Thursday, April 17, 2014

4 Functions A/E/C Websites Must Serve

By David Lecours, LecoursDesign
(This post is an excerpt from a longer post that originally appeared on LecoursDesign on March 19, 2014.)
If you have this nag­ging sense that your AEC firm web­site could be more than an online brochure, you’re right. The mod­ern web­site doesn’t sit idle wait­ing for the arrival of a vis­i­tor to sim­ply con­firm what they’ve already heard about your firm. When com­bined with nar­row posi­tion­ing and content/inbound mar­ket­ing, a good web­site becomes a busi­ness devel­op­ment tool.
If your firm is clearly and nar­rowly posi­tioned to attract a spe­cific audi­ence, then your web­site can reach and engage the unaware. These vis­i­tors may be poten­tial clients or employ­ees. Both are impor­tant to the suc­cess of your firm.

A ben­e­fit of know­ing your tar­get audi­ence is know­ing what keeps them up at night. Searchable and opti­mized con­tent on your web­site that soothes client pain points will increase your odds that unaware prospects find you. Once they find you, they will devour your con­tent because it seems like it was writ­ten just for them.
A main oppor­tu­nity is to attract the unaware: those who need your exper­tise but are unaware you exist or not con­sid­er­ing you.” –Mark O’Brien, Author of A Web­site That Works.
By reg­u­larly adding unique, expertise-based con­tent to your site, you will boost SEO. You begin to con­vey to Google who you are, which helps Google send the right vis­i­tors. The vis­i­tors like your con­tent because it feels cus­tomized for them. Then vis­i­tors start link­ing to your con­tent. Google notices this and increases your search rankings.
Demon­strate Exper­tise
A good web­site can allow some­one to get to know (as described above) to like to trust your firm. This hap­pens by demon­strat­ing your exper­tise in writ­ing. This can be blog posts, white papers or monthly newslet­ters. Make sure the con­tent is index­able (not a PDF), so Google, and vis­i­tors, can find it.
A com­mit­ment to reg­u­larly adding valu­able and search­able con­tent to your web­site demon­strates your exper­tise and works to pre-position your firm as a leader before the RFP comes out. Con­tent mar­ket­ing is so crit­i­cal for pro­fes­sional ser­vices because we are “sell­ing the invis­i­ble.” Buy­ers can’t see, touch, or test our ser­vices before they buy. Con­tent mar­ket­ing is a no pres­sure, non-sales man­ner for prospects to under­stand how you think, what you believe, and how you’ve solved pre­vi­ous problems.
Cre­at­ing engag­ing con­tent is hard to do. Most will give up after a few months. This is an oppor­tu­nity to stand out.
I rec­om­mend start­ing with writ­ing a blog. Then grad­u­ate to:
• quar­terly webi­nars
• white papers
• speak­ing where your clients gather
• videos 
& podcasts

The mantra I hear repeated is: A/E/C mar­ket­ing is a rela­tion­ship busi­ness. Peo­ple do busi­ness with peo­ple they know. Yet, I’m shocked how many firms are unwill­ing to high­light firm lead­ers on their web­site out of fear that this tal­ent will be poached. Guess what? Your com­pe­ti­tion already knows who your lead­ers are. If your lead­ers’ loy­alty is so frag­ile that an email from a com­peti­tor will cause them to jump ship, then you’ve got big­ger issues.

For more, see the original blog post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Generational forces are challenging effective ownership/leadership transitions.

Over the next decade or so, we can expect a 15 percent decline in 35 to 44-year-olds, while at the same time, the population of firm principals is rapidly shrinking.

True too, the psychological contract is changing. Today’s employees (called Generation X and Millennials) haven’t the loyalty that their veteran grandparents had. They value opportunity, and seek it elsewhere if that’s where it is.

Finally, our industry is facing a shortage of new recruits. A 2009 survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) found that 85 percent of young people between 8 and 17 weren’t interested in engineering as a career, and their parents weren’t encouraging it. On top of that, a 2009 Georgetown/Rutgers study found that the “top quintile SAT/ACT and GPA performers appear to have been dropping out of the [science/engineering] pipeline … [a decline that] seems to have come on quite suddenly in the mid-to-late 1990s.”

The solution is in careful recruitment, starting at the college level, and careful cultivation of in-house employees.

