Making a Difference – One Client at a Time

We all work hard every day and hope that what we are doing is adding value to our clients. We usually don’t get much feedback about whether our work is making an impact, although occasionally something happens that puts a smile on your face and makes it all worth it. That happened to me today. Out of the blue, I received the this picture in my email. It was from my client Geralanne Maglione at Hillmann Consulting in Union, New Jersey. She knew I would love it. For the last year I have been working with the employees at Hillmann to transform their culture into one where everyone is focused on profitability. After reading my book, Find the Lost Dollars, a couple years ago, Chris Hillmann, CEO, signed up 10 of their key staff for our Find the Lost Dollars Pilot Program to test out our new online training platform. This training is focused on teaching employees business skills and creating a profitable culture in which project managers and other key employees are looking for many ways they can help increase company profits by 1% or … Continued

6 Ways to Differentiate Your A&E Firm

  Are you feeling the pinch of reduced fees and increasing salaries these days? You are not alone. Pressure on profit margins is causing many architecture and engineering firms to revisit their strategy and look for ways to differentiate from their competition. Competing against 5 to 10 other firms for work with smaller margins is not what any of us envisioned when we started our businesses, and developing a strategy to combat this state of the market is paramount to developing a profitable firm. The firms demanding the highest fees are the ones being sought out by their clients rather than the typical situation where you must fight to win every job. To reach the top of the fee ladder these days takes a specific focus on creating a brand that sounds, acts, appears and IS different from everyone else. Here are six ways to start the process of reinventing your firm to be able to garner the higher fees that the most successful firms are getting:   1. Develop a New Strategy The first step in the process is to figure out who you … Continued

Hot Topics at the 2015 Zweig Awards Conference

  For the 7th straight year I attended the Zweig Industry Awards Conference held at the beautiful Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. This event, previously held as three separate conferences, recognizes the Hottest Firms, the Best Firms to Work For, and Marketing Excellence in the A&E industry. This is one of my must-attend events every year, and my main reason for attending, besides presenting and networking with the most successful A&E firm leaders in the industry, is to gain valuable insight that I can re-purpose for my clients. As usual, I met lots of great people, like Gary Dahms, CEO of T&M Associates in New Jersey, Ted Bumgardner, President of Xpera Group in Solana Beach, CA, and Mike Fischer, Senior Vice President at LHB in Minneapolis. I always take lots of notes so that I can identify all the hottest topics at the conference and then do follow up research so that I can provide more solutions to the challenges faced by our clients. I have consolidated the myriad of topics discussed into four primary subjects that are front and center in the A&E industry, … Continued

Leveraging the 80/20 Rule in Your Business

I recently had the privilege of spending two days strategizing with Google Adwords and 80/20 guru Perry Marshall near his home in Oak Park, IL. I was part of a 4-man intensive designed to focus Perry’s expertise in sales and marketing on how to take my business to the next level. Perry started his career as an engineer, but quickly learned that he had more value to add to business owners by helping them focus on the few things that will deliver the biggest results. Perry is an amazing coach and mentor, and I am working hard now to implement the “jewels” of knowledge I extracted from my time in the “hot seat.” I found Perry a couple years ago when I read his book 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More. This book gave me a completely different paradigm about understanding how to target buyers that are most interested in the products and services that we are selling. Whether you are selling auto parts, NFL game tickets or professional services, there are many people that will spend a few … Continued

{Guest Post} The Power of 1%

  We have all heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder” and yet I would venture to guess that few of us really understand how to do just that.  There is however, a very simple concept that demonstrates the critically important issue of how to constantly improve efficiency and effectiveness. June Jewell, a professional colleague of mine, has written an excellent book, ‘Find the Lost Dollars’ that encourages firm leaders to enhance the best practices of their firm and with it, the profitability of their projects and businesses.  The book is filled with excellent, easy to understand recommendations for improving the way we go about the daily tasks involved in running an organization, regardless of its size.  And, as good as all these recommendations are, for me, it’s the clarity of each chapter that provides insight to working smarter. Not to oversimplify the effort and time it takes to learn how to discipline oneself, about anything, June has nonetheless brilliantly introduced logical, easy to comprehend method and means for enhancing a firm’s revenue, which might otherwise be overlooked or lost due to the lack of … Continued

