Session 5: Rainmaking

Date: February 5, 2016
Location: Bonstra Haresign Architects, 1728 Fourteenth Street, NW #300, Washington, DC 20009
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Clair Wholean, AIA, LEED GA | Smithgroup, JJR & Eric Teran, RA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C | Shalom Baranes Associates

Session 5 PDF
Agenda
Speakers

Summary:

The art of rain making requires a multitude of skills including marketing, business development, proposal writing, and most importantly, building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Session #5 was organized by Clair Wholean and Eric Teran. The session was held at the office of Bonstra Haresign Architects.
Session-5_1The session revolved around a group activity that was organized and largely completed before the actual session. Scholars were divided into four groups of four and each was given a fake architectural firm to represent while responding to an imaginary request for proposals. At the session each ‘firm’ had an interview in front of a jury to further outline why they believed that their team should be selected. The session concluded with a discussion about what the jury noted in the winning firm, the losing firms, and overall what they observed during the whole process.

Session-5_2Preceding the interviews was a series of presentation that helped to guide and inform the interview process. The session began with a series of four presentations focusing on marketing, business development, the value of an architect, and the RFP process.
The first speaker, Sylvia Montgomery, a Senior Partner at Hinge, began by defining marketing and explaining that it is not about taking an action or asking someone to buy or do something, it’s about getting to know people so well that your products or services are something that they can’t live without. The biggest emphasis was on understanding your differentiator and being able to succinctly define your elevator pitch as a clear, easy to understand message, that explains what sets you apart from your competitors.
Following Ms. Montgomery, Rita Yurow, a Business Development leader at DLRGroup | Sorg, discussed the art of business development, explaining that client satisfaction equals client retention. She emphasized that although each employee or staff person might not be ‘in’ marketing or ‘in’ business development that everyone in a service-based industry is a part of the marketing effort.

Session-5_3Next, Amy Cuddy, the Marketing and Business Development Manager for the Washington DC Office of Ayers Saint Gross, spoke about the value that an architect has in marketing and business development. She explained that an architect has the ability to bring knowledge and experiences from previous projects to help in the marketing effort. Those previous experiences demonstrate value by being specific and fact-filled. Ms. Cuddy had the scholars complete a group exercise called ‘Developing a Value Statement’ where pairs of two were asked to develop statements that clearly state how or why their services were different or unique from others.

Session-5_4Lastly, Susan Merrigan, a marketing and business development professional at Perkins + Will, outlined the RFP process, focusing most specifically on preparing the proposal and the interview process. She emphasized that efforts need to be client focused and not focused on the architect. She discussed that the proposal preparation process and cost needed to be equivalent to the size and scope of the work that was being sought after, unless the project was being pursued for additional reasons such as marketing ability, design opportunity, portfolio building, or to submit for a specific award. She gave advice on interview preparation and process which included developing a strategy for the presentation, having a dress rehearsal, defining the agenda, having the right visual airs, determining the message, and anticipating questions that may be asked during the interview.Session-5_5After the speakers finished presenting the scholars assembled into their pre-assigned ‘firms’ to prepare for their ‘interview’ based on the information they learned during the speaker sessions. Each group then went into a private room for the interview and was given 5 minutes to present which was followed by 3 minutes of questions from the jury. Once all the interviews were complete the whole group reassembled to discuss which firm won the RFP and why, outlining the successes and areas of improvement for all the firms.
The lesson that was emphasized and re-emphasized throughout the day was that rain making is all about connecting with the client – bottom line.

Session 4: Social Responsibility & Community Leadership

Date: January 8, 2016
Location: National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Lindsey Falasca, RA, LEED AP | Hickok Cole Architects & Emily Wulf, AIA, LEED AP BD+C | ZGF Architects

Session 4 PDF
Agenda
Speakers

Summary:

Lindsey Falasca and Emily Wulf organized Session 4, which was held at the National Building Museum in the Beverly Wilson Library.  The session focused on several small discussions regarding volunteerism, pro bono work in action, and advocacy.  The group also performed their own form of pro bono work through a space planning charrette.