Where to find those recruits?  Here are some resources you can tap for new people:

n  Referrals from existing employees
n  Former employees
n  College placement offices
n  Online job boards (e.g., LinkedIn)
n  Advertising in national and local publications
n  Co‑op programs
n  Referrals from past employees
n  Contingency fee employment agencies
n  Retainer-type executive search firms
n  Outplacement companies
n  Referrals from suppliers
n  Referrals from friends and relatives
n  Promotion from within your firm

Where did you find your most recent star talent?  Let us know!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Driverless Cars Will Change How You Run Your Business

How would you like your car to drop you off at the mall, go park itself, and return when you’re done at the beck and call of a smartphone app?

And, yes, that’s a rhetorical question.  Because, um, who wouldn’t want that?!

Well, the reality of that happening may not be that far off—with Google’s driverless car technology.

This technology, which allows cars to drive themselves with the help of lasers, cameras, and other gear, first debuted in 2009 when Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked with 
engineer Sebastian Thrun on the technology.

Since then, it’s made much advancement, including developing powerful sensors, long-range radar, and thermal imaging.

Seen as tools for preventing accidents, saving lives, and helping the disabled, autonomous vehicles have already gotten political support, most notably in Nevada and California, and are expected to gain support in other states soon.

The impact driverless vehicles will have on the business world is expected to be extreme indeed.  With driverless automobiles available at an instant summons—imagine Uber without a driver at the helm—the inevitable question arises: “Who needs a car, anyway?” As car-owning becomes obsolete, information sharing will become a business necessity, as autonomous cars will rely on sophisticated data networks to communicate with each other and within the transportation infrastructure.

So, how this affect the future of A/E?  In several important ways:

· Transportation infrastructure is evolving. As driverless vehicles continue to make headway,      transportation infrastructure will need to have designs ready to support them.

· Cities that accept this technology will generate new business. Lobbyists and political powers   that back this new technology will bring their cities to the forefront of development, resulting in   more business and economic growth.

· There’ll be a change in the design of parking lots, malls, and office parks.

· There’ll be more walking and biking options for pedestrians.

When the time is right, will you be ready to let go of the wheel?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Backlog: A Due Diligence “Blind Spot”

In a merger & acquisition deal, the purpose of the due diligence investigation (besides causing long nights and major stress headaches) is to make sure that both businesses are as they’ve been represented to be. It also uncovers potential problems that might be deal-breakers or issues to address in negotiating.

There are different types of due diligence—including “hard” and “soft”—but there are almost always, always small things that fall through the cracks, popping up again like insidious weeds during the most inopportune times (like contract-signing).

One of those nasty due diligence “blind spots”, as we like to call them, is backlog.

Backlog is a wholly intangible asset—the buyer cannot book the seller’s backlog as future earned revenues, yet the buyer also can’t rely on committed contracts that have yet to start. 

Some may consider backlog to be “free revenue”—but it is not certain revenue.  So, the real question is—what the heck do you do with it?  And how do you categorize it?

To help in determining how to categorize backlog in your assessment of the seller, ask the following questions:
  •  How much has the seller typically gotten from similar contracts in the past?  
  • If the contractor already has a relationship with the seller, will you be able to rely on that relationship after the merger or acquisition has taken place?  
  • What type of project is it—a project-in-progress, an MSA agreement, or a project that has been proposed, but not selected?

The answers to these questions will help solve the backlog riddle and will help you figure out where it goes in the bigger picture.  Don’t get caught in a blind spot—ask the right questions and you’ll see clear as day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Your Email Signature is All Wrong!

by David Whitemyer, AIA

Most professionals receive between 50 and 100 emails each day. In addition to making your subject line clear and your email body brief and to-the-point, your signature should look mature and not distracting. Here are a few tips on fixing your email signature.

Get Rid of the Image

Are you using a JPG or TIFF or some other type of image file in your signature, perhaps as your logo? Delete it and create a new signature with common font text. A number of email providers are set up to block images within emails. If you must include your logo, review your email settings and instructions on how to create an image within a signature, which may include also using “Alternative Text.”

Clean it Up

Your email signature should include your name, title, company, and primary contact info – which is probably your cell or desk phone number. It doesn’t need your street address, full web address, blog sites, or social media buttons. If anyone needs these, Google is just a click away. And for Pete’s sake, get rid of your fax number, advertisements, and any inspirational quotes.

Make it Work Everywhere

These days, professionals are using their smartphones and tablets to check email and surf the web more than on their computers. Make sure your signature isn’t so tiny that people can’t read it on an iPhone or Droid. San serif fonts are best for small screens. If your signature includes any links, test them on different devices, to make sure they work on phones, on PCs, on Macs, and on an iPad.

