Wember 2.0: Where Are We Going?

Twenty years ago, I set off to start Wember. Why would a thirty-two-year-old do this? Nobody told me not to or that I couldn’t or shouldn’t. I had been prepared with an architectural degree, solid years of architecture training with great companies, obtained LEED accreditation, and an MBA. I always wanted to own my own business. My first businesses were selling worms, an independent paper route, and an auto/boat detailing business. I worked in construction and had some interesting jobs, but owning a company always appealed to me. Although I was working on great projects, the ceiling at the firm seemed fixed. I had a backup plan; my wife had stable employment. My salary was good, but with the hours I was working, my hourly rate was easy to match going solo. I had mentors in place. My mom had just lost a battle with Creutzfeldt Jacobs Disease, an

Joint Ventures in Architecture and Design

Are two heads better than one? A study in National Geographic tested this theory to find that this is true in certain experiments. The key to the success of a team outperforming individuals with the same task came down to communication; when solving problems together, if the team was equally matched, equally respected, and equally contributed, their results of taking simple visual test questions did outperform individuals. Upon review, I think we would all say this is a logical finding and conclude more is better, but is designing a project applicable, and will the outcomes be better? When a perfect match is found, it's truly enchanting, reminiscent of Dolly and Kenny, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, or Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The question arises: How can one achieve such results, and is it worth taking the risk? Imagine you're in a situation like we were in. We had

Six on Six Football and the Construction Labor Shortage

It was a few years back; I was at a Board meeting of a rural school in Colorado. The board was comprised of hard-working, big-hearted, and dedicated individuals. We worked together to resolve many issues, but one gripe outside the project scope kept surfacing: football. Understand that many of the board members were not only citizens of the town; they were graduates of the school we were working on. It would go like this: we would finish the meetings and discuss plans for the weekend, school activities, and other important local events. Certain board members would be jolted into frustration about the football team or lack thereof. The smaller rural school districts were combining schools to have enough players or retaining their own teams and opting for 6-man football. The glory days stories of them playing football out of school spirit and local pride were rooted deep. There was

Digging Up Dom

I was engaged in the Paria River Canyon on a hike with my wife 25 years ago. We recreated the concept of digging up Dom from the cult classic movie Fandango to commemorate the event. When we returned to the hike entrance, we celebrated the occasion by opening a uniquely shaped bottle of spirits from Spain and marking the moment. We then wrote notes to each other, buried the bottle, and vowed to return in twenty-five years. Since then, we have raised three amazing kids, had careers, and lost loved ones. Time goes by so fast. During that time, I was also introduced to what used to be a widespread tradition in new buildings: the time capsule. You can find the story of a time capsule gone wrong here. 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Buried for 50 Years (roadkillcustoms.com). We have put time capsules in only a fraction of our buildings,

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

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

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