Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Habit of Excellence

Editor's Note: A habit to ponder for the New Year. The Seven Habits series and Industry Speaks posting will resume in January 2014.

Recently I read a proposal that, like most, had a section written about the firm’s QA/QC procedures. It was eloquent. It highlighted the QA/QC director, and a QA/QC process. There was just one problem ... it wasn’t true!

While the narrative was well written, it was fiction, describing a theoretical quality control process the firm would go through if they had time. The truth is the QA/QC director (by his own admission) often doesn’t have time to do quality control. Tight fees, even tighter deadlines, insufficient staff and multiple responsibilities make it all but impossible. The drawings are instead checked hastily by the project manager as the clock ticks toward the deadline or as someone frantically calls to ask for an extension.

I’m sad to say I haven’t seen an excellent QA/QC process recently. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Those I recall from ages ago were in smaller firms where excellence was a core value in the firm’s operations. They were successful. But, in smaller (niche) firms, there are no QA/QC directors. Everyone does everything.

The process described in that proposal wasn’t bad. It just failed to recognize the realities of a working architectural practice. As an industry, we must develop a way to bring quality assurance and control to the core of the design process on a consistent basis — not when we have time, or when the client is willing to pay for it — but all of the time. Clients expect and demand no less, and so should we as representatives of this profession.

Karen Compton, CPSM. Karen Compton is principal of A3K Consulting (Glendale, CA), a business development and strategic planning firm specializing in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Ms. Compton is also the founder of Industry Speaks™, a web-based business-to-business portal that connects AEC firms with experienced consultants, provides peer reviews of consultants, reports on key industry trends, and publishes expert reviews of professional courses and books. Contact her at

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Industry Speaks Review: aecKnowledge Course on Public Design Opportunities for Small Firms

Excerpt: "This course will provide you with meaningful insights on how to seek public design work and be successful with your efforts. The insights are offered directly from panelists who have had many years of experience in qualifying and selecting architects for public facilities."

Armando Gonzalez, FAIA, has reviewed Growing a Small Firm: Public Design Opportunities for Industry Speaks. Read the full review here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm Being Audited! Now What?

We have almost completed the fourth quarter for 2013. Are your credentials requirements up to date? After reviewing our client base and their license renewal requirements, there are a significant number of jurisdictions, nine for architects, fourteen for engineers, and nine for landscape architects due in December 2013. The learning unit and professional development hours range from eight annually to thirty biennially.

Continuing education is a condition of renewal held by jurisdiction statutes.

Now is a good time to evaluate your completed and pending continuing education requirements. Professionals of the built environment have numerous options for continuing education, including seminars, lunch & learns, online continuing education that may be free or require a small fee, industry conferences, university courses, and something as simple as reading a specific approved article for self-reporting purposes.

Are you prepared for an audit?

The easy to ignore elephant in the room is a potential audit. Typically the audit process is initiated at the time of license renewal. However, certain jurisdiction rules allow random audits immediately following license renewal. It can be daunting if you are not prepared to submit the proper required documents or if you have not maintained complete records for professional licensure.

How complicated can an audit be?

The following are examples of some jurisdiction auditing procedures:

  • A random computer audit selection occurs during license renewal or after license renewal has been completed.
  • A letter sent requiring licensee to prepare and submit certificates of completion, transcripts, jurisdiction log form with chronological completed continuing education credits, license renewal form, and renewal fee.
  • Jurisdictions may require electronic submissions, hard copies mailed or both.
  • Jurisdiction staff and licensing board reviews audit licensee's documentation.
  • Fine/fees will be charged for noncompliance of continuing education requirements. As an example in Ohio - $500 to $1500 for the total number of delinquent continuing education credits may be assessed.
  • Typical compliance periods range from 30 days to as much as 120 days.
  • Ultimately, if the jurisdictional license board determines compliance has not been met, you may be required to fulfill a reinstatement process. This process may include three references, a documented list of all projects you have been working on since your license has been canceled, and yes you are still required to complete the delinquent continuing education!

Simplify your life by managing your most valuable resources, your licenses, your professional affiliations, and your continuing education requirements.