David Whitemyer, AIA, is a Contributing Editor at PSMJ Resources, Inc., a licensed architect, and project manager at a Boston-area design firm. He can be reached at

Monday, April 7, 2014

Is LinkedIn an Effective Tool for Marketing in the A/E Industry?

An Interview with Dave Kahler, owner of GeoLabs, Inc., a LinkedIn expert, and writer/distributer of Strategic Partner mailings

Do you think LinkedIn is an effective tool for marketing in the A/E industry?
It has the potential to be a valuable source depending on how you use the tool. The networking effect is the ultimate purpose of the tool—yet, about 80% of people on LinkedIn don’t put their phone numbers on their profile! If you’re in a hurry, well, you still oftentimes pick up the phone.

There are a lot of people out there that are still struggling.  I’m currently connected to 5400 people, and of those people, there are upwards of 20% changing jobs each and every year.  That means there’s always a certain (large) percentage of people that don’t have jobs. So, I asked myself: what if the people I’m doing business with got some advertising?  I do what’s called “strategic partner mailings” to my groups—emails that are targeted to groups of people (such as women who own businesses)—and provide them with valuable content that in turn promote my business.   It allows me to advertise without having to do the phone calls, without having to chase the money.  It is very successful for me and for them.

What are your top three tips for people to be successful on LinkedIn?
Persistence, persistence, persistence—if you send something out, you’re among the noise; if you send it again, they’ll have to make a decision.   One piece does NOT take care of all the needs.  It’s imperative to spend more time dealing with all the communication avenues—phone goes on at 7, goes off at 9 (if you’re lucky), and you need to deal with the extra emails.
Ask yourself: how do you develop a brand—how do you get that message across to people that are in your network? I, for instance, stress finding work for the circle of people that I encompass. Work for them--then your life is extremely easy.  There’s zero cost associated with sending out regular emails and updates via emails, and such activity can help showcase your talent and offerings—so why not do it?

What should you NOT do on LinkedIn?
Don’t waste my space and time.  For instance, do I really need to know your birthday?  But, things like job anniversary dates are critical. When a person changes jobs, I give them my cell phone number and tell them if I can help them in any way, to give me a call.  LinkedIn helps me to stay current, relevant.

How does LinkedIn relate to the A/E industry?
In this industry, people are stuck in their ways; they think things are all or nothing.  People ask: “If I specialize in this, do I rule out everyone else?” Ultimately, it becomes about being what the end user wants. Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes; answer your client’s questions. Show them you’re the expert. Soon, you’ll find people coming to you—you’ll no longer have to do the chasing.

Connect with Dave Kahler on LinkedIn.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What’s the Secret to Nailing the Interview Q&A?

by David Whitemyer, AIA

What’s the secret to nailing the questions during a project interview? Easy, ask your own questions.

A few months ago a few colleagues and I were in Arkansas interviewing for a fairly large (at least by our standards) project. We were among the two shortlisted firms who had been invited to meet the selection committee.

The firm we were competing with was an established organization, nearly 50 years old, with numerous projects overseas, shelves of national accolades and awards, and dozens of employees. Our firm was just two years old, very small, and had only a few projects under the belt of the company name.

Our strength at the interview was in knowing that we were long shots. In putting together our slide presentation, and knowing that there would be time for Q&A at the end, we decided to include pre-prepared questions in our presentation. We began the Q&A period by saying to the selection committee, “If we were you, these are the question we would be asking us.”

We focused the questions on our appeared inefficiencies and youth, and the clear fact that we were not the safe choice; and we turned them into strong positives. It paid off, and we were unanimously selected for the project.

Try it during your next interview. Here is a list of some suggested questions to include in your presentation (in no particular order), written as read by the interviewers.

1.   Specifically, why should we pick your firm instead of the other(s)?

2.   Do you have any inefficiency associated with performing our project? And if so, how will you overcome it?

3.   Why, personally, are you interested in our project, other than just wanting the work?

4.   What challenges do you foresee in our project? What worries you most about it?

5.   Is our schedule realistic? If not, how do you recommend that we change it?

6.   Will we be dealing with the team here today for the life of the project?

7.   When we call your references, what are they going to tell us?

8.   What’s stronger in your firm, technical abilities or communication and management skills?

Prepare your responses, but don’t create a script for them. You want the Q&A to be honest, candid, and conversational. Not all of these will be applicable to your situation, but you’ll get the idea. Tailor them for your own unique culture, projects, and firm structure.

David Whitemyer, AIA, is a Contributing Editor at PSMJ Resources, Inc., a licensed architect, and project manager at a Boston-area design firm. He can be reached at

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