Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frank A. Stasiowski, FAIA Named To Board of Corporators for Watertown Savings Bank

PSMJ Resources, Inc. Founder and CEO was officially appointed at the Bank’s
143rd Annual Meeting in February 2013

PSMJ Resources, Inc., the leading source of management training and consulting for the architecture, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industry, is pleased to announce that its CEO and Founder, Frank A. Stasiowski, FAIA, was named to the Board of Corporators for Watertown Savings Bank at their annual meeting held February 5, 2013. As one of their two new corporators, Frank will take on the role of a goodwill ambassador for the bank, as well as attend upcoming board meetings in order to elect future corporators and board of directors.

“We are honored to have Frank join Watertown Savings Bank as our new corporator” says President and Chief Operating Officer Brett Dean. “As a highly successful business owner, Frank brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our Board of Corporators and we look forward to working with him for many years to come.”

At PSMJ Resources, Frank Stasiowski is a counselor and advisor to CEOs of many of the top design and construction firms in the United States, Canada, and abroad. As an advisor to A/E/C firms worldwide, Frank helps his clients by challenging them to excel, and by assisting them to solve their problems and management issues. He spends significant time making presentations and facilitating meeting discussions, planning retreats, workshops and training sessions all to spread the word that PSMJ Resources’ sole mission is to dramatically improve the business performance of architecture, engineering, environmental and construction firms worldwide. He actively serves on the board of directors of major architectural and engineering firms throughout the world.

Frank is a licensed architect with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MBA from Bryant University with honors.

A long-time resident of Massachusetts, Frank currently resides in Boston with his wife Joan, and has three grown children living throughout the world. He enjoys skiing, boating, and is an energetic and curious world traveler. 

Click here for more info

Monday, February 25, 2013

Selecting A New Board Member?

What To – and NOT To – Look for in a Board Director

It is easy to say that the biggest secret to an effective board is having a team of effective board members. But, what exactly makes a "good" board member? What are the traits that you should look for in new directors?

PSMJ recently caught up with Orrin MacMurray, Chairman of 500-person multi-disciplinary firm C&S Companies (Syracuse, NY) and asked this very question. Here's what Orrin shared on what his team looks for in a director:

• Alignment with corporate values
• Strategic insight and vision
• Loyalty to the company and shareholders
• Leadership by example with a strong work ethic
• Accounting and finance knowledge and experience
• Proven sound business judgment
• Experience dealing with continual change
• A cool head

To the contrary, our consulting team at PSMJ often sees boards that are dysfunctional or suboptimal because A/E firms are relying heavily on some or all of the following potentially destructive criteria to build their board:

• Ownership interest
• Firm tenure
• Loyalty/relationship to the CEO
• Willingness to say "yes" to anything
• Just to make a retired partner still "feel" important

What's your evaluation criteria for selecting board members? What are you doing to ensure that your board isn't simply a "good 'ol boys club?" The time is now to make sure that your board is an effective and valued part of the organization!

Monday, February 18, 2013

5 Key Career-Building Actions

In the competitive world of professional services, the fastest path to career success and financial rewards is clear: become better at marketing and selling. Employers and CEOs are on record in survey after survey citing client development capabilities as a valued characteristic they seek when hiring and promoting.

Think for a second about who gets the most respect, the best projects, and the biggest bonus compensation in your company. It’s the employees who bring in work, such as the project manager who finishes one project and starts the next right away with the same client, no RFP required; or the engineer who is in constant contact with his past and current clients.

It’s no surprise these folks do so well in their annual reviews, and move up quickly through the ranks. What may surprise you is how practicing a few fundamentals will increase your personal success. Here are five career-building actions you can start taking today:

1. Ask Questions: Most people can only communicate through declarative statements, most often about themselves. Have we forgotten the power that comes from asking questions? Clients need to know you are interested in their problems, and should sense that you care enough to learn more about their business. The best learners are those who ask the best questions. Each time you speak with a client, prepare 3-4 questions in advance to help you know more about their business, their needs and their lives.

2. Master One Key Industry: Appoint yourself as the leading authority on a core client industry, and then take a crash course to live up to the new credential. Read everything you can find on the industry, talk to insiders, and get active in their professional associations. Find out who the key players are in the market, how the companies make money, and what changes are taking place that influence their hiring and selection decisions.

3. Elevate Speaking and Writing Skills: We can improve vital communication skills at any age; it just takes practice. Enroll in a public speaking course, or join a local Toastmaster’s group, and watch the results kick in. Commit to becoming a better writer as well, either by taking a university course or by investing some time in a web-based writing improvement program.

4. Seek Fame: Service professionals make their living by convincing clients that their knowledge and experience level exceeds the other guy. So back up your value proposition with some proof. By speaking to client groups, initiating a research project, competing for awards and writing articles, you can capture a better position than the competition.

5. Make the Extra Call: Each day, pick up the phone and make one extra call to someone who can help you get the next sale. Those calls shorten new project lead times, show your prospects how much you want to work with them, keeps aging leads from rotting on the vine, and adds a sense of urgency to the sales effort. Even if you haven’t returned every project-related call yet, or checked your email for the hundredth time, you should stop and pick up the phone once a day for an extra call.

Invest in your career by improving marketing and business development routines. When you do, you become the change agent, the prime performance example and the sought-after expert. When review and bonus time comes around next year, you can measure the results in the most tangible ways.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Time To Cut The "Principals Tax"

Most principals, especially in large firms, have a personal utilization target. There's nothing wrong with that. Contributing to projects provides an opportunity for valuable mentoring and keeps the principal grounded in the reality of what is happening in the real world of doing projects (which, after all, is the raison d' ĂȘtre for all of our firms). But too many principals achieve their personal utilization targets by simply spreading their hours to all their project managers' projects – a.k.a., the Principals Tax. Here are just some of the problems this creates:
• PMs lose the feeling of accountability when they can't control charges to their projects.
• Team members lose motivation to provide real value for the hours they charge.
• Clients lose confidence in the firm when they see high-priced hours on their invoices, yet see with no apparent benefit to them.
• Much of the time charged can't be invoiced or collected because these hours force the project over budget.

