Lots of questions, no easy answers

August 11, 2010

A recent summit of A/E/C executives sponsored by the Architectural/Engineering Financial Consulting Group and Greenway Consulting in New York raised a lot of issues, few of them easily resolvable.

Robert Packard, FAIA, managing partner of architectural firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, questioned the ethics of outsourcing work to lesser-paid technicians in India, China, Thailand, or Bulgaria. "Are we exploiting them, or are we giving them valuable work?" asked Packard, whose firm employs 400 in four U.S. offices.

Closer to home, Packard asked if the profession is ready for diversity, given that 75% of U.S. children under age 10 are not in the so-called "white" majority (whatever that means these days). How do firms bring along the next generation of professionals, given the increased "entrepreneurism" among younger staff members?

Packard said he also wondered what the future holds for the profession of architecture, with fewer graduates coming out of the pipeline and more and more of them seeking work at places like Disney rather than at traditional firms.

Javier Baldor, a principal with MST Software, reminded A/E/C summit attendees that 80% of their business usually comes from 20% of their client base, and asked: Do you know your client base and where your revenue really comes from? Do you have the right roles in your organization to maximize client relationships? Most important, have you assigned your best people to work with your best clients?

Many professional firms are weak when it comes to sales efforts, and few even have a sales process, Baldor said. Do you have a go/no-go matrix to determine which projects you'll take on, he asked, and are you measuring the success of your sales process? Have you aligned your sales process with your strategic business objectives?

On IT issues, Baldor asked: Do you have a platform to manage your IT? Is it in one place? Have you implemented a technology platform that leverages your people and processes?

E. Brian Smith, president of recruitment firm CareerSmith, asked if your firm's message to potential recruits is clear, in the face of the current "war for talent" to capture key professionals in the 35-50 age range. Is this message coming from the CEO? Are you managing your talent effectively? Are you promoting your best people to key jobs? Are you getting rid of your "C" players? Are you "stretching" your people? Do you "flood" your organization with coaching? Are you paying for performance?

No easy answers here, but not to worry — only the fate of your entire organization is on the line.

For information on the 2005 summit (April 28-29): www.efcg.com; 212-752-2203.


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