Session 3: Office and Firm Management

Date: December 5, 2014
Location: House of Sweden
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Anthony Monica, Assoc. AIA & Seth Wilschutz, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Session 3 PDF


The third session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at the House of Sweden on Friday, December 7.  The session focused on office and firm management, and featured segments on starting a firm, successful financial management within the design profession, a summary on ownership transition and firm valuation, and finally a presentation on firm management on a global scale.  Scholars Seth Wilschutz and Anthony Monica organized the event.

1The afternoon got off to a lively start with roundtable discussion on starting an architecture firm.  Speakers Janet Bloomberg (KUBE Architecture), Christopher Gordon (KGD Architecture) and Alexander Zaras (Zaras & Neudorfer Architects) contributed a wide array of opinions relating to the early days of setting up a firm.  Ms. Bloomberg explained that, after going into practice “blind” to some of the realities and requirements of running a firm, KUBE has enjoyed success thanks to a combination of design focus, strong and long-lasting client relationships, an effort to stay ahead of potential problems, and doing a diverse assortment of marketing efforts.  Having started the firm shortly before the Great Recession, it took KUBE about 8 years before Ms. Bloomberg started realizing some significant financial success.  By contrast, Mr. Zaras did so less than two months into his foray into firm ownership.  Also in stark contrast to KUBE, Mr. Zaras’ firm does absolutely no marketing, and takes work as it comes, a model apparently similar to that of McKim, Mead, & White.  Mr. Zaras also shared arguably the most controversial opinions of the day, explaining that his firm has zero overhead expenses and also has no financial value as an entity.  This last comment related to the idea that he would eventually hand over the firm to a loyal employee, likely on the day that he is no longer able to practice.  He explained the importance of hiring a lawyer who is also a CPA, in an effort to keep the cumbersome paperwork of firm management to an absolute minimum.  In contrast to Mr. Zaras, Mr. Gordon explained that the idea of firm valuation and succession was one of the key issues he and his partners considered from the earliest days of KGD, which was set up as a ‘C’ Corporation for ease of scalability.  All contributors agreed that open and honest communication between partners is an absolute requirement.  They also agreed that it is helpful to have a spouse or significant other who can cover the cost of living during those lean early days of practice!

2During the second session, Michael Tardif (Building Life Cycle Group, Inc.) provided a starter course on financial management for design professionals.  Mr. Tardiff opened the presentation with a series of big-picture concepts to explain the vital importance of financial management.  He then provided more details including a typical chart of accounts, the absolute necessity of accurate time keeping, financial planning strategies and tools, and a wide array of financial reports and useful metrics that can be efficiently utilized by firm leadership to make strategic management and marketing decisions.  He explained that, if the right systems are in place, a firm leader can effectively manage firm finances spending only 4 hours per month on the effort.

3Herb Cannon (AEC Management Solutions) delivered a summary on firm ownership transition and valuation as the third presentation.  Mr. Cannon started by stressing the importance of a clear understanding of where your firm, including any potential new partners, fit on a diagram indicating primary and secondary areas of emphasis between two broad categories of “practice” and “business” focus.  He talked about several topics related to ownership transition, including the difference between a “qualifications” and “commodity” oriented firm.  He also summarized the diverse set of requirements for a firm leader, including that key, hard-to-identify characteristic that is so vital: entrepreneurship.  Mr. Cannon described two general approaches to ownership transition: share appreciated, in hopes to eventually sell to an outside bidder, and the use of current distributions that can help lead to internal transitions. In conclusion, Mr. Cannon walked the scholars through a case study, using several methods to calculate firm value for a weighted-average final sum to be used for an internal transition.

4The final session on global firm management was delivered by Mark Regulinski (SOM).  The presentation included a broad overview of the firm’s geographical and disciplinary organization under their 22 current partners.  He presented an overlapping Venn diagram indicating the 3 main areas of firm partner focus: technical, management and design, which Mr. Regulinski related to Vitruvius’ firmness, commodity and delight.  Using the diagram he explained that, in order for SOM to realize success, they need team members who operate at the edges of these three realms, but also those who work as collaborators between.  He described the SOM Journal, an internal critique effort aggregating external review commentary that helped the firm re-focus their self-image in an effort to return to core principles of simplicity, structural clarity and sustainability, with an emphasis on innovation and craft.  In addition to a few project case studies, Mr. Regulinski discussed the Great Lakes Initiative and a strategic partnership with the Renselear Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology.5