If the "Principal Tax" is alive and well at your firm, it's time to clean the slate and get rid of this nefarious practice. I suggest your principals provide a "Bill of Rights" to your project managers – in writing. Here are some suggested tenets: • Whenever possible, the proposed PM for a new project will be intimately involved in developing the scope, budget and schedule.

• Principal involvement will be built into the scope, schedule and budget during the initial planning stage.

• Whenever a principals charges for activities beyond those in the original plan, the PM will be advised in writing of the specific activity performed and value provided to the project.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Final ABI for 2012 Caps Strongest Year Since 2007

With a recorded score of 52.0 for the month of December, the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings finished up its strongest year since 2007. While the pace of billings growth slowed slightly from November, it is still the fifth consecutive month of growth, which means eight months of 2012 showed improving business conditions, the most over five years. Inquiries into new projects remained strong, and firm backlogs for the fourth quarter inched up slightly from the third quarter to an average of 4.5 months.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) serves as the leading economic indicator of construction activity, and reflects the approximate 9-12 month lag time between architecture billings, and actual construction spending. The monthly ABI scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline.

Business conditions continued to improve at firms in all regions of the country in December with the exception of firms in the West, which continued to struggle to recover from nearly five years of declining billings. Firms located in the Midwest reported particularly strong firm billings last month after suffering a period of softness in the middle of the year. And for the third consecutive month, firms of all specializations reported experiencing increasing firm billings. The pace of growth has slowed significantly from the middle of the year for firms with a residential specialization, but continues to improve for firms with a commercial/industrial specialization.

Employment, economic activity on the rise 

The general economy continues to show improvement as well, with the latest issue of the Federal Reserve Beige Book (released Jan. 16) reporting that economic activity expanded in all districts during the previous month and a half. Consumer spending continues to increase, and even the districts affected by Hurricane Sandy have since rebounded. 

Existing residential real estate activity also increased in all districts, and those districts that had unused housing inventory reported it to be declining. However, nonresidential construction is slightly weaker than residential construction, with the Boston district seeing weakening demand for commercial real estate loans. The Dallas district, on the other hand, anticipates an upturn in commercial real estate construction in 2013. And according to the Department of Labor, employment also improved in December, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by 155,000. Construction employment increased by 30,000, led in part by an increase of 13,000 employees in the construction of buildings sector. In addition, architectural services employment ticked up modestly to 157,100 in November, the most current data available.

Improving conditions spur speculative residential development 

This month, the AIA asked survey panelists about the current demand for speculative projects (developer-sponsored projects without firm commitments for tenants), and how that’s changed recently in the last few years. Just over one quarter of respondents (28%) reported that they’re seeing more speculative projects now, while slightly fewer (26%) reported a decrease. The remainder reported no change. Firms located in the Midwest and West regions were most likely to report seeing more of these projects as were large firms, with 44% of firms with annual billings greater than $5 million reporting more speculative projects now. More firms with a residential specialization reported an uptick in these projects than firms with other specializations.

Of firms that have seen an increase in speculative projects, the most commonly cited reason was the improvement in the overall economic outlook (62% of respondents), followed by the pent-up demand for facilities (54%). Residential rental units are the speculative project increasing the most at present, followed by residential/commercial mixed-use projects and single-family residential/condos.


By region, the ABI breaks down as follows from November to December: Midwest is up 55.7 from 54.4, Northeast is down 53.1 from 56.3, South is up 51.2 from 51.1, and the West remained the same at 49.6.
By market sector: Residential is down 50.5 from 55.9, Institutional is up 50.9 from 50.5 and Commercial/Industrial is up 53.4 from 52.0.

This month, Work on the Boards participants are saying: 

      December provided some new projects which increased our backlog out at least six months. This is the best backlog we have seen since 2008. 
—42-person firm in the Midwest, institutional specialization  

       Contractors are getting more small jobs, but many are very budget-oriented, and are not involving architects. 
—3-person firm in the West, residential specialization

        Much of the work that made 2012 so strong may not be readily repeated in 2013. Business development will be a renewed focus. 
—23-person firm in the South, commercial/industrial specialization

        Work has substantially increased over the last 12 months, with strong markets including medical research, utilities, and state-funded projects. However, reduced state revenue suggests fewer new projects next year. 
 —120-person firm in the Northeast, institutional specialization

Go to AIA's Website for more info. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Do You Know the Value of Your Firm?

Here are 10 reasons why you should know the value of your stock: 

1. It lets you keep "score." 

2. Value allows you to give gifts of stock for tax-saving reasons.

3. It puts proper valuations on your buy/sell agreements.

4. It creates a determination for the amount of your inheritance tax.

5. It can be used for applying for loans.

6. It can let you know your true financial position in order to avoid misjudgments in personal business situations relative to bringing in people to the partnership or letting them out.

7. It helps you deal with untimely deaths, establishing the valuation from the point of view of heirs.

8. It helps you if you are given an offer to purchase. You should know the value so you can decide whether or not to sell.

9. It allows you to know whether you have enough assets to expand via a merger or an acquisition, giving you enough time to value your company and pledge those assets.

10. It allows you to tell your employees that you are a growing company. Whether you are planning your firm's imminent leadership transition through a solid M&A strategy or preparing for a positive internal ownership changeover, knowing the value of your firm is imperative.
Follow @PSMJ_Resources