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

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

Is The Need For Speed Costing You More Than You Realize?

During the recession, the projects that were funded enjoyed the ability to move quickly through design and construction phases seamlessly. The abundance of “A” team members, available subcontractor labor, and an attitude of appreciation from all involved, created a climate for producing successful projects. As the bull market continues across Colorado, we are still seeing bear market attitudes toward schedules. Driving the project schedule is critical to the project flow and it has to be realistic. The benefits of a professionally built and collaboratively discussed schedule include: the ability to prove to your funding source that you have the project under control; prevent runaway costs born out of accelerated design; and it keep the project momentum maximized. 1. As a licensed architect, I have learned that unless you are replicating a project, contemplation is a necessary and valuable trait of architects and the design process. If you know

Myth #7 – Owner’s Reps Select the General Contractor

It was a good day, indeed. Earlier this spring, Wember was notified that we had been selected to serve as owner’s representative for the much anticipated State of Colorado, Department of Agriculture’s new laboratory. Our efforts of tracking the project for over four years paid off! We had worked diligently to align our company’s experience and key team members and poured hours into devising a thoughtful proposal. We knew this was a special project and began to realize its high-profile nature by the emails that began populating my inbox before our contact was even signed. Within days, I received over a dozen emails from general contractors who had heard the news and were preparing their submission strategy. While I was encouraged to see the amount of proactive effort being put forth, I began to get a little nervous after reading a few… What do we have to do

A Look Back at 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

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

Indemnification – House Bill HB15-1197

On April 14, 2015, Colorado State Legislature unanimously passed House Bill HB15-1197, which was supported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Colorado Municipal League (CML) and many other organizations.  An overview of the bill by the Colorado Municipal League reads: Limits public entities from requiring certain contractors from duty to defend obligations in construction contracts. Applies to architectural, engineering, surveying, or other design services. Allows the public entity to recover any costs of defense attributable to the contractor after the liability or fault has been determined by adjudication, alternative dispute resolution, or mutual agreement. Effective Sept. 1, 2015. What does this mean for you as an owner, as a consultant?  Let’s start with “indemnification” first.  If you are like me one of the first things you do when you receive an RFP on a public project is review two items: Does the RFP include language stating that