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MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN -----------------------

BUSINESS JOURNAL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS & THE ‘CLOUD’ (SaaS) ----------------------Software as a Service (SaaS)

on resources, the hassles of on-site infrastructure, and the headaches of on-going maintenance.

In a SaaS environment applications are hosted by a service provider (cloud infrastructure) and made available to clients over a network, typically the Internet.

The Cloud

SaaS is becoming an increasingly prevalent delivery model as underlying technologies that support web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) mature and new developmental approaches become popular.

Why Regardless of the size of your practice, you want a connected organisation with visibility across and control throughout. You could tie together narrow stand-alone systems across sales, client, projects, resources and finance, but such a patchwork of systems means inefficient processes, unreliable data, and costly, cumbersome administration. Our comprehensive integrated Business Management System enables design and project related businesses to tie everything together and eliminate both heavy up-front investments in costly infrastructure, and the on-going expense of personnel to maintain it. We allow our clients to have the same technology advantage as larger organisations without the same overhead. Through cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) our Business Management System provides the visibility, control and insight your business needs, without the drain

Cloud-based solutions are deployed in a secure environment and accessed through the web. Solutions in the cloud are accessible from anywhere, highly secure, and always up-to-date. Users’ access is similar to software you’ve deployed inside your business. Best of all, the solution is managed for you, so you avoid the hassles of hardware, software updates, data back-ups, and security monitoring.

Easy, simple, secure You don’t have to stay attached to out-dated tools or adapt to something that just doesn’t fit. Inefficient, manual and narrow independent tools lead to errors, stifle growth and disconnect both people and information. Our Business Management System delivers the crucial tools you need in a solution that’s simple to implement and secure to access, no matter where you are.

Partnership The essence of our business is that we form long-term partnerships with our clients and suppliers to enable our clients to control, build and sustain successful and innovative businesses. We utilise the Deltek Vision ERP solution as our platform to integrate client management, project and resource management, financial management and control, business

performance dashboards, analytics, electronic invoicing, advanced reporting and benchmarking.

version updates, monitor security, create back-ups, and even upgrade the underlying infrastructure.


Flexible licensing also means you’re not boxed in by rigid tools, and you can make changes whenever you need to.

Acquiring large-scale software applications is disruptive for organisations of any size, bringing arduous capital budgeting, resource-intensive readiness of servers and infrastructure, as well as cash intensive implementations.

Our Business Management System is the most flexible management system available to professional services firms - in the cloud.

Our Business Management System eliminates the purchasing hassles typical of most comprehensive business solutions, is cash-flow friendly and avoids up-front capital investment.

If necessary, you can modify views, build custom reports, or adapt work-flow, before you ‘go live’, or at any time thereafter.

Best Practice

You’re also not pinned down by inflexible licensing that forces you to take on more seats than you need, or more capabilities than you want, just to hedge against future growth.

The Deltek Vision ERP system is used by over 10,000 design businesses and Management for Design has developed specific modules to enable us to deliver the best practice model, with proven capabilities to connect your entire business with flexibility, and to easily add other modules as you need them.

Flexible subscriptions let you choose, add and remove users as your business changes, and expand with additional modules when you’re ready.


Security Entrusting your growing professional services operation to the cloud doesn’t mean putting your business data at risk.

Because there’s no infrastructure to purchase or prepare our Business Management System is immediately available, avoiding the long preparation phase found in most on-site deployments. It doesn’t divert the attention of scarce IT resources or dampen the enthusiasm of an eager organisation.

Our unwavering commitment to support and security makes our Business Management System available any time to anyone in your firm who needs it, and keeps your information safe from anyone who shouldn’t have it.

Simple to manage

Our cloud-based data-centre assures a level of accessibility and security that any on-site IT department would be hard pressed to match.

Managing a comprehensive Business Management System typically means you need skilled experts to maintain the infrastructure; backing up data, ensuring security, installing patches, and managing upgrades. This effort sacrifices IT’s focus on more important work, and stretches the expertise of scarce and overworked resources. Our Business Management System is in the cloud, so you eliminate your up-front costs and maintenance responsibilities, whilst receiving a higher quality of service than you can ask of your own IT team. Our singular focus is on the maintenance and support of your crucial Business Management Solutions, making your ownership practically ‘hands free’. Alongside our partners we work to keep our systems current with the latest

Accessibility Secure access is direct through any basic internet connection. There is no need for your users to work with a cumbersome or occasionally blocked VPN. Redundant servers, automatic fail-over, and multiple forms of back-up power enable an ‘always on’ environment that is there when you need it. Constant monitoring is perpetually on the lookout for potential issues, and our personnel are available to quickly resolve any problems.

MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN ----------------------FACT SHEET ----------------------Characteristic

Management for Design’s Business Management System


Management for Design’s SaaS solution does not involve large up-front investments in purchasing licenses and our clients are freed from the burden of IT administration and maintenance costs. There are no up-front capital expenses, no servers to buy or hardware to manage. Services are available on an annual subscription basis, which also includes costs for maintaining and updating the system.

System Design

Our Business Management System has been specifically developed for design and project related businesses. We utilise the Deltek Vision ERP solution as our platform to integrate Client Management, Project and Resource Management, Financial Management and Control, Business Performance Dashboards, Analytics, Electronic invoicing, Advanced Reporting and Benchmarking.


Access to the system is subscription based and can be accessed anywhere, anytime and on multiple devices via Citrix over the Internet or Web based browser depending on accessibility requirements

Permissions and Password Protection

The Management for Design SaaS solution includes a robust password protection and permissions system that is easy to administer. The system allows for delegation of administrative responsibility and captures event logs of who logged in when, what information they accessed and what changes they made. Different levels of permissions are assignable – read/write/delete.

Data access and control

Data access is shared between the client and Management for Design and we agree and establish access protocols regarding data and access prior to commencement.

IT Administration

The responsibilities of maintaining, managing and updating the software rest with Management for Design Information Technology.


Customisations can be carried out by the client or by Management for Design as appropriate depending on client requirements and capabilities. This allows clients to mould the solution according to their specific business requirements. Management for Design offer simple and smart customisation options to users e.g. Project setup and Information Centres.


Management for Design’s SaaS solution is appropriate for any sized business and is flexible to adjust to the needs of the user rather than fixed as per the on-premises model of the past. Deltek Vision ERP is used by businesses from 5 to 2,500 people across multi-locations. We provide the flexibility to scale the solution up and down in tune with business growth and downsizing depending on resource usage.


Users adapt to the Management for Design SaaS solution more easily than their legacy versions. We will tailor the training requirements specific to the client; however, the ready-touse solutions should not require extensive training programs for users.

Back up

The servers on which your data resides have built- in fault tolerance, this makes sure that, in case your primary server crashes for some reason, your data is still secure and backed up ensuring that you aren’t left high and dry in case of an emergency, and can continue to work with minimum disruption.


Management for Design is responsible for upgrading the application. We regularly upgrade the product and the upgrades are indifferent to user compliance and the cost is included in annual subscription charges. Hence, users can access updated versions without incurring additional expenses. Our clients have an on-going access to innovation and new features, as opposed to the sporadic method of “new versions” for on premise software.

