Monday, November 8, 2010

With Our Economy in the Red, Green is the New Black

Nearly every business seems to have turned “green.” and it’s easy to be skeptical of the altruistic claims that always follow. If a business is serious about green, however, not just claiming “green” as a marketing strategy, there is a quieter green strategy that can reduce our impact on the environment as well as assist in the recovery of a bottom-line issue for any business: management of utility costs.

Currently, there are more than 5 million professional buildings in the United States, consuming 40 percent of the total energy in the country. This amounts to $100 billion spent annually to power the U.S. office environment. This cost of doing business is not a fixed amount; there are both small and large actions that can be taken by any company to reclaim a percentage of this overhead expense. And even a small percentage of $100 billion could be a large fortune. Here are some ideas that can help your organization start reclaiming its share:

Gain awareness. Clear, accurate reporting is crucial to every successful business plan. Demand the same understanding of your overhead expenses as you would of any service area or marketing campaign.

- Collect historical data, and create baselines of your previous utility use.

- Track and trend the current data against previous patterns.

- Understand the utility bills so you can react to the inevitable inconsistencies in both costs and consumption amounts.

- Set benchmarks to solidify your energy goals.

Get the low-hanging fruit. Some energy solutions are complicated. These are not.

- Replace any old lighting with new compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs.

- Window treatments will help deflect solar heat in the warmer months, lessening the strain on the air conditioning system.

- Install occupancy sensors on the lighting system.

- Install low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Establish involvement from the users.

- Let the users know what is being done and what the benefits are.

- Encourage participation. Let them know what they can do to help, such as turning off computers and lights when they leave, unplugging chargers and other gadgets, and becoming vigilant and responsible energy users.

Seek an energy study.

- If you want to see changes on a larger scale, bring in an energy management team or engineering firm so you can identify greater tracking and response methods and optimize the performance of your building.

- If you are a client of Georgia Power, contact your account representative for more information on receiving a free energy audit.

Minimizing energy use is as good for the earth as it is for business. By redirecting green initiatives inward, businesses can move beyond marketing trends and truly start minimizing their impact on the environment. Green initiatives that make business sense—without the need for a public campaign—can succeed in any economic climate and truly act in the best interest of the business and our environment.

Michael Rouse,
Draper and Associates

Monday, October 11, 2010

SMPS Atlanta Sponsoship Opportunities

As we enter into a new SMPS Year, 2010-2011, it’s time for our annual Sponsorship Campaign for 2011. Our Sponsorship team has worked hard to revamp our sponsorship packages to include exceptional values for vendor and industry firms alike. We’re excited to roll out these new packages and hope you will consider supporting SMPS Atlanta in 2011!

This year our Chapter Partner and Platinum Sponsor levels are only open to non-competing firms, which adds a tremendous value to your firm’s participation! Also, not only will your firm benefit from brand recognition through SMPS Atlanta communications, but various levels of sponsorship also include benefits such as:

  • One free year of SMPS membership or renewal
  • Additional members from firm register at the Member Rate for all events
  • Free job postings on our chapter website
  • Time with program speakers prior to the start of event

In addition, we are offering a 15% discount to all SMPS Atlanta annual sponsors from the past five years! Click HERE to see the available sponsorship packages. Each sponsorship level’s benefits are explained with an approximate value for key items that are included. We hope you’ll agree there is tremendous value to the sponsorships for the coming year.

The package also includes lower priced sponsorship options for various events, luncheons and our exceptional Boot Camp Series, which has been a tremendous success.

Please contact Ashley Dale, SMPS Atlanta Treasurer, should you have any questions about the sponsorship packages or send your sponsorship forms in to SMPS Atlanta today!

Ashley Dale,

Parrish Construction
770.880.0521 cell
678.566.3770 office

Friday, September 24, 2010

AEC Mega Meeting: Show Me the Money

The 2010 Mega Meeting was focused on a most fitting topic for the current economy: MONEY! The panelists came from a variety of backgrounds to give an overview of the private and public market sectors to discuss about where project opportunities are coming in the short and long term.