Lexi Selvig, CDT, President, LS Credentialing Services LLC, is a registered consultant on Industry Speaks. She can be reached at

Early Bird Pricing Through Today for PSMJ Principals Bootcamp Atlanta, Feb 6-7, 2014

This is your last chance to take advantage of special early bird pricing (Save $300!) for PSMJ's popular Principals Bootcamp in Atlanta, GA, February 6-7, 2014. Covered during the two-day conference:
  1. Why 90% of design firm mission statements are a waste of time.
  2. How to win a project when you are 1 of 40 firms proposing.
  3. How to get your multiple offices to work as a single company.
  4. How to move from managing projects to managing project managers.
  5. Six ways to raise your multiplier to 5.0 or higher.
  6. The best-kept secrets for motivating employees.
  7. Three keys to ownership transition success.
  8. And much more...
2014 Dates & Locations
  • January 30-31, 2014 – San Francisco, CA
  • February 6-7, 2014 – Atlanta, GA
  • February 20-21, 2014 – Denver, CO
  • March 13-14, 2014 – Seattle, WA
  • March 20-21, 2014 – Boston, MA
  • March 27-28, 2014 – Chicago, IL
  • April 3-4, 2014 – Vancouver, BC
  • April 10-11, 2014 – Dallas, TX
More information, and registration link here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Karen Compton on PSMJ A/E/C Panel in Las Vegas

The PSMJ 2013 A/E/C Industry Summit "Back to Growth" starts Thursday, December 5 in Las Vegas. Industry Speaks Founder Karen Compton will be presenting Transferring Key Client Relationships from Retiring Principals on Friday afternoon (December 6, 4 p.m.) along with other distinguished panelists:

Brad Wilson, PSMJ, Senior M&A Consultant
Chad Surprenant, PE, President/CEO, I&S Group
Bob Kain, AIA, Director of Healthcare, Balfour Beatty Construction

Check the conference brochure for full program details.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Habit of Generosity

I have a client firm that is relatively small. It has 16 people and does transportation work in the metropolitan area. Each year, the firm completes performance evaluations in order to provide employees with much needed feedback—what they are doing well, what they could improve upon and how their career can develop and progress. In prosperous years, this small firm would distribute bonuses to its employees—not because of its largess, but as a means of retaining staff.

Whether the acknowledgement is monetary—in the form of benefits, bonuses or incentive compensation, or non monetary—such as additional days off, training /educational opportunities, casual Fridays, breakfast days or flex-schedules, effective firms have retention strategies to keep their intellectual capital (otherwise known as staff) happy. Why? The cost of turnover is too great, especially for smaller firms.

In recent years, almost all the CFOs I’ve spoken to have had to take a hard look at the cost of their benefits packages. In some cases, they’ve taken on increased premiums while offsetting with higher co-pays, partial contributions by employees or benefits for employees only. Many have also sought ways to reward and retain employees through non-monetary benefits. There is no right or wrong answer in terms of what to offer. My only observation is this: Firms that have figured out the correlation between satisfied employees and productivity are the same firms that have low turn-over rates, high productivity and profits.

The habit of generosity is one to acquire, and share!

Karen Compton, CPSM. Karen Compton is principal of A3K Consulting (Glendale, CA), a business development and strategic planning firm specializing in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Ms. Compton is also the founder of Industry Speaks™, a web-based business-to-business portal that connects AEC firms with experienced consultants, provides peer reviews of consultants, reports on key industry trends, and publishes expert reviews of professional courses and books. Contact her at

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

PSMJ A/E/C Industry Summit "Back to Growth" in Las Vegas Dec 5-6, with Dec 4 pre-conference programs - Last Chance to Register

PSMJ's 2013 A/E/C Industry Summit is December 5-6, 2013, in Las Vegas, Nevada with informative pre-conference programs taking place on December 4.

This event is for senior leaders of A/E/C firms including:
  • CEOs and COOs who will set the strategy for their firm's success in the coming decade.
  • CFOs who will manage the firm's finances in the future.
  • Senior Project Managers and Directors who will embrace BIM, IPD, P3, and other major project delivery innovations.
  • Business Development Directors and Marketing Directors who need to prepare their firms for the hot markets of the future.
  • Keynote presentations from industry-leading experts
  • Breakout sessions on a wide range of topics and specialty areas
  • Cutting-edge practices you can immediately implement
  • Networking with top performing firms to form new strategic alliances and partnerships
  • Benchmarking your firm
Conference Program Brochure
Online Registration