During lunch, Janet Bloomberg discussed the importance of volunteering and the opportunities to volunteer through the Washington Architecture Foundation (WAF), including the Design in Action program, which she created.  Design in Action allows underprivileged high school students to engage DC area Architecture firms for a week and learn about the profession.

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Following Ms. Bloomberg’s presentation, Stefan Schwarzkopf of Inscape Publico and Elin Zubrig from MiCasa discussed pro-bono work and their joint venture project “E-Casa.”  Both Inscape Publico and MiCasa are nonprofit entities.  Inscape Publico was conceptualized by the architects at Inscape Studio to provide other nonprofit organizations architectural schematic design services at only 20% the cost of typical design fees.  Providing this services allows these organizations to include necessary visual documentation for grant applications and fundraising for specific projects.

MiCasa is an affordable housing developer “committed to providing quality affordable housing to low and moderate households in the Washington DC area.”1  MiCasa and Inscape Publico are collaborating on a net-zero housing prototype to provide affordable high-performance housing to low-income families in Washington, DC.2  An undeveloped site in NE Washington, DC, has been targeted for the first series of E-Casa row houses.  The main challenge is to provide maximum energy efficiency while balancing reasonable housing construction costs.

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Switching gears, the CKLDP students took their turn providing pro bono work to MiCasa in the form of a preliminary design charrette. Ms. Zubrig described their desire to move into a more collaborative space as the group was divided into four teams to create space plans/bubble diagrams based on a programming document and asking a few questions.  MiCasa hopes to revitalize their office search with the efforts provided by the CKLDP group.

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After a short break, Mr. Schwarzkopf highlighted some specific traits necessary to engage in pro-bono work, including:  finding your passion; building your network; becoming engaged; and applying your skill set.  He also discussed in depth Inscape Publico’s inception and some of its work, including a project called “Repair the World,” which facilitates the Jewish community serving others and now has four locations in major cities.  He left the group with the idea of keeping social enterprise in mind and the following outlook: “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” – Edward Abbey.

The next discussion emphasized the notion of advocacy with a lively presentation from Aimee Custis, Communications Manager at Coalition for a Smarter Growth.  Her presentation highlighted five points for advocating a cause:  identifying your goal; finding an audience; preparing an argument; getting your argument to the audience (method); and proper planning utilizing resources and time.  After Ms. Custis’ tutorial, the class divided into smaller groups to advocate a position using the techniques previously mentioned, with the assistance of the upcoming advocacy panelists: Aimee Custis, Sophia Lau, and Andrew Goldberg.

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After the small group discussions, the other two panelists for the upcoming roundtable briefly spoke about their own advocacy roles.  Ms. Lau currently resides on the AIA DC Advocacy committee which focuses on national issues, local professional issues, and the local quality of life in the community.  Some of the events sponsored by this committee included dialogues with local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) and Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) officials.  Mr. Goldberg, the Managing Director of Government Relations and Outreach at AIA National, began his career in architecture but moved into advocacy after graduation.  He noted that as part of the repositioning of the AIA, the number one priority is advocacy for architecture.

At the end of another engaging session in the Christopher Kelly Leadership Development Program, students came away with a stronger understanding of the importance of providing services for those that help others.  For some, that may mean establishing your own form of pro bono work.  For others, finding ways to volunteer and to be an advocate for an important issue that impacts the community may be the way to go. Regardless of the approach, making a concerted effort to give back in some fashion is easier than most architects realize – usually just a phone call or email away.

