Archive for 'Other Voices'
This is the time of year when wealthy individuals begin to consult with their accountants and financial advisers to assess how their investments have performed in the past 12 months. Although financial advisers are rarely advocates for spending, this year may reveal a modest exception.
A few potential clients with recovered investment capital are ready to allocate a bit of their money to re-boot dormant or deferred projects. These individuals are, just now, receiving news from their advisers. And these individuals may, in turn, begin to call you to revive dormant projects, or to discuss new projects that might begin in 2011.
“In this prolonged recession, we have two choices, it seems: We can hibernate for a number of years, like Rip Van Winkle, waking conveniently to a new world. Or we can make the time to consider new business development strategies that highlight our firm’s value and that put us closer to new projects. Concurrently, we can consider ways to improve our ability to stay abreast of trends in technology and practice.
The reality of global outsourcing is likely to change the nature of firms of every size. Our day-to-day tasks may shift from directing in-house staff to one where we review outsourced documents for design and code compliance. Can you fit in, and if so, how?”
“We need to increase our value with our clients as service providers, and part of providing good service is to show a clear-headed understanding of money,” advises Michael Bernard. “Use the contract to convey established billing practice,” advises Bernard. “The contract is the memory of the project, with all parties signatory.”
What should be shown on the invoice? “Sometimes the owner gives us an invoice template,” says Bernard. “I attach this invoice to the sub-consultant agreement so that the sub-consultants can see how the information they provide to me is in turn provided to the client.”
How do you handle it when your clients get behind?
“Call them up!” says Michael Bernard. Don’t push this task off onto your bookkeeper. If the client writes the checks, the principal should make the call. “Keep your voice neutral and unemotional. Rehearse beforehand if you need to. The message is that, as a small business, cash flow is vital to your operations, and you’d appreciate them sending an immediate payment.”
“One former client felt so guilty about a tardy payment that he paid up even to his current charges that hadn’t been billed yet!”
A recent conference, KA Connect 2010, highlighted the growing role of information technology as a driver of practice in architecture, engineering, and construction including both emerging trends and issues relevant to current practice. Over 35 speakers shared perspectives from architects, engineers, software developers, client-side construction managers, business development consultants, and outsourcing consultants. It was a rare opportunity to speculate on how to transition from present to future practice. These transitions are not painless, as anyone who’s implemented BIM can tell you. However, once in place, these new technologies and practices can result in greater integration and engagement during the design process.
“Recently, I spoke to a group of architecture students. We had just concluded a panel discussion on career alternatives to the traditional practice of architecture. I asked the students if they intended to pursue careers outside the familiar realm of traditional practice. Out of 30 students, 25 raised their hands.
I asked a second question: how many of the students intended to engage in the effort to obtain their architectural license? In response to this question, eight students raised their hands. As I see it, the future of the architectural profession is in the hands of these eight students – and three of those eight are “on the fence” about whether to pursue a career in architecture or to explore other professional options.”
“Chances are, the new economy will not return to its former vigor. Architects must develop strategies that look to the future, rather than relying on solutions that worked six months ago. Prospective clients will likely pay in cash and drive hard bargains. Do not be false or opportunistic in your outreach; but do join boards that would benefit from your commitment. And remember that the telephone will not ring if we stare at it.”
Michael Bernard, Principal