For over 30 years I have been helping architecture and engineering (A&E) firms fight commoditization. It has been a challenge. When I started working with A&E firms in Washington, DC in 1990, times were lean. Competing on price was the norm. My focus was on helping firms reduce costs by increasing efficiency, automating financial management and getting employees to follow business best practices (timesheets, change orders, etc.). My work in recent years has been focused on changing the mindset of A&E professionals to value their work and get paid more – based on the value they bring to clients.  

In 1996, I worked with a 30-person engineering firm helping them implement the Wind2 Financial Management System (FMS). Their goal was to automate their manual accounting and project management processes. When helping them set up their billing rate tables on hourly projects, I realized their rates were very low and did not cover their costs of labor, benefits, overhead and of course, profit. In fact, there was no profit – they were losing money on every hour they worked. The rates had not been increased in years so this was a chronic problem. 

When I reviewed this apparent “error” with them they admitted that these clients were very tight on money, they really enjoyed the projects and couldn’t increase the rates. They were effectively financing their client’s projects – both with zero profit rates and waiting 140 days to get paid! While they were apprehensive to address this, I helped them develop a strategy to approach their clients with value arguments that made it clear they were providing far more than their compensation, and no other firm could do what they had done. Their clients agreed to a 20% increase in rates, and they were finally making money on those projects after almost 8 years. 

After this experience, I started to see this issue in many of the clients I worked with. In fact, it was such a huge problem that it started to be discussed at industry conferences as the “commoditization of the A&E industry”. 

Let’s face it – A&E firms don’t get paid what they are worth. I guarantee I can find many lost dollars hiding in your marketing, sales process, proposals, contracts, and even client conversations. But the bigger picture is a lack of focus on strategically getting better clients and teaching employees to sell on value instead of competing on price.  

My mission with this book is to elevate the A&E industry and help firms achieve well-deserved rewards for the extraordinary impact they have on their clients, communities and the world. I have watched so many firms continue to compete on price, lower fees, and put up with ungrateful demanding clients that do not see the value Architects and Engineers contribute to their projects. Part of the reason for this is they are not skilled in talking about it themselves. 

In my first book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, I lay the groundwork for eliminating ineffective business practices caused by 10 insidious culture traps. The Find the Lost Dollars book and corresponding training program are focused on improving employee performance, business processes and use of systems to increase profits. But they did not go far enough to change the dilemma faced by most A&E firms – how to get paid what they are worth. 

Several years ago, I attempted to address this issue and created a workshop called, Selling on Value Instead of Price where I helped firm leaders and their teams explore their true value, and taught them how to communicate to get better clients and higher fees. RAISE Your Value came out of this work and provides a roadmap for diving into your firm’s unique value so you can work for the best clients in your industry and charge top industry fees. I call this your Winning Advantage.  

Some of our clients have seen remarkable results by uncovering their true value. Changes such as increasing revenue without adding employees, negotiating higher fees, and getting more good clients and less bad clients. Every increase in your rates or fees goes straight to the bottom line! 

After working with thousands of A&E firms, I have seen the damage failure to differentiate creates. I am passionate about turning around the mindset, business practices and behaviors of A&E leaders and their staff to ensure they stop leaving money on the table. Combined with business management best practices learned in Find the Lost Dollars, implementation of this groundbreaking advice can catapult your firm into high-performing profit margins over 20%. 

That is why I decided to write my second book, RAISE Your Value: 5 Steps for Architecture and Engineering Firms to Uncover Hidden Value, Design a Winning Advantage and Charge More. If you would like to be part of a revolution to transform the A&E industry, or just your firm, join my launch team that will be actively promoting the book (with some special perks) and learn the keys to raising your firm’s value. 

JOIN OUR VIP LAUNCH TEAM!

You’re invited to join in the launch of my new book:

RAISE Your Value: 5 Steps for Architecture and Engineering Firms to Uncover Hidden Value, Design a Winning Advantage and Charge More

More From the Find the Lost Dollars Blog...

10 Challenges to Bringing Employees Back to the Office

10 Challenges to Bringing Employees Back to the Office

In my Monday afternoon AEC Crisis Roundtable, I hear similar stories of confusion, anxiety and dismay. The Covid-19 pandemic has created many challenges, among the most complex being how to bring employees back into the office. One leader, Rich, summarized the problem...

How to Prepare for the Next Recession

How to Prepare for the Next Recession

I don’t know if there will be a recession in 2021. No one does. What I do know is that I have been through at least five difficult economic downturns since starting my business in 1990. And what I witnessed is that some firms were prepared and some were not. Some went...

6 Signs You Don’t Have “Great” Client Relationships

6 Signs You Don’t Have “Great” Client Relationships

Every leader believes they have great client relationships. And many are counting on their long-term deep relationships with clients to help make it through whatever economic conditions are coming. With uncertainty in the future and an unstable environment no one has...