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Citing for references:

1 – http://www.micasa-inc.org/

2 – http://www.inscapepublico.org/ecasa-housing-prototype

Session 3: The Art of Negotiation and Contractual Pitfalls

Date: December 11, 2015
Location: National Institute of Building Sciences
1090 Vermont Ave NW, Washington , DC, 20005

Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Julia Siple, AIA, LEED AP BD+C | Quinn Evans Architects & Brandon Tobias, AIA, LEED AP BD+C  | US Army Corps Of Engineers

Session 3 PDF
Agenda
Speakers

Summary:

Contract language and negotiation tactics can be viewed as dour topics. While at times this can be true, Session #3 of the Christopher Kelley Leadership program brought a great level of life and engagement to the topic. Brandon Tobias and Julia Siple organized this session – held at the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) headquarters – with presentations, contract language and negotiation exercises, a federal contract primer, role-playing, and even arm-wrestling.

The session began with a welcome by Ryan Colker, Director of the Consultative Council and Presidential Advisor at NIBS. He described the key role NIBS plays in building performance and sustainability, bridging the gap between design and construction, creating guidelines for disaster mitigation, and conducting research. These missions inform recommendations and action items for The United States’ Congress.

Jim Walker, partner at Vandeventer Black LLP followed with a two-parted presentation, enlightening scholars with best practices on how design professionals should manage risk – namely through analyzing scope and indemnity provisions. Jim discussed potential pitfalls with design professional contracts and presented the understanding that in order “to manage risk means to understand what you’re agreeing to”. Jim shared questionable scope language and shaky indemnity provisions and gave scholars a process to review them. Scholars learned, using Jim’s phrase, that “all words in contracts mean something.”

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Michelle Crawford, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel for Technologists, Inc. Wielding the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), described how the FAR controls contractual content and relationships. She also described the federal government’s solicitation (RFP) process, the ensuing negotiation, and how contracts are awarded. Michelle showed the differences between the private award of contracts versus government award of contracts, noting that they are awarded on a “best value basis”; taxpayer funded projects mean the government seeks the best bang for its buck.

Michael Payne echoed Michelle’s sentiments. Michael, partner and chair of Federal Construction Practice Group at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC, described how design professional’s resumes are evaluated when responding to government RFPs. Focusing on experience and clarity, the government selects to form a shortlist, and will award a contract at a set percentage. Ron Gross, Deputy General Counsel for Technologists, Inc., demonstrated in his presentation that this streamlined process makes it clear to those obtaining federal contracts what they can expect from them. In short, the federal government tells the contractor executing the contract how the relationship operates.

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Whether a contract is government-related or not, negotiation is still critical. Professor Charles G. Field, Senior Research Fellow and lecturer at at the University of Maryland, engaged participants with a revealing look at how various parties may differ in perceptions. We discussed how to establish a vision to work together through the basic strategies of successful negotiation.

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The scholars’ first exercise was designed to reveal that our natural tendencies can be competitive. Through a series of extercises, Charles presented his points that “our different experiences just mean there is something to be explored” through successful negotiations. Scholars engaged in role-playing exercise focused around a real-world scenario. Scholars acted as either a developer or a reluctant community leader, both with their respective interests of making a profit and protecting the community. Participants tried to satisfy each of their own interests, while having to acquiesce to the other party’s requirements. Professor Field remarked that this was idea crucial; successful negotiation is interest-based and necessitated both sides being and feeling considered. Both sides often need to offer the other something.

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To close the session, Sean Stadler, Principal at WDG Architecture, continued the negotiation theme by applying it to our everyday careers as young architects. He plotted his career arc, encouraging scholars to constantly asking themselves why they are where they are in their careers and why they are there. Sean suggested scholars to find opportunities to help their firm and take an involvement there. Aligning their passions with this type of involvement, Sean remarked, would give scholars immeasurable career boosts.

In conclusion, session #3 of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Program provided critical education on the overlooked topics of contractual pitfalls and negotiation. Day-to-day tasks for young architects don’t usually involve scrutinizing contract language or negotiating services, but defining roles and relationships along with aligning interests is crucial to being a design business leader. Scholars took home the tangible benefits of understanding vague contract language, learning to negotiate effectively in a variety of situations.