Data security and Hosting

Cloud computing and the facilities they are housed-in are now mature. Client data security and its integrity are paramount to Management for Design. Our hosting service has documented security infrastructure and protocols available that includes encryption requirements, surveillance and disaster management systems and security records.

Service Level Agreement

The Management for Design Software as a Service Agreement sets out the commitments and obligations of both Management for Design and the client in addition to the right to use the SaaS software. These will include: • • •

hosting of the SaaS software and customer data on server; customer support services; and software maintenance services


Management for Design comply with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) / Confidentiality Agreement prior to the client disclosing its business secrets and confidential information. Confidential information will not be passed on to third parties for any purpose other than performing our duties under the Service Agreement.

Customer Support and Service

Management for Design provide live customer support between 8am-6pm Monday to Friday. Emergency contact after hours is also provided where necessary and backed up by 24/7 help through our US support partner. There is also extensive help documentation and an automated self-help engine that helps you easily resolve your queries.


The Management for Design Host Data Centre Facility is built to and maintained in accordance with ACSI33 and AS2834-1955 standards. All aspects of the facilities are fully redundant and concurrently maintainable to a level on par with tier 3. All aspects of power, cooling and network services are designed to be N+1.

Exit Strategy

If the agreement is terminated, or expires, all confidential information will be returned or destroyed. Confirmation of destruction of data will be in writing. Our SaaS Agreement sets out the steps required to ensure an effective and seamless exit for both parties including notice period, licensing arrangements, transfer of information, upskilling of client personnel etc.


Our price model is based on number of system users, module requirements and number of consecutive users. We agree and fix our pricing on an annual basis and restrict increases to 10% or less subject to the number of client licences and the Deltek and Citrix pricing adjustments.

MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 102 MAKING STRATEGY HAPPEN Introduction Not all practices need a business plan, a strategic plan, strategic objectives or a clear direction. Those businesses with a compelling design proposition or a unique market expertise don’t need it. Does it help? Yes. Is it necessary? No. They are successful because they have a unique and compelling value proposition that clearly differentiates them from the normal. Think Gehry, think Richard Meier, think GHD! But most businesses, and I mean 95%, are not in this situation. Many like to think they are, but, in our experience, the market doesn’t see it this way. So what’s the solution to elevate your business above the performance of your competitor? It’s no secret that many design focussed businesses are superficial in their planning, concentrating on the design, fees, schedules and day-to-day deliverables rather than defining exciting, attainable objectives for the future that will motivate the key people and lead to high achievement. Our research shows that up to 70% of design businesses do minimal or no strategic planning. Of the remaining 30%, only one in three achieve clear and sustainable change in their business, which leads to new markets, new locations, new client sectors, new design approaches, new ways of working or improved leadership.

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70% of design businesses do minimal or no strategic planning.

In our experience, five critical elements need to be in place to make strategy happen: 1. Leadership needs to drive the process 2. A level of excitement 3. It has to be concise with definitive timeframes 4. It needs to be flexible 5. Consider execution before you start

Why develop a strategic plan in the first place? The key reason to develop a strategic plan is to position your business to focus the energy, resources, and time of the key people in the business in order to create and sustain an advantage in an increasingly competitive environment. Success, of course, is subjective


and will mean different things to different people — it could include more interesting projects, more engaging clients, more talented people, more revenue, more profit or more innovation. Each business needs to work this out for itself and the strategic planning process should clarify these clear objectives for the future. An effective plan points to specific results to be achieved and establishes a course of action for achieving them. Where should you start? Take a look at your business. Does there seem to be a lack of focus on where the company is headed? Does everyone clearly understand the goals for the business? Strategically, how will the business achieve

those goals? Is your current planning horizon longer than one year? Are you developing annual business/operating plans without a strategic plan in place? Your strategy is your opportunity to develop and deliver on an integrated set of choices. Why does it matter? Arguably, the leading cause of business failure is the lack of a wellimplemented strategy. And if the leadership of the business is not aligned with where the business is heading, it will wander aimlessly, with priorities changing constantly and key people confused about their own contribution and priorities.


Planning to fail Given this, why do so many businesses lack a clear strategy? And why do the majority of those who do fail to execute it? The fundamental problem is leadership. More often than not the practice leaders are engaged in the here and now — the current and next project; the current and next client etc. Yet, at the same time, they bemoan the lack of quality documentation or don’t understand why they’re not attracting and retaining great people. Secondly, the pathway to leadership in a design practice is typically through design or client relationship talent. It’s not business acumen that gets them there! This means that, typically, leaders of design practices don’t have the inherent discipline and capability that enables effective strategy development and execution. We talk to many leaders who fall victim to the gap between promises they’ve made and results their practices delivered. They frequently tell us they have a problem with accountability — people aren’t doing the things they’re supposed to do to implement a plan. They desperately want to make changes of some kind, but what do they need to change? They don’t know — and if they do they don’t know how to make it happen. Even when the strategy process has been attempted, typically busy leaders delegate the operational side of business, while they focus on the perceived “design and client” issues. This is completely wrong. Execution is not just words, documents and tactics — it is a discipline and a system. The leadership of the business must be deeply engaged in it.

The building blocks of success Level of excitement There is so much methodology and advice around strategy that sometimes you need something that will get you and your people excited to make things happen. In order for a

Arguably, the leading cause of business failure is the lack of a well-implemented strategy.

strategy to gain traction, and to engage the people within the business, there needs to be a level of anticipation in your objectives and plans. It can’t all be about improving the profit margin or making more effective use of your technology, or fixing up our communications collateral. Obviously these can be important initiatives but if you want to engage people there needs to be an element of excitement amongst the leadership and the people. Think about it. What would that be for your business? Creating a landmark in the city? Establishing a presence in a new location? Aiming for market leadership in a new sector? Becoming expert in a new work type? Strategic objectives should stretch the limits of your business capabilities, making them exciting to achieve, without being impossible to accomplish. Leadership Leadership can’t delegate strategy development and execution — leaders need to step up. A business can only make things happen, drive change, and deliver strategic objectives if the leaderships’ heart and soul are immersed in the business. The leadership needs to be in charge of getting things done by running the three core processes — setting the strategic direction and priorities, engaging the right people, and regularly monitoring progress.


Only a leader can ask the tough questions that everyone needs to answer, then manage the process of debating the information and making the right trade-offs. And only the leader who is intimately engaged in the business can know enough to have the comprehensive view. What exactly does a leader who is in charge of execution do? How does he or she avoid being a micro manager, and getting caught up in the details of running the business? Briefly, the core elements are: • Knowing and challenging your people • Being realistic • Keeping to clear and actionable goals and priorities • Following up and creating energy • Rewarding those that contribute • Knowing yourself and setting the example

Flexibility Unforeseen change in business conditions naturally occur so you also need to allow for flexibility in your plans. It’s more effective to continually review and develop the businesses and align your strategic objectives rather than talking and debating the new office in Asia or the new documentation standards. Get on with things! Take small steps, assign smaller goals, communicate your successes, analyse your weaknesses, adapt your approach, seek out business partners that can assist — make things happen, measure their success or otherwise. I can guarantee that others are. If you’re not, then remember our industry is too competitive and too dynamic for you to sit back and wait!!