Session 2: Marketing and Business Development

Date: November 07, 2014
Location: RTKL
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Scott Cryer, AIA, LEED AP BD+C & Joshua Hill, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Session 2 PDF


The second session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at the offices of RTKL on Friday, November 7. Scott Cryer and Joshua Hill led the session on marketing and business development, which featured segments on how buyers are buying, how to successfully pursue project opportunities, and understanding the benefits of becoming a “visible expert” in the field of architecture.

session 2_1Sylvia Montgomery of Hinge Marketing kicked off the session with a presentation entitled, “How Buyers are Buying.” Based on research compiled and synthesized just last year, Sylvia discussed the revolution and change in how people, or buyers, find information that lead to buying a service. Her company’s findings noted that traditional networking of friends and colleagues is still a huge part of marketing, but a company’s digital presence is just as important to the effort of attracting and bringing in clients. Buyers/clients of professional services like A/E/C are now going online to find the information they need, such as the philosophy, focus, expertise and product samples of a company. Sylvia also noted that unlike marketing of the past, a brand’s strength is established by having more than merely a solid reputation; a company must have visibility as well to be successful. A buyer is looking for a company that they can trust. This trust is established through effective marketing and communication with the buyer whether it is in person, online, through writings or through speaking engagements.  Marketing is the single most important function in the modern A/E/C services for the simple fact that if nothing is sold, nothing can happen.

session 2_2In the second session entitled, “The Ins and Outs of Marketing Pursuits”, Amy Adye, the Marketing Manager at Smith Group JJR, discussed the marketing steps required in the successful pursuit of a project. Amy reviewed the steps needed to put together a project proposal and prepare for the client  interview. Ideally taking two weeks, the timeline for preparing a proposal includes: 1) Go / No Go Decisions – remembering you do not need to pursue every RFP; 2) Kick-off Meeting – establishing a strategy to win; 3) Breakout Groups – creating tailored content; 4) Quality Control – making edits and asking questions; 5) The Final Edit – catching errors in content and formatting; and 6) Production & Delivery – creating a high quality proposal delivered on time. Amy also reviewed the importance of a proposal cover letter by critiquing cover letters that each scholar prepared earlier in the week. In the last segment of this session, Amy laid out the steps needed to prepare for a successful interview with the client that include: 1) Alignment – understanding the RFP, interviewer and possible questions; 2) Strategy – evaluating previous established strategy and selecting speakers; 3) Choreography – a “stumble through” dry-run establishing content and brainstorming possible questions; 4) Rehearsal – the final run through, establishing of blocking for the interview and logistics for the interview day. Overall, Amy emphasized that the key to winning work is establishing a connection with the client as soon as possible and having the client see you as a value throughout all steps of your project pursuit.

session 2_3In the afternoon breakout session, Laura Ewan, Firmwide Communications at RTKL, led the group on a tour of the RTKL offices pointing out how the workplace environment affects and is affected by marketing strategies. Laura pointed out that the RTKL offices are showplaces for the firm’s work and philosophy; from the sustainable pamphlet provided to all visitors, to the internally designed office spaces, to the rotating gallery space of employees’ personal artwork. The office also has flexible event space that is used for both internal and external functions, thus continuing to strengthen their relationships with other companies by providing use of their event space.

session 2_4Following the RTKL office tour, Alison Carney, the Director of Business Development at Balfour Beatty Construction, led a roundtable panel discussion entitled, “Cultivating Your Personal Network”. The panel included: Robert (Bob) Fox, Principal-in-Charge at Fox Architects; R. William Hard, Executive Vice President and Principal at LCOR; and Michelle Monnett, Associate Vice President of Business Development at RTKL. The panel began by defining a network as a fabric of personal contacts that provide support, resources, input and feedback. The panel made clear that to be leaders, relationships are as important as technical skills. Through a 3-minute breakout activity, the moderator made the point that networking is about sharing life and relationships while enjoying the process. In a few key points, a network:

  1. Should be made up of trustworthy people that tell the truth whether one likes it or not.
  2. Should be made up of a diverse group of professionals and viewpoints.
  3. Should not be about generating business opportunities, but instead be concerned with creating genuine relationships.

