Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SMPS Foundation Announces 2009-2010 Board of Trustees

The Foundation of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) has announced its 2009–2010 Board of Trustees. The new board takes office on September 1, 2009.

Foundation Board Officers (elected for a one-year term) are:
President: Paula M. Ryan, FSMPS, CPSM, Director of Marketing, Braun & Steidl Architects, Columbus, OH
Vice President: Michelle H. Fitzpatrick, FSMPS, CPSM, Principal, Marketivity, Inc., Portland, OR
Secretary: William C. Viehman, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Perkins + Will, Atlanta, GA
Treasurer: Craig E. Park, FSMPS, Assoc. AIA, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Leo A Daly, Omaha, NE

Trustees include:
Monica Bell, Senior Vice President, HDR CUH2A, Atlanta, GA
Thomas D. Boogher, CPSM, Executive Vice President/CMO, PSI, Oakbrook Terrace, IL
Larry D. Casey, CPSM, Corporate Senior Vice President of Sales, Skanska, Rockville, MD
Diane C. Creel, FSMPS, Retired, President/Chairman/CEO, Ecovation Inc., Victor, NY
Larry E. Gramlich, Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP, Atlanta, GA
Janice Tuchman, Editor-in-Chief, Engineering News–Record, New York, NY
Rhodes B. White, FSMPS, CPSM, President, White Consulting, Charleston, SC

The SMPS National Board of Directors selected Incoming President-Elect Carolyn Ferguson, FSMPS, CPSM, President, WinMore Marketing Advisors, Kingwood, TX, to serve as SMPS National Board Liaison to the Foundation in 2009–2010.

SMPS Foundation Trustees support the mission of the Foundation by promoting the organization and its projects and by leading the organization’s fundraising efforts. For more information on the Foundation and current projects, visit www.smpsfoundation.org.

About the SMPS Foundation
The SMPS Foundation is the principal nonprofit organization that identifies, researches, and educates the design and construction industry on emerging trends and issues in marketing and business development. As a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established by the Society to promote research and education that advances the body of knowledge in the field of professional services marketing, the Foundation works to develop a greater understanding of the role and value of marketing in the A/E/C industry.

The SMPS Foundation actively promotes recognition of professional services marketing as an essential element of the modern A/E/C business model. It seeks to identify and evaluate evolving marketing practices and to provide marketers with information and tools needed to achieve effective results in the changing business environment.

Each year, the Foundation funds original research to educate the industry and contribute to the body of knowledge on professional services marketing. To access the Foundation’s research on professional services marketing, visit www.smpsfoundation.org.

For additional information, please contact Foundation Marketing Manager Michele Santiago at 800.292.7677, x245, or michele@smps.org.

SMPS Announces 2009-2010 National Board of Directors

The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) has announced its 2009–2010 National Board of Directors, composed of senior marketing and business development leaders representing the architectural, engineering/planning, and construction industry. The new board takes office on September 1, 2009.

2009-2010 SMPS National Board of Directors

President Thomas E. Smith, Jr., AICP, FSMPS, CPSM, President,
BonTerra BonTerra Consulting, Pasadena, CA

Past President Dana Birkes, APR, FSMPS, CPSM, Vice President, Business Development/Marketing, The Flintco Companies, Inc., Tulsa, OK

President-Elect Carolyn Ferguson, FSMPS, CPSM, WinMore Marketing
Advisors, Kingwood, TX

Secretary/Treasurer Barbara D. Shuck, FSMPS, CPSM, Vice President, Marketing Director, Emc2 Group, Architects Planners PC, Mesa, AZ

Chapter Delegate Kevin Hebblethwaite, CPSM, President, EDI Ltd., Atlanta, GA

Fellows Delegate Judith Nitsch, P.E., LEED AP, FSMPS, CPSM, President, Nitsch Engineering, Boston, MA

At-Large Delegate Donna Lynn Jakubowicz, CPSM, Corporate Marketing Director, Barton Malow Company, Southfield, MI

President Smith has served SMPS since 1984 in various capacities at both the local chapter and national levels. His goals for the coming year are “to continue to demonstrate the value of membership and participation in SMPS, expand the ways in which we communicate cost-effective program opportunities, provide members with ready access to national and regional economic trend data and forecasts, and expand the use of emerging technologies to make it easier to connect with each other, and in so doing, to expedite access to opportunities for increased business for our firms.”

Smith maintains: “SMPS continues to become stronger every year. With nearly 7,000 members in 58 chapters throughout the United States and in Canada, the organization is poised to reach even more professional services marketers and business development professionals in the A/E/C industry.