Take small steps, assign smaller goals, communicate your successes, analyse your weaknesses, adapt your approach…

Concise with definitive timeframes Your strategy is not a business plan — they are 2 different things. You don’t need to document your strengths and weaknesses, you don’t need to define your brand and you don’t need a comprehensive set of numbers. Don’t create something that will sit in the bottom drawer and requires endless revisions to make it live. Start with the big picture — what does your business need to look like to thrive in the marketplace in three years? Then action these into ambitious but realistic milestones of three and twelve months, assign responsibilities and tasks to individuals, build in realistic timeframes, targets and measurement criteria to assess progress. With the right people and methodology it’s possible to develop a strategic plan, with a plan for execution, in one day. Consider execution at the start

And when you find yourself at the top don’t rest

We have seen strategic plans not being implemented over and over. In order to avoid this you need to have a plan and process in place for executing your strategy. You need to consider and involve those people that will contribute to making it happen at the early planning stages.

— the best businesses find ways to do great things even better.

They need to take ownership and be part of the process from the start.


How will you reward those people that make it happen? Is that ownership becoming a Director, profit share, heading up a new office? I can guarantee that even if you aren’t thinking about this, your key people are. Work out what system you will use to track progress — how you will keep people up to date? Where will you keep the key documents? Is your strategy going to be shared with everyone in the business or just the highlights? How much time will the leadership dedicate to follow up and follow through and where is this time going to come from? How often will you meet to review progress? What support will you need? What will prevent the day

to day getting in the way? How much time and resources are you prepared to invest? Don’t commence the planning process until you have thought through these issues and put in place the systems to ensure you deliver on your plans. Don’t let strategy become planning! Management for Design has developed a unique approach to strategy development and execution that if implemented effectively ensures results. At the core is a methodology and system to ensure successful execution that involves the key people in the business.


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN ----------------------------------------------

BUSINESS JOURNAL 103 Improve Project Success and Profitability ---------------------------------------------Measuring Success

and those that were not. Once we have identified these projects we can analyse the data and draw our conclusions

Architecture and Engineering firms use various measures for success. There are numerous Key Performance Indicators that can be managed, tracked and reported on but the aim of every project is to ensure the client is

as to why they were (or were not) a success. Before analysing the data ensure that you know your specific measurements for success. It can be profit, revenue, staff utilisation, repeat work etc.

satisfied with the outcome and that we are satisfied with the outcome.

Today’s challenging business environment highlights the absolute necessity of accurate and up to date project and

For client satisfaction it is necessary to ensure that the

business data. Firms that automate and streamline their

project has been completed according to contractual

business processes are the ones with a significant

agreement, on time and within budget.

competitive advantage.

For business success the project will meet your design

Improve Project Profitability

aspirations, have been completed on time, has been profitable and will deliver on-going work with the client.

Automating your business processes can lead to a significant increase in project profitability. Eliminating

Improve project efficiency and success

manual processes such as re-entering project data from one system into the next leads to time savings, eliminates

In order to achieve project success and maximise

the risk of errors and also reduces the amount of time

profitability we want to ensure we are as efficient as

spent on administration by your project (billable) resources,

possible, are always up-to-date with project progress, can

meaning they can now spend more time on client work.

spot potential problems early on, we can invoice for all the work involved, and our invoices are correct the first time.

Automating your business processes improves the information flow within your organisation. Information can

Clients of design businesses greatly value prompt

now be shared more easily and quickly between

communication and responsiveness. This is particularly true

departments, thereby increasing efficiency throughout the

in tight economic conditions where clients are diligent

company and reducing the amount of time wasted on

about expenditure. It is crucial to highlight any potential

searching for information (for some design firms up to 10%

problems to projects immediately so that timely action can

of staff time is spent looking for information).

be taken to avoid bigger problems later on. By automating the process between project set-up and One key way to ensure success for current and future

invoicing, you can be confident that all time spent on

projects is to look at previous project data. This allows us to

projects will be captured. If you are working on a fixed fee

identify those projects that were successful (and profitable)

project this information allows you to track project

performance to date: it allows you to view how much time

Benefits of automating your business processes with an

is needed to complete a project, if you have over-serviced

integrated solution:

clients and, ultimately, it will allow you to view which projects are most profitable (revenue vs. expenditure).

One point of data entry; one Client, Company, Contact and Supplier record, shared on a ‘need to know’ basis throughout the company

Using multiple applications •

project entered in Melbourne is instantaneously

Design firms that do not use ‘sophisticated’ integrated

available for viewing by a manager in Singapore

systems to automate their process and capture various

through the project or client record

project related information are at risk of inaccurate data and ineffective processes and thereby not achieving full and

Instant updates - an activity record entry on a client

Real time reporting – immediate access to up-todate and accurate reporting for financial

efficient performance.

performance, invoices, revenue, time and expenses against projects

In order to make effective, mission critical project decisions we need to be able to access up-to-the-minute project data

need for expensive dedicated links between offices

that can be accessed via reporting with drill-down capabilities – allowing us to view the underlying business

Fully web optimised and enabled – reducing the

Fast deployment - standard industry best practice business processes built in, the ability to amend

data within moments.

screen layout and add new fields with no programming and business critical reports provided

When using multiple systems, as opposed to one fully

as standard

integrated platform, businesses are at risk of using data that may be out-of-date. Transferring data from one system

Lower total cost of ownership - fast ROI achievement

into the next there is also the risk of inaccuracy due to

with ability for firms to “own” the solution rather

systems not working together efficiently.

than relying on consultants

Design businesses that are still working with multiple

Adopting a fully integrated system provides the greatest

applications may want to review the total costs of

opportunity for efficient business process automation and

ownership and the risk of doing so. With the design and

the tools design businesses need to reduce overall costs,

delivery of “cloud” solutions now mature implementation is

lower project related risks and improve project success and

now more much more cost effective. “Sophisticated”


systems are no longer as expensive or extensive as once they were and implementation and maintenance costs have


reduced substantially. Not only that, but businesses now

There are significant savings to be made by professional

have the ability to more easily tap into a more dynamic and

services firm when automating business processes and

skilled support network of people and systems.

improving internal efficiency. The majority of these savings will directly impact a company’s bottom line. In addition,

Automate your business processes with one fully integrated system

automation will allow for more effective and efficient project progress leading to more projects coming in on time and within budget. Investing in a system to automate business processes will improve project success and,

A fully integrated business management system (BMS) can

ultimately, increase a company’s revenue and profitability.

meet the needs of the entire project lifecycle within a design firm. It can greatly improve efficiency, reduce risk, decrease cost and increase profit. An integrated solution will allow you to efficiently automate your business processes, leading to improved resource utilisation through proactive resource management, and increasing company-wide visibility of projects and resources whilst reducing overall costs.