How Accountable Learning Can Improve Financial Results

    In looking where to invest limited dollars these days, it is critical that every penny spent provides a return on investment (ROI) above what other investments could deliver. Every dollar spent on one part of the business takes away investment in another. Each employee hired must contribute to the bottom line of the business, and measuring how they contribute can be a difficult yet critical aspect of successful business management. Improvement in employee skills can provide a significant improvement in profitability if combined with a program of business management improvement and learning methodology that ensures that the employee is employing their new skills on the job. Profitability by Project Manager can be measured – yet many firms don’t track individual performance, or teach project managers the skills necessary to deliver profitable jobs. Where money gets lost is often elusive – it is often in many small places every day. From poor estimates, to scope creep – not recovering contract extras – to poor control over subcontractors– money gets lost in many phases of the project lifecycle. What is missing in many cases is … Continued

Why I Want My Firm to Be Like Tesla

    I started a new business last year which gave me a unique opportunity to figure out my new brand – how I wanted AEC Business Solutions to be viewed and perceived in the marketplace. It is very exciting starting a new business after 25 years doing the same thing. The new business is different, and the new image and “look and feel” of our online presence, messaging and other marketing needs to be aligned with how we want clients and potential clients to evaluate us. I gave this a lot of thought. I started with what I didn’t want: I didn’t want us to be the same as we were before I didn’t want us to look like our competitors I didn’t want to say the same old thing that everyone else is saying Then I tried to consolidate how I DID want my new firm to be branded: I want us to be relevant for the future I want us to be innovative and cool I want to offer more value and measurable results I want to have clients that are raving … Continued

{Guest Post} 6 Steps to Holding Employees Accountable

  Ineffective communication is the root of all evil. Recent research has shown that the average employee in a professional services firm wastes 40-minutes per day due to ineffective communication alone. In the average company with an average payroll this equates to approximately $5,220 per employee per year in lost productivity. And, that is just wasted time due to ineffective communication. If you add low trust, low morale work environments with low levels of employee engagement, and the lack of consistent communication around managing job performance and behaviors, that $5220 per employee per year in lost productivity and under-performance goes up three-fold. There are a myriad of places that ineffective communication can be found – within teams, between employees and their supervisors, with vendors, subcontractors and clients, and between departments. Because there are virtually unlimited ways communication leads to low productivity and performance, companies struggle with getting a finger on exactly what to do and where to start. Many professional services firms struggle with holding employees accountable. This issue is often grounded in deep cultural foundations over many years. This problem not only affects financial … Continued

{Guest Post} Develop a Competitive Edge: Bring Your Marketing Team to the Table

    Competition in the A/E/C industry is fiercer than it’s ever been. Firms have emerged from the recession leaner, meaner and laser focused on bringing the most value to their clients. It’s no longer just about the best design, quality or service – because every firm provides this (or at least promises they do). Marketing teams must dig deeper to truly discover our firms’ competitive edge. What does this mean? It means in order for marketing teams to be successful in this endeavor, they need to be linked to all aspects of firm management: financial, operations, and HR. Here’s what this looks like: Financial The marketing team needs to understand the firm’s full financial picture in order to successfully pursue the best projects. What is your firm’s profit margin on a design-build project vs. a full-service CMGC project? On a full-service project, what percentage of fee is your firm getting vs. the consultants? If you’re teaming with another firm, what’s the typical split in work and fee? Do project type and location influence these aspects of a teaming agreement? A firm’s marketing team should … Continued

New Industry Conference Launched – Aimed at Increasing Profits in Architecture & Engineering Firms

  Industry leader AEC Business Solutions, LLC is launching a new conference aimed at helping Architecture and Engineering firm leaders to improve business management practices with the primary goal of increasing profits.   The inaugural AEC Profitability Summit will take place September 24-25, 2015 in Tyson’s Corner, VA. For the first time ever, the entire conference will focus entirely on profitability in A&E firms and utilize proprietary templates and other tools to guide attendees towards development of a 12-month plan to improve their firms. A distinctive line-up of industry experts will offer fresh content and specific hands-on solutions to put participants on the road to increasing profits. “We expect this Summit to be the beginning of a one-year journey for each participant, that will allow them to learn and implement several key initiatives,” states June R. Jewell, CPA, President and best-selling author. “Our Summit is an excellent opportunity for forward thinking leaders interested in taking their firms to the next level by transforming employee behavior.” Planned sessions include: “Leveraging Your Strategic Plan for Improved Firm Performance” where Ray Kogan, AIA, and President of Kogan & Company, along … Continued