Some insight the panel members related to the scholars were following: to broaden their organizational involvement, start networking now while early in their careers, follow up if given networking contacts, keep track of important conversational notes by way of a well organized address book, pick one or two committees and be as involved as possible, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to ask for advice (even from someone you have never met), and ask to go to seminars and then offer to share what you’ve learned. Overall the theme of the panel was that networking is not about what one can gain, but instead how one can be sincerely and genuinely helpful to others and build lasting relationships.

session 2_5To conclude the afternoon, Sylvia Montgomery of Hinge Marketing gave a closing presentation on “Becoming a Visible Expert”. Sylvia described how visible experts are able to leverage their status in order to provide significant growth and profit opportunities for their respective firms. She explained how marketing and business development are about sharing and educating. Scholars were made aware of tools and techniques for building their reputations and ascending to prominence.

Sylvia noted that a great strength of the visible expert is “the halo effect”, when the expert pulls up the notoriety of the entire firm. She noted that a visible expert explains complicated things easily, attracts strong partners and makes talent recruitment for the firm easier. In beginning the path to visible expertise, Sylvia suggested that the scholars should take their unique point of view and share their own experiences. She suggested finding something one is passionate about and finding one’s voice in that area. Sylvia advised that by choosing a narrow niche, scholars would be able to grow in notoriety more quickly in order to ascend a level in visible expertise. After gaining this platform, scholars could broaden their scope more easily. Lastly, Sylvia encouraged scholars to take advantage of the changing media landscape now while there is a chance to easily have an edge in the market, which would allow for greater influence in the years to come.

Session 1: Working Together

Date: October 10, 2014
Location: SmithGroupJJR
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Tracy Hucul, LEED AP BD+C & Stephanie Traynor, Assoc. AIA

Session 1 PDF


The first session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at the offices of SmithGroupJJR on Friday, October 10. Tracey Hucul and Stephanie Traynor lead the session about working together which featured segments on how individual personality traits influence team dynamics, working with local regulatory processes, an office tour, and working internationally.

DSC03682(rev)The session led with a presentation by Cable Clarke of Clarke Consulating on the Life Styles Inventory (LSI) results that the scholars completed earlier in the week. Cable provided each scholar with their individual results along with a self development guide to help each scholar understand how their results can impact the way that they work and interact with those around them. The LSI results break down into three categories – constructive, passive/defensive, and aggressive/defensive. Cable’s presentation explained these three categories, as well as the four styles that make up each category, including examples of how to correct undesirable behavior and enhance other, more positive, characteristics. Through this segment the class learned how our their behavior contributes to and interacts with the culture of a company and the importance of changing behaviors to become more effective at what they do.

DSC03689(rev)The second segment was a roundtable panel moderated by Stephanie that focused on working within local regulatory processes. The panel, comprised of an attorney, Leila Batties, Partner at Holland and Knight, a developer, Adam Weers, Principal at Trammell Crow Company, and an architect, Mark Gilliand, Principal at Shalom Baranes Associates, provided a variety of viewpoints for the class. The focus of the roundtable was on the process of gaining approval from the city of Washington, DC for Planned Unit Developments, or PUDs. The PUD process allows developers to negotiate things that are advantageous to them, such as increased density, in exchange for things which are beneficial to the city, such as hiring of local workers or a guarantee to provide certain amenities. This process requires that the developer work closely with the city and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC). The heavy involvement and weight that the ANC carries is unique to the process in Washington, DC, which allows for real results to be reached at the neighborhood level. Through this segment and an interactive question and answer participation we learned about the intricacies of the PUD process, as well as the roles that the various team members play.

DSC03700(rev)The breakout session during the afternoon was a tour of the Washington, DC, office of SmithGroupJJR, to understand how the interior design of an architecture firm can facilitate working together. The tour was led by Luis Velez-Alvarez, a 2014 CKLDP scholar and architect with SmithGroupJJR. The tour began on the ground floor, which houses formal conferencing, a café and rear patio, and the materials library. This amenity floor provide spaces for client meetings and casual interactions between staff members. From there the tour progressed to a typical studio floor, made up of an open office plan and adjacent support spaces. Luis explained the mix of rooms provided to support various types of meetings and interaction, from formal to informal and for teams of different sizes, and for heads down work in a quiet environment.