Management for Design provides integrated business systems and services to the design industry across Strategy, Finance, Information Technology, Human Resource Management and Business Systems By working with Management for Design our clients are enabled to focus on what they are great at and to control and build their businesses. For more information visit or phone 03 9645 8834


Introduction Planning for succession is just the first step in a chain of events that culminates in new leaders embracing a key leadership role within the business. There is no one formula for succession, but the goals of any leadership change are similar — to retain the core values of the business, to retain and build on your client base and skills capability, and to keep the business operating smoothly according to its original vision. Having said that, if you aren’t clear on who your next leaders will be — who will sustain your design values and capability, who will nurture your clients and who will drive the business going forward — you are not on your own! The vast majority of design and engineering practices have no succession plan in place whatsoever. Management for Design routinely finds that only one in 10 businesses have a plan in place. Of those that do, execution typically occurs in an ad-hoc and spasmodic manner. No amount of management advice will change this but, in our experience, those businesses that have successfully transferred the leadership to new principals and directors have spent many years building and cultivating a culture that enables succession to occur seamlessly. Leadership transition is an evolution.

The vast majority of design and engineering practices have no succession plan in place whatsoever. Management for Design routinely finds that only one in 10 businesses have a plan in place.

Leadership in design businesses Leadership transitions differ for design and engineering firms when compared with most other businesses. Some of the traits that differentiate their transition from traditional businesses include: • Quite often the leader is the face of the business and is seen as the key initiator of projects and client relationships. • Principals are typically very engaged in the client relationships and project outcomes and have a have a hard time separating themselves from the day-to-day activity of the business.


• Because owners tend to keep finances a secret, potential successors don’t understand the business side or the financial status of the firm. • Effective business management is considered secondary to other considerations including design capability, client relationships and delivering projects. • Profit and profitability can take a back seat to producing a great design or making an impact. • The entrepreneurial drive of the founders is often not found in the second generation. The results: entrepreneurs are replaced with people who don’t like to take risks and don’t necessarily have the same motivations • Client relationships tend to be deeper, stronger, and more personalised than they are in many other industries. All in all, it’s easy to understand why design and engineering businesses struggle with transition and letting go of their businesses — businesses that are built around unique projects and are an expression of personal creativity, energy and hard work. Not only that, but owners need to come terms with the fact that they are working with a generation of employees who are accustomed to moving about in search of new experiences and opportunities for professional and personal development. Many of the most talented among them would have no qualms about leaving for another firm or even starting up a competing firm of their own — and it’s never been easier to establish yourself in your own business in today’s technology focused environment.

The difference between leadership and ownership succession Typically there are two fundamental components of succession — leadership succession and ownership succession. These are not the same. Ownership is a legal, financial, valuation, and accounting issue. Leadership is how you conduct

your business, retain your clients and people, develop your new clients and manage your operations. For a successful transition, you need to execute your leadership transition and your ownership transition in parallel. Developing your next generation of leaders is by far the more complex and challenging of the two tasks.

Building a culture of succession Succession is not planning! It’s not something that happens when the existing owners decide that they need to let go or pass on the ownership to the next generation. Successful and sustainable succession occurs when succession is built into the culture of the business and is built on the existing leaderships’ desire to share. Fundamentally the business embraces the following characteristics: • Trust and openness • Sharing of information and rewards • Identifying and fast-tracking standout performers • Collaboration • Innovation • Personal and professional development • Accountability and responsibility • Integrity • Letting go of design decisions and client relationships • Promotion from within In multi-generational practices these elements pervade the organisation and, coincidentally, are inherent in a performance-driven culture. Most businesses will already have elements of each of these happening but to various levels of success. Those that do all of them well continue to thrive, to have sustained success into the future and will successfully navigate changes in leadership. Keeping an eye on these core components affects your ongoing management and recruitment


For a successful transition, you need to execute your leadership transition and your ownership transition in parallel. Developing your next generation of leaders is by far the more complex and challenging of the two tasks.

decisions and the year-to-year management of your business.

Identifying future leaders Young people today are more loyal to their own careers and their profession than to their employer. In their experience companies come and go, as does their employment, at a fairly rapid pace. The only way they can have some control over their own destiny is to be independent: either move among practices to find what they want — to gain different work experience, to work on different project types — or become owners fairly early. The most talented young professionals are educated about the world, independent thinkers, and somewhat impatient for more responsibility and financial reward. They aspire to early ownership. If you want to keep them in your firm, you must make it clear that the ownership path is open to them. The drivers of success in most design and engineering businesses encompass client relationships, design capability, project delivery

capability and secondarily financial and business acumen, and people management innovation. Typically your future leaders stand out and demonstrate their capability early. They will embrace your cultural values, be highly skilled in their area of expertise, have strong client relationship skills and take responsibility for the delivery of key projects. No doubt they are already planning their way to a position of influence, so get on the front foot. In our profession, and in today’s age, opportunity abounds and typically they may have had only 5 years (or less in some cases) management experience. Start the conversation. When you are recruiting, as difficult as it may be, recruit for ‘cultural fit’ and attitude first, and then skills.

The key steps Leadership succession is fundamentally about identifying, leveraging and nurturing the talent that the organisation already possesses by developing it to its full potential. Although there is no one way to succeed in nurturing your next future leaders there are some foundations that need to be in place. Some of the key elements that need to be in place are: 1. Articulate the opportunity The current leadership, and especially the key principals, need to articulate and demonstrate that an opportunity exists. Talk about your values, what drives success in your business, what you look for in your people, your own path to success and leadership. Explain what it takes to be a leader in your business. 2. Provide the opportunity and guidance Communicate your aspirations and your expectations to your future leaders and explain how you see them contributing to the ongoing success of the business — how you see them providing direction and leadership across the business in skills, client relationships, delivering


projects, innovation and talent management et cetera. Develop a plan for exposing them to the operation of the business outside of the realms of their skillset — for example, financial performance, business systems, preparing proposals, fee structures and so on. Mentor their technical contribution and client relationships skills. Share key decision making with them. 3. Openness Although this is sometimes difficult, you need to involve your future leaders in the key decisions affecting the business. You need to start letting go of making all these decisions and allow your future leaders to set their own course. Provide them with the guidance and information necessary to make informed decisions around recruitment, future projects, their clients and new ways of working. 4. Put in place performance expectations All strong performance begins with clear expectations. Set the criteria for leadership — that way everyone understands the expectations. Typically, the more capable individuals thrive on performance criteria and knowing what drives success. Performance criteria need to be closely aligned with the business success factors and there should be both short-term and longer-term expectations around what drives the business performance — for example, financial performance, work generation, design outcomes, strategy, people development, talent identification, innovation. 5. Ownership Clearly, establish your criteria for ownership and paint a picture that includes a conversation around ownership and a stake in the business — whether that be immediate or down the track. That is ultimately what you are looking for. Explain the valuation methodology your business uses, the valuation criteria and the path to

ownership. Discuss and work out how transitions are timed and financed Successful succession is an indicator to your people that the business values the mobility of internal talent and promotes an environment for building long-standing careers. Having a transparent succession process has many benefits, including increased employee engagement and retention and a broader view of talent.