3 Steps to Increase Your Fees Now

In a recent survey of our clients across the U.S., one of the most pressing concerns noted was how to raise fees. While the economy is improving, faster in some sectors and geographies than in others, fees for Architecture and Engineering firms are not increasing across the board. During the recession from 2007 to 2010, most firms saw their average project revenues and multipliers decrease, along with corresponding hourly rates. Most of this was caused by competition, a reduction in available projects, and a glut of available experienced talent. Now we face a period of increasing volume of work, a potential shortage of human resources in some areas with resulting growing salaries, yet fees have not increased at the same pace. The average firm fears “not winning” and so they sabotage their own success by reducing fees in order to win work. So how do you get out of this vicious cycle? Here are 3 steps that I have practiced myself and witnessed personally among several successful architecture and engineering firms over the last several years that can allow you to transform your firm into a … Continued

Top 10 Topics Discussed at the ACEC Large Firm CEO Roundtable This Year

In April, I attended the Large Firm Roundtable at the ACECNational Conference to find out what pressing issues are top of mind for our clients. ACEC defines a large firm as 200 to 500 employees, and we work with a lot of firms this size. These roundtables are mostly attended by CEOs, Presidents, and other top level executives in engineering firms. This is a brief outline of the questions asked, topics discussed, and some of the concerns these firm leaders expressed: 1. Do most firms have an in-house counsel? – There seemed to be some consensus that at a certain size, usually between 200 to 300 employees, most firms will bring in counsel to help them minimize risk and implement better contractual practices. Several leaders expressed how valuable this had been to their firm, and recommended doing it sooner rather than later. 2. Challenges of doing business in multiple states – Everyone agreed that it is getting harder to do business in multiple states. From compliance and taxation issues, to some states making the barriers to entry so restrictive that it impedes competition. They discussed … Continued

Your Profitable Journey – Kickoff a Transformation in Your A&E Firm

  As I speak to our Architecture and Engineering clients around the country, the common goal is always how to maximize profits. The daily demands of running an architecture or engineering firm can be overwhelming. And the day to day demands of growing while still maintaining “squeezed” profit margins is becoming harder to accomplish. This is where the AEC Profitability Summit can give you specific tools to implement significant change over the next 12 months to increase your bottom line. Join us on a journey to find an extra 1% to 3% profits in your business. How many times have you spent valuable time and money attending a conference or seminar and come away thinking, “Hmm, some interesting info, but now what do I do with it?” All the business and financial management theory is great, but once you get back to your “day job” it is difficult to implement significant change without a plan. It has happened to me and my clients more times than I’d like to admit. When our team at AEC Business Solutions first started talking about putting together the upcoming … Continued

Developing Superstar Project Managers

In looking at the operations of an Architecture or Engineering firm, it is evident that the project manager (PM) role is the key to success. In addition to their normal project management responsibilities, most PMs are also involved in many other aspects of firm management – from marketing and sales, to human resources (HR), recruiting and hiring, time management, billing, and collections. They are doing all of this outside of their basic functions of running projects and working with clients. Why have we overloaded our PMs with so much responsibility, and how can they be successful without specific skills and training in each of these areas? We often describe and even measure a “superstar” project manager, by rating technical skills and their ability to keep clients happy above profitability. I argue that for a PM to be a superstar, they need to deliver profitable projects, and help the firm to grow and prosper financially. Ultimately, if the client is happy but the project loses money, the project manager is not a superstar. This practice has developed because most architecture and engineering school curricul ums focus … Continued

Too Busy to Work ON Your Business?

Too Busy to Work ON Your Business? 3 Steps to Ensure Important Change is Happening   Many of you have probably read or heard of Michael Gerber’s best-seller The E-Myth which introduced the concept of working ON your business not in your business. This how-to guide for entrepreneurs popularized the recommendation that successful business owners need to focus on running and improving their business operations rather than doing the work themselves. This is a common problem in the A&E industry where most business owners are technicians and often love doing the work themselves more than managing their business. This practice can be to your detriment, however, if not enough care is given to ensuring that the business’s goals and strategic objectives are met, and the often challenging process of change is implemented. As I work with A&E firms to help them improve profitability, the number one challenge with firms achieving their goals is that they are not getting the important but non-urgent initiatives completed. These are the types of internal projects such as business process re-engineering, improving the use of systems, establishing new performance management / accountability processes, developing better project management practices and skillsets, and … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Announces Launch of Innovative Training Platform with Three Days of Launch Events