DSC03732(rev)The final segment of the afternoon focused on working internationally, considering communication, cultural differences, and technology, with two presentations by Matt Larson, a senior structural engineer with Arup, and Suzette Goldstein, an urban planner and senior principal with HOK, both of whom have extensive experience with projects abroad.. Matt prefaced his presentation with the importance of understanding the motivation for working abroad and evaluating the risks associated with working in different countries. Through various project examples he explained partnering with local architects and engineers, difficulties of communication, technological considerations, and how different regional conditions can impact a project’s design and likelihood of success. Suzette opened her presentation in the same way that Matt closed his – with a discussion of the merits of working internationally, such as the chance to work on exciting projects on very large scales, and give structure to the urban fabric of new developments. Suzette discussed the project management pitfalls, such as securing payment and negotiating fees, as well as the importance of understanding common goals and standards of construction, representation, and responsibilities.DSC03726(rev)

CKLDP 2015: Bootcamp

Date: September 5, 2014
Location: District Architecture Center
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Committee

CKLDP Bootcamp Booklet

2015 Class Profile




00_bootcamp session_01The new class of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program was congratulated and welcomed by the CKLDP Executive Committee.  AIA DC 2014 President Sean Nohelty, AIA, LEED AP outlined the chapter’s expectations to the eager and excited class; and explained that leadership is a multi-faceted facility.  His message concluded with a statement of empowerment, encouraging the new class of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program to truly embrace the opportunities in the year ahead of them.

Following some opening remarks about the late Christopher Kelley, friend and colleague of Committee Co-Chair Sean Stadler, AIA, LEED AP, Sean reiterated to the class the purpose of the program and the great honor to Christopher their commitment provides.  Sean explained, ‘Whatever your expectations are (for the program), you can create it.’  Co-Chair Ryan McEnroe, AIA, ASLA, LEED AP explained the program structure and expectations, and showed the class the recently completed yearbook documentation from the Inaugural 2013 class.

To kick start the leadership discussion, Sean Stadler introduced the day’s Keynote Speaker, Mr. Roy Abernathy.  Roy captivated the class with nearly ninety minutes of conversational discussion about personal leadership growth, providing sound advice about leveraging all aspects one’s life experiences into leadership.  Roy explained that architects thrive on change, and in that respect, leadership is not afraid of change.  In fact, leadership changes from past, present to future, and it is important that all leaders consider this as they develop. He quoted Rosalynn Carter, stating “A leader takes people where they want to go.  A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.”

00_bootcamp session_02Roy clarified some of the traits that are often confused between leadership and management, stating ‘management is doing things right, while leadership is doing the right things.’  For example, managers administer while leaders innovate.  Mangers focus on the system while leaders tend to focus on people. While managers focus on reducing risks, leaders tend to pursue opportunities.  Finally, it is the duty of a manager to provide resources, while leaders must provide vision.  Roy spoke directly to the class about what true leadership requires: vision, focus, determination, commitment, flexibility, and most importantly courage.  He emphasized the quiet confidence of passionate leaders, stressing that passionate leaders inherently:

  • believe in the future and their ability to make it happen
  • are not afraid of change
  • speak with conviction
  • operate in grey spaces – create and fulfill needs
  • succeed in speaking to followers as an emotional or spiritual level

Mr. Abernathy closed with the truth that ‘No great achievement has ever occurred without a leader.’

To break up the day’s planned lectures, the next portion of the session was dedicated to a ‘get-to-know-you’ style Pecha Kucha. The format, which keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, allows for multiple speakers to present multiple presentations in a consistent and fast-paced event.  The sixteen new class participants each had 90 seconds to present three slides describing themselves, the type of leader that they are, and the type of leader that they’d like to be.  Combined with graphics, word clouds, and personal stories and photographs, it was certainly an impressive group of young professionals!

00_bootcamp session_03After the excitement of the Pecha Kucha, scholars were broken into teams of four to brainstorm the content that they’d like to see covered in the upcoming eight session topics.  Regrouping to present their ideas, the class actively started outlining the session content for the upcoming year.  Teams were identified for each session and assignments were given for each of the session pairs.

00_bootcamp session_04Before wrapping up the day with a happy hour at Poste, CKLDP scholars were treated to a presentation by Gensler’s Jordan Goldstein, AIA LEED AP.  Jordan commented on the reality that architecture is a very fast moving and fast changing profession.  He talked about role of the architect as a generalist and as an enabler, rather than the traditional role of the soloist or the solution provider.  Jordan’s vision of design contains an equal balance of global change, public policy, and social responsibility.  Mr. Goldstein expressed a great need for architects to identify our differentiators, and to start thinking about repositioning the profession.  Like Roy, Jordan focused on change and explained that architects lead by being the catalyst for positive change.  He emphasized that ‘change can happen on any scale’, a statement most appropriate for the diverse representation participating in this year’s class.  It will be a good one!