Ownership Succession, leadership and ownership are intrinsically linked. In order for succession to truly work leadership needs to incorporate ownership. Sometimes though, the up-andcoming generation does not see ownership as the pinnacle of their careers as previous generations did, and convincing them to become owners is perhaps the most difficult challenge in ownership transition. What you see as the opportunity of a lifetime, they see as a commitment they don’t need. The challenge becomes to make ownership attractive — to change the culture of the firm and adjust the ownership model in favour of those potential buyers. This typically involves: • Less restrictive ownership models • More transparency • More sharing of authority In the past, principals might wait 10 years before giving younger employees decision-making authority, but that is simply not going to cut it today. Owners must train themselves to see the transaction through the eyes of next-generation buyers and, frankly, stop wishing they behaved as the current owners. They aren’t and won’t be. Perhaps you are counting upon a next generation that is eager to take the reins — but guess again. You may find ownership a tough sell.


Problems There are numerous reasons that leadership and ownership transitions fail, but the vast majority come down to just a few factors. Existing leadership dynamics The dynamics of the existing leadership are not working. This can occur when there is unequal contribution or perceived inadequate contribution. It’s difficult for this not to affect the culture of the business and affect future leaders’ transition aspirations. Leadership The current owners have been so busy managing the firm and making all the decisions, that they haven’t spent enough time or thought to develop the people who should be ready to take over. The most serious problems are leadership problems, not ownership problems. Financing The owners approaching retirement still own a large percentage of the business. There aren’t enough buyers in the firm with the resources to buy them out because the younger people have not been investing in the firm and have other financial commitments.

Typically your future leaders stand out and demonstrate their capability early. They will embrace your cultural values and have great design, client relationship skills and take responsibility for the delivery of key projects.

Current owners can’t bear to let go

Potential successors can’t afford to buy in

They may be prepared financially, but emotionally they still want to be the one in charge.

The business hasn’t been funding the transition over a period of time: younger employees are not likely to have the independent resources to purchase the firm.

The next group of leaders has not been prepared They haven’t had enough opportunity to develop the necessary leadership or management skills, or they don’t have a good understanding of the business aspects of running the firm.

The business waited until it was too late to create a plan Requirements for a smooth transition have not been considered as part of the firm’s ongoing business planning.


Start the process If you are an owner of a design or engineering business and are considering your successors ask yourself the following questions: • Why do you want successors? • What are your options? • Is external transfer an option? • How much time do you have? • Where will the funding come from? • What do the potential owners want? • Where is your firm generationally?

At Management for Design we have encountered plenty of discussion and material on ownership and leadership succession that have led nowhere. Unfortunately there is no formula for success, as no two design businesses are the same — and there is no magic bullet for when you decide the time is right! There are, however, fundamental principles that will lead to a more effective, seamless and harmonious journey. These are shaped by a company culture that engages your people beyond the project-to-project activity. Embrace these characteristics and succession will happen naturally. Don’t let succession become planning! Importantly, if you are struggling with succession in your business and can’t get the traction and results you need to move forward then don’t sit

• What’s unique about your firm? • Do you need help? • Do you have a culture of succession?

on it!

A version of this article, by Management for Design’s Rob Peake, was originally published by the ACA’s The Business of Architecture on 7 March 2015 (


Management for Design provides integrated business systems and services to the design industry across Strategy, Finance, Information Technology, Human Resource Management and Business Systems. By working with Management for Design our clients are enabled to focus on what they are great at and to control and build their businesses. For more information visit or phone 03 9645 8834.


Why Business Development? Business Development (BD) has become a hot management topic; it has entered architecture and engineering offices as the answer to a rapidly changing business landscape in which competitive advantages have become temporary by nature. Thought leaders agree that every company should invest in BD, as it will help the business achieve tactical and strategic goals, such as acceleration of revenue growth and acquisition.

Top challenges What gets in the way? The key challenges for Business Development can be increased competition, finding time to nurture client relationships, limited business development resources and time, lack of intel for opportunities to position for a win, identifying new prospects, hiring the right people, more restrictive spending environment, among others. These challenges are all interrelated: the challenge of limited business development resources is followed closely by increased competition and the difficulties of developing strong relationships with potential clients. Increased competition is a recurring issue in architecture and engineering practices as tighter budgets encourage new strategies for differentiation.

Thought leaders agree that every company should invest in BD, as it will help the business achieve tactical and strategic goals, such as acceleration of revenue growth and acquisition.

Other relevant and widespread challenges can be avoidance and confusion. Some companies avoid BD altogether or simply ignore it, as they want to ‘own’ every function and only rely on themselves. The reality is that resources are constrained and partners are in a position to help achieve goals. Confusion comes when companies invest in BD without a clear understanding of why they are doing it and what specific goals they are trying to achieve. When there is a lack of a plan, efforts are wasted as the business can’t close partnerships (deals make no sense) or the


• Schedule BD time and treat it as a priority • Plan the work and work the plan • Find what you love

In today’s business landscape, BD efforts tend to deliver the most success when an attempt to benefit both clients and prospects is at the core of the effort.

• Do what comes naturally to you

• Truly differentiate

• Empower your staff • Share the load and the data • Leverage outside resources • Be selective: quality versus quantity • Nurture your network • Focus on client needs

How to make it fun again

company closes partnerships but they all fail (again, because they don’t make sense).

Tips to improve the process

When you think of business development, what comes to mind? Exciting, riveting and motivating? More often you think frustrating, complicated, necessary evil. But why? And how can you get excited about chasing the win again?

Building meaningful connections requires a strong investment of time and money; contacts will see through pushy sales attempts and one-sided relationships that provide nothing in their favour. In today’s business landscape, BD efforts tend to deliver the most success when an attempt to benefit both clients and prospects is at the core of the effort.

Different things will work for different people, but some of the most important aspects to making business development fun are being prepared (have the pitch ready); use BD tools; research and seek relevant advice; build relationships and follow them up.

A great relationship-building strategy is to transform standard company events into unique business development opportunities that interest clients while creating mutually beneficial relationships.

Many architecture and engineering businesses have achieved performance improvements by investing in resources to sustain a focus on strategy development and strategy implementation. They have invested in setting up a professionally managed business development function with responsibility for capturing new business opportunities and bringing continuity and alignment into their strategy management process.

Other practical tips include: • Reorganise roles of marketing and business development • Start early



Management for Design provides integrated business systems and services to the design industry across Strategy, Finance, Information Technology, Human Resource Management and Business Systems. By working with Management for Design our clients are enabled to focus on what they are great at and to control and build their businesses. For more information visit or phone 03 9645 8834.

MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 106 DOES HAVING THE RIGHT SYSTEMS MAKE MY BUSINESS GREAT? What makes a business system great? Many times we have heard businesses say that “it is important to get the right people” or “we are looking for the right system”. Regardless of the industry, these are common problems at some point in a business’ lifecycle, but what is ‘right’? Having the right people is only the start of developing a great business. The key is to have these people in the correct positions and have their roles working effectively by implementing and using the systems and processes provided by the business. Management, as most people know it, has far less to do with people than you’ve been led to believe. Architects and Engineers (and most people) are almost impossible to manage. Managing is about managing a process — a way of working — a business system.