Leading Provider of Profitability and Assessment Solutions for AEC Firms Launches their Proprietary Platform During Three Days of Events Spanning Two Cities.   AEC Business Solutions, a leading provider of profitability and assessment solutions for Architectural, Engineering, and Construction firms is pleased to announce the launch of their new online training platform and business management assessment. To introduce the platform to the A/E/C community, AEC Business held three days of launch events from April 28-30, 2015 at The Pyramid Club, Philadelphia, PA (April 28th) and The Tower Club, Vienna, VA (April 29th) followed by a live webinar event on April 30th. The launch events gave AEC executives an opportunity to acquire information and learn about the new “Find the Lost Dollars” online training platform and business management assessment – which helps firms increase profitability and save a significant portion of lost revenue. June R. Jewell, CPA and President of AEC Business Solutions, led both sold-out live events and the online webinar with a presentation of, “How AEC Firms are Finding the Lost Dollars.” Attendees of both live events and the online webinar received professional development … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Partners with ACEC National to Provide New Educational Resources to the Engineering Industry

AEC Business Solutions, LLC is proud to announce that they have met the rigorous requirements to be able to provide continuing education credits and educational resources for Professional Engineers through the Registered Continuing Education Program (RCEP); administered by American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The Find the Lost Dollars Business Management Skill Development for AEC Professionals online platform is based on the content in Find The Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, authored by AEC Business firm President, June R. Jewell, CPA. The training provides Architectural & Engineering firms with the tools they need to successfully onboard new project managers as well as train emerging leaders. The training courses are proven to change behavior by adding goal setting and exercises that both engage employees and help them practice the behaviors your want them to learn. The platform introduces a new and innovative approach to business management training for AEC Project Managers. AEC Business Solutions also has signed an annual sponsorship agreement with ACEC and will be participating as an exhibitor at both the ACEC 2015 Annual Convention in Washington DC, and … Continued

Guest Post: FTLD Book Review

Today’s post is by our guest author Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM. Scott is Vice President of JDB Engineering, Inc. and President-elect of the SMPS Foundation. He has more than two decades of A/E/C marketing experience and is a Fellow of the Society for Marketing Professional Services.   BOOK REVIEW OF FIND THE LOST DOLLARS: 6 STEPS TO INCREASE PROFITS IN ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEERING, AND ENVIRONMENTAL FIRMS   It’s not often that you read a book and think, “Where has this book been?” Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms by June R. Jewell, CPA, is one of those books. If your firm happens to be rolling in profit and doing everything exceptionally well, there’s really no reason for you to read this book. But for the rest of us—that is, almost of all of us—this book will serve as a critical desk reference for years to come. In the A/E/C industry, we have this modus operandi whereby we reward exceptional technical people with positions in management. Unfortunately, they rarely have any training, much less formal education, in business management. And while project management is often … Continued

7 Video Marketing Ideas for A/E Firms

Today’s post is by our guest author Brian M. Fraley, Founder, Manager and Chief Strategist for Fraley AEC Solutions, LLC. Video is trending upward in marketing. Did you know that YouTube is the 2nd largest Internet search engine? The truth is that it was always powerful. Video offers a way to promote your business in a living, breathing multimedia format. Why the sudden spike in popularity? Video has become more affordable thanks to free software, for one. Secondly, the way we learn about brands in a society overwhelmed by information has accelerated the shift toward quick consumption methods like video. And thirdly, there are opportunities to increase your Internet search rankings and engagement by placing it on your website. Project Application Stories Project stories are powerful. Project stories in a video format can deliver even more oomph. There are many approaches, but consider a narrator to describe the project, brief interviews with key people, and footage of the work in progress. Keep it to three minutes with tight editing. Outsourcing this work is your best option since it requires a variety of shoots and professional … Continued

6 Steps to Find the Lost Dollars in Your A&E Firm

In my book Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms, I conclude with a final chapter that outlines the six steps that can guide you towards increasing your firm’s profitability. This article will summarize that chapter, as well as give you some success principles for ensuring that desired changes and improvements do not lose their momentum and die before being implemented. Change is inevitable and necessary in all businesses. If you are not able to adapt to changes in the economy, marketing, technology, and availability of human resources, you will find your profits dwindling, and your ability to retain your most talented employees diminished. So then why do 70% or more of most change initiatives fail? I argue that the foremost reason that A&E firms fail to grow and improve business operations is lack of a detailed strategy and plan to improve. This article will summarize the six steps that can help you start to identify and implement business improvement initiatives to help you find and recover the lost dollars in your business. 1. Calculate your metrics … Continued

