Navigating our Moment, and the Path Ahead

As the global Covid-19 pandemic deepened this spring, and as each of us scrambled to adjust to a new (ab)normal – I (like many others) struggled with what to say and do to add value for clients, colleagues, and friends.  Candidly I wasn’t in the mood for selling – anymore than I was interested in buying.  Sure, my mailbox was stuffed each morning with the wailing voices of opportunists offering ‘the three things you must do now,’ or ‘the five keys to pandemic success’ or ‘how to pivot now’ (to God knows what).  Undoubtedly, some of these folks had good stuff – but frankly, their timing […]

A Real Choice Ahead: Head or Hands?

Most AEC firms are a complex mix of services, markets, and geographic reach.  Amalgamated through time, with creativity, optimism, and a can-do spirit – and driven by an opportunistic (rather than strategic) business model – these organizations have today a very diverse set of clients, projects, and expertise.  And most leaders in these firms value highly the diversity they’ve achieved in their business. Still, there is a cost to this diversity (in the operational challenge and complexity of the organization) that is often overlooked.  For example, note that a multi-discipline or multiple studio firm built around five market groups, five service disciplines, and […]

What’s Your Dream … for the Roaring Twenties?

I’m stuck on a tweet that surprised me last week: “And just like that, 1970 was fifty years ago.” In 1970, I was just another kid in the pack, rummaging the bayous of south Texas, glued to my bike from first light to dark, and listening (always) to the Beatles.  Abby Road had just dropped, and Come Together was my anthem: “got to be a joker, he just do what he please.” I remember that when we dreamed forward (far into the future for ten year-olds) we’d struggle with the 21st century math (wait, how old will we be in 2020?) … For each of us, our […]

So, Who’s Leading the People Process Today in Your Firm?

Strategic planning session conversations often focus on people, and the people management process of the business – and well they should, especially in professionals services firms where people are the prime asset (per se) of the business. Still, it’s interesting to see and hear so much commonality in the debate. Firms of all sizes (but especially 30-300) and disciplines (architecture, civil or structural engineering, environmental science, multi-disciplinary A/E, etc.) express similar thoughts. So, what’s going on? True, most leaders don’t begin their strategic planning efforts thinking specifically about adding corporate staff. In fact, it’s much more common in the AEC space for leaders […]

Wow, That’s a Lot of Firms!

Did you know that, according the latest US Census business data (2012 Business Census), there are more than 112, 000 professional services firms operating in the AE and related industry segments in the United States? (See the chart – this group includes organizations in architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, drafting, building inspection, surveying, testing, interior design, industrial design, and environmental consulting).  Moreover, a deeper analysis of this information provides some really striking findings. Fully 61% of these firms (55K) have less than five employees, and nearly 80% (81K) have less than 10 total. Nine out of ten companies have a total staff complement of […]

Is Something Wrong in Your Firm Today?

By all accounts, things are moving along quite well in the business of architecture, engineering, and construction. Clients are calling, backlogs are strong, and business is humming across most of the nation. AEC firms continue to see growth in revenues, and median profits remain at or near recent highs. All good, right? Well, slow down, because it’s not all so rosy – at least from what I hear and see working with organizations on strategic planning, leadership development, and operational transformation. To be fair, there are lots of wonderfully run AEC industry companies, and I’ve been blessed to have many of these […]

What’s New? The Fast Future! And the Business Moving Up

PSMJ?  Do What? As you may have heard, this month I have joined PSMJ Resources, Inc. as the Executive in Charge of the Advisory Services business – management consulting and in-house training.  This originally unexpected development came through a protracted conversation (and many meetings) with PSMJ owner Frank Stasiowski, about our businesses, potential collaborations, and the future of consulting for the design, construction, and environmental services markets.  Ultimately we agreed that our missions were the same, the future is indeed bright, and that together we could accomplish some really innovative stuff in helping AEC clients to achieve growth, profit, and […]

Fast Future! Both the Future (And the Book) are Coming Soon!

This week we’ve completely finished our book Fast Future! Ten Uber-Trends Changing Everything in Business and Our World, and the final manuscript is off to the publisher (Advantage Media Group, Charleston, SC I am excited and proud of this project, and hope you’ll look for the book’s release in a few weeks. It’s been a challenging and rewarding (and exhausting) journey. Many, many folks have asked me about the book – why I did it, how did it – and why a book about the future? This is a project now several years in the making, which grew originally […]

The Real, Extraordinary Cost of Misalignment

Have you at times wondered just how much waste there is in your firm – in particular the extra costs associated with staff misunderstanding, misalignment, missed collaboration – and occasionally even open warfare? I do, because I see it each and every day in organizations both small and large, niche-focused and broadly diversified, well-run and not so well-run. Or flip to the positive and consider this: in almost all firms with sustained success, you’re going to find an extraordinarily high level of alignment around the stuff that really matters: mission, vision, values, strategy, and culture. Here in New England today […]

It’s Summer – 90 Days to Firm Fitness!

This time of year the magazine racks and online health sites are chock-a-block full of advice on how you can get yourself (and your body) ready for the summer beach season. [A lifetime of bad choices can be reversed in just five minutes a day]. Yes, it’s a tired cliché. But it’s also true that as the weather warms up, we soon turn our attention to the out-of-doors, and the external motivation of looking good at the pool or on the course. Similar thing with the company. Now nearly at the year’s midpoint, it’s a good time to reflect on just […]