Chain of command Your people need to know what the ‘chain of command’ is regardless of the structure you use. How decisions are made and communicated must be made clear to everyone inside the business. Not only will having a clear leadership structure assist the business with standardising processes, but it makes the lines of responsibility clear. Too many times we have heard people say “draw a line in the sand”. These lines eventually wash away, so ensure yours are slightly more permanent!!

Having leaders in a business that can drive enhancement and improvement in the business is a must. From this, selecting the right systems for a business becomes easier.

Having leaders in your business that can engage and drive improvement in the business is the starting point. Leaders need to actively embrace business systems — why they are important in the business, how the information is used in the business and what’s expected of the users etc. From this, selecting the right systems for a business becomes easier as these people will help drive the selection of key systems and identify processes that need improvement. The beginning of this process should be to start talking internally about what issues you have with your current processes and systems — what’s working, what’s not working, what’s missing, what other systems


have your people used and would recommend etc. The next step involves documenting in a clear and concise manner these discussions. This then forms a basic requirements document for you to provide.

Effective system implementation The major pitfall most businesses get into is “but we want to do it our way”. This is the biggest mistake we see across any systems implementation. When going through an implementation ensure that your vendor has sufficient local knowledge in your market and a demonstrated history of effective implementation. Then allow your vendor to guide you through the implementation process and merge your current processes with the vendor’s experience. A typical selection process will run through four stages: 1. Ask your vendors to match their system with your requirements brief 2. Have 3 vendors present their systems, and then reduce this to 2 options 3. Have both remaining vendors spend a minimum of 1–2 hours with teams inside your business to gain a greater understanding of how the product will fit your business 4. Select a preferred vendor and present to the decision makers.

Selecting the right team The next step is critical, and that is selecting the right team from within your business to take ownership of the implementation. This team should consist of your biggest critics and your biggest supporters. This team will work with your selected vendor to drive the implementation


Your Business Systems are one of the key foundations of your business and it is only from having effective systems that you can control and build your business.

” process and help manage change within your business. Then the journey really begins!! A key responsibility for every business owner is to systematise your business. It’s not something you can dwell on. Your Business Systems are one of the key foundations of your business and it is only from having effective systems that you can control and build your business. Your systems should run your business and people must follow your systems. It’s only through having strong business systems in place that will allow you to take time away from your business, knowing that everything is under control, knowing that your team of great people that you trust are following the approved systems in your business and knowing that your team has everything in place to drive the success of the business.

Management for Design provides integrated business systems and services to the design industry across Strategy, Finance, Information Technology, Human Resource Management and Business Systems. By working with Management for Design our clients are enabled to focus on what they are great at and to control and build their businesses. For more information visit or phone 03 9645 8834.


The main asset of a design or engineering business is the knowledge and skills of its people. Similar to the projects they deliver, the development and management of resources becomes increasingly complex as the business grows. It’s often said that project-based businesses become difficult to manage when all decision makers can’t fit around a conference table. In reality, scaling a design or engineering business is an exercise in deploying a finite resource (people’s time) against infinite potential (client solutions). The strategies used to manage the business aspect of this conundrum will ultimately impact growth and profitability regardless of business size or whether the entire management team can fit in the same room. To ensure profitable growth by improving the use of resources and gaining tighter control of finances and performance, businesses need to consider the following: 1. Leverage How is the business structured in terms of the ratio between directors/principals and other client-facing employees? In design and engineering businesses in particular, business leaders are often client

Scaling a design or engineering business is an exercise in deploying a finite resource (people’s time) against infinite potential (client solutions).

” facing, specifically because it is their talent that is the face of a major project. To manage the spread of chargeable hours across a team, businesses will often structure with a number of high-performing client facing employees who report to one director (as opposed to many), creating a layer of trusted and skilled employees who can spread the load of the chargeable hours created by any one client.



3. Fees Should fees be determined by the firm or the market?

Inefficient use of resources and poorly defined business strategies are two of the biggest problems in design and engineering firms.


The reality for design and engineering businesses is that fees are often driven by external factors, such as the competition in the industry and the rate the market will pay. Firms that are providing a differentiated service and product will demand higher fees and are more likely to compete on a different level than price. They compete on the back of a superior or unique project offering for which clients are willing to pay the appropriate fee. 4. Remuneration Can a firm afford market rates for top talent, and if so, should it?

2. Utilisation How do design and engineering businesses maximise chargeable time while avoiding burnout? Utilisation can be increased by increasing the chargeable time of your higher performing and often higher charging people, however the ability of your people to take on these hours needs to be managed carefully. Design businesses often run into problems when their highest performers work an excess of hours because those hours are often the most profitable for the business. Avoiding burnout for your best performers is critical to business success. It can make more business sense to hire a new client-facing employee at a less senior level to take on more chargeable work than what could be achieved by top talent working overtime. Let go, and develop your people. This strategy will produce increased profits for the business without talent burnout.


While project-based firms certainly have control over what they pay their employees, businesses need to consider the external marketplace and what competing firms are paying for talent. In times of overall market growth, underpaying talent creates a risk that you might lose them to a competitor. Fostering and nurturing creative talent beyond remuneration can also go a long way to promoting employee loyalty and excitement for the job. If businesses can broaden the skills of their employees without stretching resources, they will reap the rewards. Inefficient use of resources and poorly defined business strategies are two of the biggest problems faced by design and engineering firms. Left unchecked, these issues cause businesses to miss out on increased efficiencies, higher engagement and morale among employees, and consistent profitability. Getting business efficiencies, strategies and systems in place and under control will stabilise your business and allow you to focus on what you do best.

Management for Design provides integrated business systems and services to the design industry across Strategy, Finance, Information Technology, Human Resource Management and Business Systems. By working with Management for Design our clients are enabled to focus on what they are great at and to control and build their businesses. For more information visit or phone 03 9645 8834.

MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 108 BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR ARCHITECTS, ENGINEERS AND CONSULTANTS Why you should invest Your Business Management System is one of the core foundations of your business. An effective and integrated system will enable you to more effectively control your business and is a key foundation to enable you to build your business. At any given moment, project-based firms need real-time information to: • Provide insight into the status of project profitably • Understand how the business is performing and why problems occurred • Assess the impact on the business, and what should be done to enhance performance • Efficiently share information throughout the organization. A good business management system enables your business to: • Improve project delivery and profitability • Improve business performance • Streamline your operations and execution • Generate more work

What you will achieve An optimised integrated business management system allows you to:

An effective and integrated system is a key foundation to building your business.

• Replace and consolidate outdated existing systems • Eliminate the cost of purchasing and maintaining existing systems • Provide a single repository and source of information • Integrate core processes • Consolidate reporting of multiple companies • Allow you to align your resourcing with your project requirements • Manage your client, contact and project information • Streamline your operations • Work across multiple currencies • Increase productivity


• Streamline management reporting • Provide easy access to information anywhere/ anytime • Improve the bottom line performance of your business • Create additional value in your business • Clean up ad-hoc file and email management.