“At this time, our members are facing increasing challenges caused by the current U.S. economic climate. A/E/C firms are laying off staff, including marketing and business development professionals, in order to reduce operating costs and to survive the recession. One of our key challenges as an organization is to help our members retain their employment by demonstrating, in new ways, their value to their companies’ business success. For those members who have lost their jobs, our mission is to provide them with improved job skills and easy access to networking systems and employment opportunities that will expedite their job search and return to work.”

Subscribers to PSMJ's A/E Rainmaker newsletter have access to PSMJ Resources Editor in Chief Ed Hannan's exclusive interviews with SMPS President Tom Smith and others from the SMPS Build Business conference.

In a perfect world...

My July 2009 column in Metal Architecture titled Reload your team: Use the downturn to improve the quality of your staff discussed strategies for using the availability of outstanding staff created by the recession to weed out underperformers among your current employees. The article failed to point out some obvious concerns, most notably that in the messy reality that characterizes most of our businesses - it is very important to protect yourself and your current employees throughout the "upgrading" process. Here is an excerpt from feedback that I have received:

"...let the survivors [of the lifeboat drill] know what you have done and assure them that there are now more cuts in the foreseeable future.” That statement is double talk for “You are lucky today and there are more cuts coming.” I do not know if you have ever heard a boss say that, I have twice and have been on the receiving once. I can assure you that your statement will only start talk, slow work progress and have your quality people start looking around.

As for parting with Non-performers, and they work at the company’s discretion, you have many legal issues and hoops to jump through. Keep in mind that if you bring in another person after you terminated one to fill that position you have opened up your company to legal actions. This can disrupt your company’s performance due to water cooler talking as well as time off for depositions etc. Firms need to let people go in a gentle way to keep their name in good standing within the community. You do not want to be known as a “Hire Fire” company.

Good points all. Here is my response:

In many instances the boss' statement about there not being more cuts is indeed doubletalk. That said, it's also an opportunity for real leadership to come through - particularly from C-level people in the organization.

We recently worked with a firm that confronted its management team with a choice: lay off 10% of the workforce and everyone else go to a 4-day work week (with a corresponding 20% salary cutback) or lay off 25% of the workforce and keep everyone at their current salary. The advice we gave them was to cut 25% of the people and be done with it - but only under the condition that the CEO be in the office every day, motivating staff and helping them overcome the challenge and be inspired to come to work. The CEO of this firm wouldn't commit to providing the required leadership (which I guess tells you something about him) and he went with the 10% layoffs and 20% paycut plan. It has been a disaster - productivity is way down and people are either looking around or waiting for the other shoe to drop.

There certainly are legal issues associated with letting people go and replacing the exact job soon after. There are ways to do this without exposing the firm the unnecessary legal risk. As for being known as a "hire and fire firm", that is indeed a concern - moreso when times are good and people are in high demand. The best way to address that is through clear communication and ongoing reviews of expectations of everyone in the firm. If the outstanding people are confident that their performance is directly proportional to job security - not only will they stay above the fray in the "water cooler talk", they will also be less tolerant of non-performance. Of course, the outcomes in these cases are not absolute - they are influenced by prevailing firm culture and leadership style -but clear communication sows the seeds for the desired outcome. This is particularly true when dealing with personnel issues.

I would be very interested to hear other opinions on this issue.

Until next time,


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ABI: So Much For the Recovery

Three straight months of apparent stabilization in the American Institute of Architects' Architecture Billings Index did not lead to an uptick, after all.

Instead, the AIA reported this morning that the June ABI rating was 37.7, down more than five points from the 42.9 rating in May. This score indicates a continued overall decline in demand for design services as any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.

"It appears as though we may not have yet reached the bottom of this construction downturn," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "Architecture firms are struggling and concerned that construction market conditions will not even improve as soon as next year. There has also been little movement in terms of stimulus funding allocated for design projects having the desired impact of leading to new work."

The new projects inquiry score was 53.8, the fourth straight month with a score in the mid-50s. May's new projects inquiry score was 55.2, but as we mentioned last month, Baker said at the time that the higher level of inquiries could actually be a negative indicator, as it means clients are playing the competitive field against itself for greater savings, driving down prices for architectural work as a result.

Going further, with billings remaining well below their break-even index of 50, the Architect's Newspaper article we referred to in that post claims that for the time being, this means that payments are continuing to decline. At the time of the article, it had been that way for 16 consecutive months.

