Category Archives: Project Management

3 tips for AE Firm Business Development and “Dream” Fulfillment from SMPS

I planned to write while I was at the Society for Marketing Professional Services conference and since I’ve attended more than a dozen years consecutively…I should have known better than to think I would find a few free minutes.    And, I will also admit that I didn’t get out my running shoes, not once.

True to form, the conference was packed full of inspiring keynotes, informative educational sessions and phenomenal networking.   This years’ theme, Dream Big (what else would it be in the land of all things Disney?!), resonated throughout the three days of learning.

I know that each of you has dreams for your Architectural or Engineering firms – dreams in terms of your profitability, your number of staff, the number of projects you want to take on each year – dreams for your success.   In order to achieve these goals you need to have everyone in your firm wearing a sales hat, you need to do this to outdo and outlast the competition.   So, I spent a lot of my time attending sessions regarding Business Development – everything from how to develop your own personal brand to helping your technical staff to create business to effective leadership in this role in our organizations.

The three top tips I took away in this capacity are:

  1. Teach your team.  Don’t assume that everyone knows your elevator speech, how to cultivate an opportunity or even how to effectively talk the talk at networking events.
  2. Incentivize your team.  You need to provide incentives if you want your technical staff to take on a business development mentality.  Whether that be providing a bonus structure or holding contest or whether it means providing concrete goals that must be met and are included in performance reviews – your team needs to know you are serious.
  3. Monitor your team.  It is imperative that your marketing/business development principal management communicates regularly with others on the topic of sales goals.  Set semi-monthly meetings, keep data in your client relationship management systems, produce reports, etc.

I’ve been inspired to Dream Big when it comes to marketing for my firm and to help our Architectural and Engineering clients market their firms as well.   That’s why I am thrilled that our product, Praesto AE, includes components for marketers and business developers to track activities, prepare/track proposals and analyze efforts in these areas.

And now, the break is over and it’s time to get back to the office and to train to fulfill my dream of riding those 100 miles on the road bike.  It’s time for me to get back to making those dreams happen to and keep thinking of the next big ones as well!

Taking a break from the bike to network and get educated at SMPS!

This week I am taking a break from the bike.  Over the past week I did several rides – starting with climbing our roads to Horsetooth Rock, which included 7 and 8% grades, and also shorter rides of 35 and 26 miles for recovery.   But today the bike goes in for maintenance and tomorrow I venture to Orlando for a conference and will be packing the running shoes.

I am in love with cycling so the prospect of being away from the bike for a week is tough, but I am sure after a few miles I will become reacquainted with my first love and will enjoy the solitude of a morning run as well.

The conference — Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Build Business – will be attended by roughly 1000 marketing people (in varying capacities) from Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms.  I’ve been part of this organization for over 10 years.   It teaches and advocates best practices for marketing and business development in an industry that often thrives on referrals and repeat business but really takes so much more behind the scenes.    The sessions will revolve around proposal generation, knowledge management, client relationships and more.    I encourage you to check out

I will write again from the road…already knowing that I will find plenty to write about based on my past experiences with this wonderful organization and brilliant! people.

In the meantime, I will be giving a few muscles a break and finding a few that haven’t been used in a while.  And I know I will look forward to taking back to the road on my bright orange bike and I will be refreshed, renewed and will leave Orlando having reconnected with old friends, gained a lot of continued knowledge on the AEC industry and will have a ton of new contacts.

Do numbers matter? You bet they do! A look at metrics in cycling and project management!

Before I started this quest for a Centric, I really considered myself a runner.  But then due to an injury that forced me to take six weeks off training, I discovered cycling.   As a runner, I had my running watch at my disposal and I liked to also use it for my rides.  I figured as long as I had the number of miles I went and the total time, I knew what I needed to know.

Sound familiar?  I often hear Principals of Architectural and Engineering firms say they don’t need project management software – they figure if they have money in the bank they are doing okay.  They don’t need metrics.

I recently discovered the difference numbers can make. And, I know from experience the numbers can make a difference for you.  You might have cash flow but are your projects really profitable, what is your average percent of profit, what is your actual fee per hour spent?

E firms need to have information available so you can use real-time information from time and expenses and see if projects are on, over or under budget.  If you are going to make a profit – you need to keep on budget and you can’t react to issues if you don’t have good information at your fingertips.  The same goes for staffing – if you don’t know if you are reaching milestones on your projects – how do you make adjustments?

Using project ratio tracking is another valuable metric that helps you evaluate current work as well as setting fees for new work.  If you can measure fees by ratios such as percentage of construction costs, fee per area, per hour, per drawing…you can predict profits going in rather than waiting until you are coming out to see how you did.

And, imagine not only being able to view your gross and net profits by project – but also taking a look at max profit possible (the best case scenario if you complete your project with no additional costs).

These numbers, although using different terms, are the same numbers I needed to see on the bike.  I thought total miles and time spent was enough until I got a Garmin.  Now I understand that the information I can see in real-time, at my fingertips and through post-ride reports has given me a whole new understanding of my training.   I can now see my cadence, my average moving miles per hour, my elevation change, my average heart rate.   All metrics that make a difference.

I love knowing at any point in my ride that I might need to improve, speed up, slow down…whatever is necessary for max efficiency.   So, you might have money in the bank but are you reaching your max?

Building foundations…in cycling and project management software

by LeAnn Nowak, CPSM

I spend a lot of time on my road bike as I am training for a 100 mile ride at the end of September.  So far my longest ride is just at three hours but I will be at eight before it is all said and done.    I tend to spend a lot of this time thinking about business and the idea came to me to turn these thoughts into a blog for my latest endeavor – doing sales and marketing for Base Builders.

As you can imagine the correlation between cycling and project management software came to me when I started thinking about our company name and how I am building a base for my endurance and speed while at Base Builders we are helping architects and engineers build a base for their business and project management.

I got to thinking “what is the true base of my training”?   Is it my bike?  My heart?  My lungs?  My legs?  Is it mental?   I am sure if you asked a hundred cyclists you would get a hundred different answers.  Just like if you ask an Architect or an Engineer what the base of their business management is — you will find out the answer will vary from firm Principal to firm Principal.

Some Principals would tell you that solid business management requires the ability to manage cash, others would say it is the ability to track and manage projects and yet others would say it is being able to measure profitability on a project by project basis.  None of them would be wrong.  These are all critical components of managing a small AE firm just like with cycling where your base needs to include a solid bike, a healthy heart and lungs, strong legs and a will to get through the long rides.

Base Builders offers these small to mid-size firms the ability to “have it all” – to have a single solution where they can have a base for their business and project management.  We offer Praesto AE so they can work hard during the day and rest, or ride, at night.

Please join me for my weekly Blog posts in the months ahead, where I will continue to explore the world of cycling, Base Builders, Praesto AE and most importantly  business/project management in the AE industry.