Powerful analytics and reporting provide key stakeholders with realtime metrics that offer visibility into all areas of the organization.

Manage business and project information Real-time information and tools facilitate decision-making and alignment of goals. Powerful analytics and reporting provide key stakeholders with real-time metrics that offer visibility into all areas of the organization. Forecast Accurately forecast your future income based on correct and up to date financial information straight from invoicing.

Invoicing and Accounts Payable Tracking The financial health of your firm relies on timely and accurate invoicing. Compare invoices against contracts, to improve cost tracking and eliminate vendor overpayment or fraud.

Project Manage

Business Intelligence and Interactive Reporting

Enable PMs to plan projects across stages and tasks, allocate people and hours, account for estimate to complete and monitor and report on progress.

Access and analysis data — from key financial metrics and project analysis to opportunity tracking, resource utilization and trade receivables.

Resource Management

Time and Expense Management

Automate scheduling, resource allocation, budgeting and forecasting to determine whether proposed fees are accurate, appropriate people are available and allocated effectively, and projects come in on time and on budget.

Timesheet entries and expense reports determine actual costs back into the project plan for an accurate rolling forecast that managers can use to make faster, more informed decisions to ensure projects stay on track.

Financial and Project Accounting


Integrate project control with the general ledger so you can track profitability in real time and identify problems as they arise.

Your payroll function will reach top performer status, improve its efficiency and reduce operating costs.


Client Relationship Management Automate the entire lead-to-execution project life cycle by encompassing all of the tools you need to win new business and strengthen existing relationships. With a single central source of information accessible to everyone in your firm, you are empowering your team to fully leverage their collective knowledge. Services Estimating Simplify labour and expense estimating by automatically calculating project costs and margins. Proposal Automation Empower your marketing and sales team to efficiently produce winning proposals that stand out from the competition. Ensure your proposals contain the most recent and relevant information by giving employees access to an up-to-theminute central source of company templates, metrics, résumés and more. Purchasing Manages your firm’s entire requisition, purchasing and receiving cycle — no matter how simple or sophisticated — while maintaining full integration with Financial and Project Accounting and Resource and Project Management modules. Asset Management Manage the entire lifecycle of your fixed assets for an accurate picture of business assets all in

one place to give your firm the right data to make informed decisions. Document Management Allow users to browse, enrich, and edit information collected from various sources from within a single application. By enabling sharing and information collaboration users can efficiently distribute the kind of information needed to solve problems and make decisions.

Conclusion In the way it can power your business, ‘doing more for less’ is a win-win situation for today’s Professional Services firms. Serving to cut costs and increase profitability, this concept can be achieved simply by taking the right steps to streamlining your business. When combined with the right processes and technology, your business can truly ‘do more for less’, and enjoy a lean, yet efficient workforce that drives profitability, cash flow and organizational growth. From our extensive experience in the industry and working with our clients in the Architecture, Engineering and Consultants (AEC) industry, we see that Professional Services organizations inarguably rely on their human capital as one of their greatest resources. Yet, so often, we also see that these assets aren’t being optimized in a way that truly drives revenue for the business as a whole. Aligning your resources and streamlining processes across accounting, project control, resourcing, client management and document control is the best way to get more out your business.



Are you an expert in business financials? As business leaders you are confronted with a myriad of financial information about your business — your income, your expenses, your profit margin, cash position and project performance. And that’s only the start!’ Your role as a leader is to regularly absorb this information and to make decisions in a timely manner. These executive decisions can then be converted into activities to be completed by your team. Your accountants and finance people then report these activities in a numerical way to produce your business report card. This will most likely be in the form of an income statement, a balance sheet and most importantly a cashflow statement. You then turn to your Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to decipher and inform you about these numbers. That is, if you have a CFO! The role of your CFO is to describe back to you the financial impact of the decisions and associated activities that caused the numbers in the first place. The numbers are always a reflection of the decisions made and/or not made. So doesn’t it stand to reason that if we want to change the numbers we simply need to change the activities that caused the numbers?

The role of your CFO is to describe back to you the financial impact of the decisions and associated activities that caused the numbers in the first place.

” Where are your numbers today and where do you want them to be at the end of the year? How do you drive your business to succeed and deliver the outcomes that you are seeking?.


firms that are similar in size and business model to your own. 5. Take the right action — create change Of course, knowledge without action won’t benefit your business. You’ve got to use the information you gather to make smart strategic moves that will enhance your success.

Outsourcing your CFO 5 steps to business success 1. Know your numbers The language of business is accounting. How do you know where you need to go if you don’t know where you are? 2. Set your KPIs Are you measuring your day-to-day activities? Have you set targets that align with your strategic plan? Analyse your data and select relevant metrics to help you define business success. For example, do you know your debtors days? This KPI has a direct impact on your cashflow and should be measured monthly. Do you know your % of technical salaries to fees? This is another valuable measure to use to keep your business in check. 3. Measure, measure, measure Management guru Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What gets measured is what gets done. If you are not measuring it you are not managing your business effectively. 4. Compare/benchmark You need to compare to how you are tracking year in year out as well as comparing your results with those of appropriate peers — that is,

The quality of your decision-making has a direct impact on the performance of your business. To make good decisions and outperform the competition you need the right information at your fingertips. An experienced and expert CFO can bring significant value to your business and ensure that you are set on and continue the path to success. And you don’t need to employ this role on a full-time permanent basis. Many successful businesses are tapping into an expertise that is becoming more readily available at any time you need it. This person will optimise the value of your internal accounts team by providing a business-focussed overlay to your finances. They will report, advise benchmark and provide strategic advice before turning your financial data into actionable information through analytics. Your firm deserves a strong financial leader with the expertise to ensure the well-being of your business now and the knowledge to offer meaningful solutions to take your business forward in the future. By supercharging your accounts, your CFO will become your trusted business advisor and empower the business leaders to see the big picture that impact at a micro and macro scale to protect and accelerate the company. Business analysis and decisions are able to be made with more confidence giving your firm the advantage over the competition.


Outsourcing your CFO provides many business advantages, including:

• Certainty regarding up-to-date commercial and financial knowledge

• Business leaders are able to focus on core business activities and strategies to remain competitive

• Tailored budgeting to ensure your profits are reinvested where they will have maximum impact for people and infrastructure

• Access high level technical resources

• Total confidentiality of client records

• Continuity of service, knowledge and financial management ensuring your business never misses a beat

• Knowing where your business stands financially at any given time

• Cost savings for larger firms and affordability for smaller firms for whom a CFO was previously a prohibitive expense • Independent and objective advice — no-one is protecting their job • Data-driven analysis to guide decision-making any time and anywhere

In an environment where every dollar has a place and a purpose, outsourced your financial expertise to an experienced and expert Chief Financial Officer will enable your business to cohesively manage its bottom line. This will free you up to take the lead in your core of your business with the knowledge your finances are in safe hands.