5 Steps to Reduce Scope Creep in Your AEC Firm

Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) firms lose money on projects due to many causes, and our research shows that scope creep and failure to bill for extra services is at the top of the list as the biggest cause by far. Scope Creep is the erosion of the project plan due to added requirements, unexpected client demands, and failure to bill and collect for extra services. Most firms struggle with scope creep for many reasons, often believing it is mainly a people issue. However, your employees are doing what they are taught to do, so without the right processes, structure and training, your employees will often adopt the least confrontational behavior. In my book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms I demonstrate the financial impact of just a 1% reduction in scope creep. The numbers are astounding and can easily be calculated for your firm. I promise that time invested in improving this aspect of your business management operations will pay you back quickly and significantly. 5 Steps to Reduce Scope Creep in Your AEC Firm … Continued

June R. Jewell, CPA Juries the 2015 Architecture Business Plan Competition

Encouraging Architects to Develop Their Own Firms and Inspire a Broader Dialog within the Profession June R. Jewell, CPA and President of AEC Business Solutions is honored to be participating as a jury member in the 2015 Architecture Business Plan Competition. The Business Plan Competition was developed by Charrette Venture Group to encourage more architects to start their own design firms and to inspire a broader dialog about the role as an entrepreneur in the A&E field. “We are thrilled to have June as part of the panel this year, her experience in the Architecture industry is invaluable.” – Todd Reding, Chief Operating Officer, Charrette Venture Group June has 28 years of experience in helping AEC firms improve business management processes and is a sought after speaker at industry events and conferences.  She is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms. In addition to Ms. Jewell the 2015 jury panel will include Rena M. Klein, FAIA and national recognized expert in small firm practice; author Mark R. LePage, AIA and … Continued

8 Ways to Make More Money in 2015

I can’t believe it is already 2015. The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to gain a different perspective and a more effective business management strategy. While we are all in business to make money, it is amazing that we persist with business practices that do not optimize our employee productivity, project profits, or marketing success. Change is hard for every firm. We all suffer with the same issues – fear of and resistance to change, limited time and resources, a fast changing economic and technology environment, and limited expertise in financial and business management. With our economy improving and firms growing again, there are more challenges in trying to ensure that our growth is profitable. Some firms are better run and more profitable than others. I believe even the most successful firms can run better. In my book, “Find the Lost Dollars,” I show the financial impact of just a 1% increase in your win rate, utilization and project profit margin. Do you know what your 1% is? This is the perfect time to put a plan in place to make … Continued

You Asked and We Listened: Find the Lost Dollars Training Courses Are Here!

Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, authored by June R. Jewell, CPA was published in 2013.  Since its release many readers asked how June could help them take the book from information to transformation, recovering the much needed lost dollars in their firm. Many firms were developing their own training curriculum around the book and buying multiple copies for their staff. It soon became apparent that the subject matter in the book is being used by firms across the country for onboarding new project managers as well as training emerging leaders in the “business of an AEC business.” AEC Business Solutions, LLC was formed to answer the call to take the book further and help even more firms be successful! Our first project was the design of an online business management training program providing step by step instruction and measurable goals to implement the Find the Lost Dollars framework. It’s our goal to take the business management best practices delivered in Find the Lost Dollars, and prepare future leaders of AEC firms to maximize the win rate, utilization and project profitability. … Continued

Spring Cleaning for Your Business

Doesn’t it feel good to throw things away? I don’t know about you, but I hate clutter. It makes me feel stressed and disorganized. Every year I resolve to clean out my office, my garage, and all the drawers and closets in the house that get cluttered over the long winter. It feels so great to actually throw things in the trash that you once found valuable. So this year I am promoting a concept called Spring Cleaning for your business. This is where you look under the cover, peek around the corners, and discover the old habits, practices, and business management methods and tools that are no longer working for you. I will not fool you – this is a lot of work! It takes both time and an open mind to dig into what is not working in your business, and figure out how to fix it. And it often takes courage to throw away those processes and systems that you used to depend on. But the payoff can be significant! In my new book, Find the Lost Dollars, I demonstrate the significant … Continued