Gena Evans, Executive Director, Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority


  • Linda M. Daniels, Vice Chancellor for Facilities, University System of Georgia
  • Ryan Gravel, Design Manager, Perkins + Will
  • Becca Hardin, Executive Vice President of Economic Development, Greater Columbus, Georgia Chamber of Commerce
  • Andrew Scholtens, Dir. of Strategic Marketing and Segmentation, Equifax, Inc.
The last couple of years have proven to be a challenging time for the A/E/C industry, but we all hope the tides are changing. The panelists discussed the lack of public & private funding, opportunities with public-private-partnerships (P3), and future economic growth.

I enjoyed listening to panelists, especially since they all didn't come from the AEC world. They gave some interesting insight (and a little hope!) that a slow recovery has begun.

Here are a few of the main points I took away from the event. Please feel free to comment with your own!

  • Andrew (Equifax) discussed that we should be following consumer spending as an idea of how the economy is doing. Rates like unemployment and GDP may not always be the best measuring tools
  • Ryan (Perkins+Will) discussed the impact the Beltline project will have on our local economy. Eight miles of the Beltline are currently open as biking and walking trails, and the community has started to get excited about the potential for development around this transit project. Three parks are already under construction with countless more public and private developments planned.
  • Linda (Board of Regents) discussed the higher education market sector and how the BOR is looking for qualified design/construction firms that are stable, experienced, and qualified. The BOR wants to create lasting partnerships with the AEC community
  • Becca (Columbus Economic Development) discussed the positive impact that the Ft. Benning re-development has had on the Columbus and surrounding area. Columbus has created a "joint-venture" with other local cities and counties to help spur and promote development. Learn more about the Valley Region and its initiatives here.

I enjoyed the Mega Meeting again this year, and I'm looking forward to a positive and successful 2011!

Malory Hunter, Business Development Manager
Foresite Group, Inc.
SMPS Atlanta, Communications Committee Director

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing Your Firm’s Green Initiatives

“Sustainable” and “green” are the big new buzzwords, and many AEC firms are looking at their own marketing to see how they can better promote their own green or sustainable efforts.

Maybe you’re already pretty green and work with LEED® consultants on building certification, whether it’s new construction or LEED-EBOM (LEED-Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance). Perhaps you are a contracting company that works under a LEED AP project manager. Or possibly you are really just getting started in the world of green. No matter where your firm is on the continuum, your marketing efforts need to reflect your firm’s reality.

Here are a few common mistakes I’ve seen marketers make when promoting their firms’ green efforts, trying to be “more green” in order to jump on that sustainable bandwagon.

Exaggerating your claims of being green
One small project or a single effort (recycling in the break room, anyone?) does not make you green. Don’t get me wrong: You should definitely promote your real, concerted green efforts. But don’t magnify them out of proportion or you will face the

Under-promoting your green efforts
Yes, this also happens a lot. A company that has been quietly “doing the right thing” in many areas all along just doesn’t showcase that on its Web site, in its materials, or even in conversations with prospects and clients. If your firm has a track record in being green, either in its day-to-day operations or with its client projects – or better yet, both – this needs to be promoted across all forms of media you use. It should be easy to find on your firm’s Web site and should be highlighted whenever possible in all materials.

Overlooking the obvious
So you have good green projects to shout about, and they are properly showcased in your materials and on your site. What about your internal operations? DO you have recycling in the break room? Is staff encouraged to ride-share or work from home? Do you reuse, reduce, and recycle everything possible in your office (paper, cardboard, toner cartridges, and so forth)? Do you unplug non-critical equipment when it’s not in use to save energy? (Did you know you can have your Web site hosted with a solar- or wind-powered ISP?) I have worked with many companies selling a green product or service, but not thinking about their daily operations or their own supply chain. Being green is about walking the walk.

Failing to differentiate
With all the other businesses out there clamoring about how green they are, it’s easy for your firm to get lost in the noise. Unless you are strategic in promoting your green efforts, you will come across as just another business trying – or worse, pretending – to be green. Really analyze what you’ve done better or differently, and use that in your marketing efforts. If you are consistent about that, it will pay off.

Copyright 2010, Linda McCulloch,
Design That Works Communications Inc
Reproduction permitted with copyright line, author credit and author contact information.