The June ABI breaks down by sector as follows: mixed practice (43.5, down from 44.5 in May, 44.2 in April and 44.0 in March); multi-family residential (42.7, down from 45.5 in May and 43.2 in April); commercial/industrial (39.5, down from 43.1 in May and 41.7 in April); and institutional (37.0, down from 38.0 in May and 43.2 in April).

Regionally, the ABI breaks down thusly: Northeast (42.8, down sharply from 48.3 in May and 47.1 in April), South (40.5, down from 41.3 in May and 45.0 in April), West (39.9, up from 39.4 in May, 39.2 in April, and 36.1 in March).


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What does Walter Cronkite’s career have to do with winning design work?

I am often accused by my family and co-workers of wringing metaphors to death and today I am offering up a real doozy.

I had a college professor who told me once that the world as he knew it changed in 1968. 1968 gave us the tragic assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy. It brought us President Richard Nixon. And in Vietnam, 1968 brought us the Tet Offensive – a series of military engagements engineered by America’s enemies to demonstrate the futility of trying to drive Communist interests out of South Vietnam. CBS News reporter Walter Cronkite was a first-hand observer of the Tet Offensive.

Until 1968, mainstream print and electronic journalists were expected to report “the facts” – the who, what, why, when, where and how of events they were covering – and Cronkite was no different. In fact, the professional detachment with which Cronkite reported the news made him one of the most trusted men in America. But after witnessing the events of the Tet Offensive, Cronkite did the unthinkable: he made a personal commentary to Americans and stated clearly that from his perspective, the war seemed unwinnable.

The repercussions were felt immediately. President Lyndon Johnson said “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America”. Cronkite’s assertion gave instant validity to American voices that had opposed the war in Vietnam from the outset. A man who reported the news spent a few weeks in Vietnam and his interpretation of what he saw was valued more highly than the opinions of political and military leaders who had been dealing with the Vietnam for many years. How could this be?

It boils down to a single word: TRUST. In periods of uncertainty, people will believe in someone they see and hear every day – someone who has treated them with respect and taken a fair and even-handed approach to all problems great and small.

Think about this as you evaluate your relationships with your clients. Are you worthy of this level of trust? How do you demonstrate it? Do your clients recognize it? You’ll know you have achieved it when your client explains a problem to you and values your opinion more highly than people who have been dealing with this problem for much longer and at a much more intimate level.

Until next time,


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Dull Edge of Experience

If you needed a surgical procedure and went to see a physician and she told you that she had performed the operation you needed 27 years ago and was therefore qualified to perform yours, how confident would you be about agreeing to employ that physician?

Obviously, this is a rhetorical question – but I ask it to draw attention to the mindset that many design firm professionals have about experience – and how too many people confuse experience with relevance. The most glaring example of this mindset is when people insist on highlighting the fact that project team members have 30 years experience doing X. Being around a long time and having had experience doing something can separate your firm from competitors. What most people don’t understand is that it may actually put you in the back of the pack. Here’s why:

Once you have had a successful experience doing something, you are highly unlikely to change how you do it – even if there have been significant improvements to the process – and this makes you a liability. A few years ago, I had to hire a newsletter editor for a weekly news-driven niche publication. I found a candidate who had 30 years experience in a similar niche, worked on tight deadlines, and had many accolades to show for his efforts. He was a complete disaster and I had to let him go within a few weeks. How could this happen? It turns out that this person was doing his work the same way he was 30 years ago! Because he was a good writer, his employers continued to accommodate him through the years – even as his peers began using computers and the Web to find information and communicate. For my purposes, his experience was completely irrelevant because he couldn’t do the job I needed today. Now whenever someone – a candidate, a vendor, a consultant – tells me they have 30 years experience my hackles go up immediately. I start thinking that this person is very likely to be out of touch – and probably cluelessly so – because he is likely being accommodated by the people around him. My inclination is to dismiss this person and go to the next person that has communicated their relevance, rather than their experience. This is probably not entirely fair, but it is what it is.

This is not to say that everyone out there with a lot of experience is out of touch and not thinking dynamically. In fact, two of my most influential mentors – Professor Hans-Christian Lischewski, former CIO at Perkins & Will and Charles Nelson, my colleague at PSMJAustralasia have 70 years experience between them and are the most forward thinking people I know. Their experience demonstrates a track record, their thoughts and actions prove their relevance today.

So next time you want to tout your experience, take care to make sure that it is communicated as relevance – in every context of your practice.

Until next time,

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