Owned: How We Got Here

Many entrepreneurs say business is a marathon, but they are wrong; it is an ultramarathon or a Triple Bypass which journeys over Juniper, Loveland, and Vail Pass. Although it appears that these are solo journeys with the athlete as the focal point, the reality is there is a support team, family, and coaches/mentors that make all of this possible. Simon Sinek states, like these races, “There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.” When Wember was formed, I was thirty-one years old. I was reminded how young I was when, time after time, I would be asked in meetings if my father was joining; I would kindly say, “Not today,” but never told them he was a pilot. I grew a beard to try and make myself look older, and now I am shaving it to try and look younger. I correlate the

Snowplow Effect

In our nineteen years of providing Owner's Representative services, we have created and responded to many requests for proposals. The RFP document is critical to getting you the best responses. A poorly structured RFP can lead to a quick no/go from candidates that you would want to work with. Well-written RFPs provide clear direction and clear information related to the project's current status, program, and goals. All too often RFPs are issued outlining the scope of services and general project descriptions but lack information related to funding and schedules. Risk drives costs, Owner's, you should make an effort to include this critical information so the design team, contractors, or Owner's representatives can provide you with a comprehensive response. Why is this so important? Fees for many consultants are based on the scope of services, budget, and timeline. Without this information, explicitly provided teams will generate their own assumptions could

The Case for the One-Page Proposal

I often get asked if our clients really read all of the content in the proposals, and the answer is surprisingly yes. Now I know that not every team member is as thorough as others, but the committee understands that they will be held to providing comments and an opinion, which can't be done without reviewing the documents. Some clients treat them like holy tablets, others like a yearbook with notes and stickers. But what if there wasn't a book to review? Wember tested this approach on a recent project and presented our findings to the attendees of COAA. Before we get to that, here's the back story. Wember represented a client on an ambitious one-of-a-kind office/hangar/restaurant structure. It should be noted that the design was to be heavily influenced by the Concord. This particular business owner wanted a corporate headquarters "as iconic as the Eiffel Tower." No small

Vetting a Cultural Fit Part 1

The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus had its official grand opening Friday, November 20th, 2015.  As we look back to when we started the project on December 12, 2008 (yes, nearly seven years ago) one of the more memorable moments was the selection of the design team. In Part 1 of this two-part blog, we will focus on the submitted design proposals. Upon being hired to serve as Owner Representative, we met with the staff and toured the Museum. We quickly picked up on the culture of the facility and staff – everything they do is with the end goal of providing children opportunities to learning through play. When it came time to generate the architectural design RFP for the expansion and addition of this prized community facility, the client communicated that it was imperative that the design firm selected not only be capable of designing a

Making The Pitch To Bring On An Owner’s Representative

It is true; not all projects need an owner’s representative. Determining if you need one is complicated, but here are some points to consider: Project Size. The smaller the project, the less the likelihood that a third-party project manager is required. Generally speaking, projects under $1.5M lack the complexity and scale to absorb the additional costs. Consider engaging project managers’ on-call services to procure your the architect and general contractor, negotiate contracts, and serve as an advisor throughout the project. This can be tricky because often, in-staff believes they have the capacity and experience to manage all phases of a project, but many times, they don’t and become overloaded. Owner’s representatives typically average about three to four projects simultaneously; this specialization keeps us at the top of our game and can make us a better match for the tasks at hand. Leadership has to determine how to procure outside

The Three Cs of Interviewing

At a recent industry event, I was asked, “What are the three most important things clients look for from teams during an interview?” Over the years, we observed what wins over clients and what falls flat. First, congratulations on making it to the interview. In 2020 the average response count to CMAR and Design RFPs on projects which we are managing has been fourteen.  Standing out and making it to the top of the list is an achievement.  By making it to the interview clearly, your company has demonstrated that they are the right size and are qualified to complete the project.  I suspect, too, that the team proposed has some unique attributes that made them stand out.  So what will the client look for in the interview? I liken the three most important things to look for in an interview with the three C’s of a diamond. Capability:

The Question I Am Most Asked

I often get asked, "Why did you leave architecture to become an owner's representative?" When asked this question at a recent conference, I found myself robotically repeating what is a partial truth, albeit a diplomatic response. It goes something like this: While I am still technically an architect, I did indeed choose a different path. When I worked as an architect, my responsibility was to manage a team of designers, draftsmen, interior designers, and consultants. At one point, I was managing eight decent-size projects and developed my skills for project management.  The truth is I am a much better project manager than a designer. There were a couple of outside forces working too. First, I was working with an owner's representative on some of the projects I was managing, and I was attracted to the role. Second, I had obtained my LEED Accreditation and was completing my MBA, which

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

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