About Linda McCulloch and Design That Works Communications Inc.:
With many awards for her work and more than 20 years of experience, Ms. McCulloch helps small and large businesses with their branding and marketing efforts by focusing on their strengths to improve their position in the marketplace. McCulloch, whose green initiative is called Design That’s Green, is an active member of several green organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council–Atlanta Chapter. She volunteers with these groups, providing marketing and communications advice as well as graphic design services. In addition, she composts and recycles just about everything, maintains her gardens organically, is a Legacy member of the Nature Conservancy, and her yard has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Key Business Strategies for Design Firms

The following major points come from the seminar “Maximize Profits/Minimize Risks” given by Ames & Gough:
  • The art of design can coexist with the business of design.
  • Conducting a survey of project managers reveals which tasks and responsibilities are viewed as being more important than others. The strengths and weaknesses identified through the survey become the starting point for in-house training and process improvements.
  • Identifying the specific causes behind every account receivable write-off provides the project team with the necessary information to avoid those actions or inactions on future projects.
  • Succession planning is an integral component of any business plan in that it creates the opportunity for senior firm leaders to redefine responsibilities and roles to evolve the firm. Thoughtful succession structures retain top talent at all levels and actively promote talented individuals into key positions, thus creating a future generation of leaders to support those seeking redefined roles in the firm or retirement.
  • Operational processes may include strategies such as aggressively awarding stock bonuses to identified key future leaders to facilitate the accumulation of stock in their hands.
  • Succession parameters can be incorporated into bylaws to provide a defined process and, thereby, a sense of continuity in the firm and its future.
  • Externally led confidential 360 reviews allow a firm to identify misalignments and to reorganize when necessary to play to individual strengths, rather than focus on weaknesses.
  • Consider dividing your firm into project teams that function as mini-firms, each supported by corporate infrastructure.
  • Evaluate employees based on what the organization needs and how employee abilities meet those needs.
  • Balance technical abilities with client-relationship abilities.
  • Use Web-based training to replace more costly seminars.
  • Keep up with industry software, such as building information modeling (BIM).
  • Stay visible to clients and potential clients. One method is to offer “Lunch-‘n’-Learn” programs.
  • Tune up your business-development strategy by trying to identify hot markets.
  • Establish budgets, and stick to them.
Moderator: Gregg Bundschuh, JD, Ames & Gough
Presenters: Susan Baker, AIA, LEED AP, LS3P
Greer J. (“Pete”) Pruitt, P.E., S.E., Pruitt Eberly Stone Inc.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Social Media: New Wave or Tsunami?

Blogs, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn…. Social media are unavoidable. But whether and how you use them can either enhance your firm’s success or land you and your firm in court.

Many firms have a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn. Some include buttons for Facebook and Twitter on their homepages. To the extent that you use these and other social media for interactive communications with clients and prospects, your firm may be exposed to claims for libel, copyright infringement, invasion of privacy, and other causes of action.

For example, what if a client writes on your Facebook wall that your services make your competition look incompetent—and names those competitors? That compliment could have a downside. How long can that disparaging comment stay there before your firm “owns” it? And how soon after that will your competitor sue you for libel?

What if you tweet that you’ve just landed a big contract, and the information was supposed to be kept confidential for a while? What if the other party to the contract sues your firm for releasing the information prematurely?

The problem with social media is that they are so easy to use. There’s often not time, in a busy day, to think before you pull the trigger. And sometimes that can mean shooting yourself in the foot.

The other problem is that coverage for these and other gaffes is somewhere between slim and none under many insurance policies. For example, the standard commercial general liability policy excludes libel suits that result from an electronic bulletin board or chatroom if your firm hosts, owns, or controls the site. Unfortunately, the policy does not define either “bulletin board” or “chatroom,” but it’s not too much of a stretch to see your Facebook page as qualifying. While your firm clearly does not host or own Facebook, it certainly controls the content on the firm’s page. And if that’s the way your insurer sees it, any claim will most likely be denied.

There are other liability policies available. Some are specifically designed to cover such technology-related risks, and some professional liability (errors and omissions) insurance policies may provide some coverage as well. To be sure that your firm is adequately protected against claims arising out of social media, you need to raise the issue with your insurance broker and get answers specific to your insurance program. An insurance broker who specializes in risk management for design and construction firms can provide meaningful advice on identifying your social media risks, pointing out insurance coverage gaps, and procuring appropriate insurance coverage.

In the meantime, your firm should have a formal policy for using social media, including who is and is not authorized to make any changes to your Facebook and/or LinkedIn page, who is responsible for monitoring such sites to be sure no negative information is posted, who can and cannot tweet on behalf of the company, and so on. And the policy should include real penalties for disregarding the rules. The same insurance broker who helps you identify your firm’s risks should also be able to provide your firm with sample policies and procedures.

Meike Olin, CPCU, CIC, CRM
Director of Marketing
Ames & Gough

Thursday, June 17, 2010

InDesign Tips and Tricks

SMPS Atlanta's Boot Camp Series has had great speakers all year long. The last Boot Camp session on InDesign Tips and Tricks was no exception. Attendees didn't want the session to end. Claudia McCue's content was information packed. She is proficient in InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat, and Photoshop and also provides "Realistic Training for Real-World Applications".

Tips included:
  • Setting up Paragraph and Character Style Sheets
  • How to Effectively Use Master Pages
  • Customizing a Workspace
  • Text geekery: numbers, bullets, variables, easy fixes for common problems, and the hidden macro typing trick
  • Anchored objects

For those that missed the session, check-out two tips she provided in PDF format: Another great resource provided was, which covers things you didn't even know were possible in InDesign.

Claudia can be contacted through her website at Also, be sure to check-out her blog at

Sarah Mackley Gonnella
Acumen Advisors
SMPS Atlanta - President-Elect

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Program: Social Media Marketing - Useful Tool or Passing Fad

Do you tweet? Are you LinkedIn or on Facebook? According to Forrester Research, since 2007 social networking users have doubled. In 2009, 55.6 million adults or just less than one third of the U.S. population now visit social networks at least monthly. A breakdown from the study is provided to the right.

Jim Walton, Chief Executive Officer of Brand Acceleration, Inc. presented at the SMPS Atlanta program in February. The presentation provided an overview of different social media and how it is being utilized. The program stimulated questions from the audience, but left many more questions.

How does it apply to the AEC industry? What type of guidelines should a company have related to social media? Which media should I use personally and professionally? I have a profile, but what should I be doing with it?

How does it apply to the AEC industry?
There are firms in the AEC industry utilizing social media, but it is still new to the industry. Some resources to find out more include blogger,
Markitecture Consulting, who discusses how his firm utilizes social media. Ingrid Ricks provides a presentation on SlideShare (another social medium) of why social media marketing has the potential to differentiate the successful architectural firms of the future. Social media isn't just a fad, but rather a tool for innovative firms that are ready to embrace new ways to capture attention.

What type of guidelines should a company have related to social media?
If you are involved in LinkedIn, you will find groups you can join related to you and your client's industry. These groups have discussions where you can ask questions or just read what others are posting. This exact question was asked on one of the forums I'm a part of. There are many social media guidelines that have already been developed by companies. So why create your own when you can borrow?
Social Media Today answers this question and probably many others you might have on social media.

Which media should I use personally and professionally?

There are many other social media avenues. Most people utilize Facebook for personal relationships and LinkedIn for professional relationships. However, that is not true for all services. If your service is geared towards residential users for example, you might create a group on Facebook or even pay to have your ad appear. Blogs, Youtube, Twitter, and Flicker are some that can easily be used for both. To the right are some social media icons. How many do you know?

I have a profile, but what should I be doing with it?
Most of those that attended the SMPS Atlanta program indicated they had a Facebook account and LinkedIn page. However, many people don't realize how you can boost your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so searches on the internet find you and your company more easily. I found a YouTube clip that discusses just a couple of these items. You can do a search on Google or YouTube to find others.

These are just a few items to help you begin your journey into social media. Please post comments to let SMPS Atlanta know what else you might want to know about this subject or if you are an expert on the matter and have other suggestions, post those.

Sarah Mackley Gonnella