Gordana Milosevska, CPA Director, Management for Design Gordana is a Director and Owner of Management for Design and devotes her valued skills assisting clients to build successful and sustainable businesses that enrich the built environment by setting them free to focus on what they do best. With over two decades of broad experience in accounting and financial management in a range of industries, including design, hospitality, retail and security and investigation, Gordana’s areas of expertise encompass accounting, financial strategy and control, business performance analysis and reporting.

 Gordana Milosevska   @M4D_Australia

Gordana has been instrumental in enabling businesses to attain financial stability and sustainable growth by creating the change that’s needed to unleash the professional expertise and creative spirit in businesses.


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 110 HOW TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY AND REDUCE THE NEED FOR MORE PEOPLE Introduction “How do you manage in today’s challenging economic climate and how do you access skilled and capable people to work on your projects?” Yes, things are challenging fiscally for Architects, Engineers and Consultants — because they rely on people and skills! Through good or bad times, the equation that defines business success for professional service businesses remains the same: optimising people skills and capacity = increased profitability. While the math may be simple, of course, the realisation of this potential can be a lot more challenging. Great resource management is the key to solving this equation. It effectively provides a framework within which businesses can easily and effectively plan, implement and deploy their people skills. This business journal explains what resource management is, and outlines the ‘Best Practices’ to adopt to optimise resources and therefore maximise profitability.

What is resource management? You may already be familiar with acronyms such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), PM (Project Management) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and the business solutions that underpin these disciplines.

Great resource management is the key to solving this equation. It effectively provides a framework within which businesses can easily and effectively plan, implement and deploy their people skills.

Resource management (RM) is often seen as a ‘sub-set’ of these processes. Resource management may also be known under other names, such as ‘people planning’ or ‘utilisation’ — but in-essence, it is a solution for planning, managing and deploying the right people and skills on the right projects for the right amount of time. In our experience, only around 20 percent of firms recognise and use resource management as a high-value, stand-alone discipline in its own right — which is surprising given that the management


of resources is a design firm’s raison d’etre. According to our latest survey results, a surprising 40 per cent of design businesses admitted to having no overview of their resource situation more than one month ahead. In Architecture, Engineering and Consulting businesses, planning resources at least six months in advance enables firms to get the most out of their business. Resource management is therefore a ‘must have’ in project-focused companies. More than ever, there is a need to provide key executives, leadership and project managers with proactive, analytical information they need to support efficient and effective decision making.

Best practices to increase your resource utilisation So, what are the key ‘Best Practices’ that businesses should adopt and be aware of to increase people utilisation and attain higher profitability?

1. Recognise that ‘busy’ doesn’t necessarily mean productive There’s a very big difference between people being busy and being productive. Look around your studio and you’ll see people who are busy, yet their utilisation rates — and therefore their productive hours — are at an unsatisfactorily low level. No doubt you will also experience a complete disparity across the resource pool, with some people overloaded, while others remain under-utilised. When your key resources are people, it’s imperative that you make it easy for your people to manage activity and maintain other relevant data in your business systems solution. This should be a familiar, shared and easy to access system. Also, a simple report that gives an overview of historic performance — e.g.. out of the planned hours, how many were chargeable? — can also ensure that when people say they are ‘busy’, it really does mean they are ‘productive’.


2. Don’t manage projects on ‘guesstimates’ All too often Architects, Engineers and Consultants do not align project estimation, scope, execution and existing capacity. Making ‘guesstimates’ on projects is often the key driver in resource under– or over-utilisation. Underestimate and you’ll be scrambling to find additional resources. If you are in danger of missing a deadline on a project because resource management hasn’t been at the top of the agenda, you can too easily add additional people to projects or recruit unnecessary additional people. Both actions can obviously have an immediate impact on profitability and a ’flow-on’ effect on subsequent projects. New people hired for one project may not be needed for the next, so you end up carrying additional and/or unnecessary overhead. Either way, the impact on project costs and profitability can be significant. The lesson? Short-term resource management and planning, combined with a narrow view, can seriously impact the bottom line. By integrating your future work requirements including potential projects/ pipeline with effective resource management you can achieve a better understanding of resource impacts, both short- and long-term. 3. Don’t over-service clients One of the biggest challenges facing design businesses is assigning too much resource to a client, and effectively putting in time that isn’t chargeable just to ‘keep the client happy’. This often happens because there is no clear overview of planned resources and fees against what your people actually deliver — the gap between the two can mean the difference between profit and loss on a project. Integrating your “Resource Management System” with your “Project Management System” provides improved insight into the critical path — thus allowing you to focus on the sub-tasks in the optimal sequence.

4. Match your long-term project forecast / pipeline with your planned capacity It always surprises Management for Design how many design businesses have ineffective controls for tracking work generated and forecasting future workload. It is absolutely essential to ensure that the projects in your backlog and pipeline can be forecasted, planned and resourced efficiently. Again, integrating your opportunity tracking system with resource management means you can achieve an increased understanding of resource impacts, as well as effectively support your strategic and tactical recruiting, out-sourcing and organisational development. 5. Avoid different versions of the truth Having a uniform management system that encompasses all elements of the business will help ensure consolidation of all finance, client and project information. More importantly, it will provide you with a single and accurate version of the ‘truth’. In addition, by having consolidated information ‘based on facts’ in one place (rather than on a myriad of MS excel spreadsheets from

By integrating your future work requirements including potential projects/pipeline with effective resource management you can achieve a better understanding of resource impacts, both short– and long-term.


project managers and project accountants) there is visibility of project progress across the business, from project manager to senior management level.

projects. The very fact that you already know if you can fulfil a project — should you be selected — puts you in a much stronger position to succeed with new proposals.

6. Consider resource management as the ultimate in Business Intelligence

8. Take traditional ERP, CRM and PM systems to the next level

Business Intelligence (BI) technologies can now integrate historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Resource management really represents the ultimate in Business Intelligence (BI) in your organisation. How do you forecast your current and future work and how do you turn this into your resource requirements? And how do you compare this with your current resourcing and utilisation?

You might be thinking “we already have a traditional ERP, CRM or PM system to manage our client and project-based operations. Why should we bother with resource management?” The fact is that, while some resource management functionality can be found in traditional ERP systems, it tends to be very much focused on managing resources on single projects, rather than looking at resources across the business.

An effective resource management system will underpin and drive your business operations. You can bring in timescales, role-requirements and other key elements to your resource planning and link this to your overall BI strategy. Resource management needs to be effective in terms of short, mid and long-term analysis and reporting, adding real depth to your BI efforts.

What’s happening with resource management is the same that happened with CRM many years ago, when firms started to realise that they didn’t have a structured way of interacting with clients (and many still don’t).

For example, managers can have a dashboard they look at every day when they log into the system, displaying KPI’s such as chargeability, fees per hour, hours worked and project / resource requirements 3/6/12 months out. 7. Be prepared to take advantage of market opportunities Resource management doesn’t just mean managing today’s work. In identifying skills that the organisation may not have been unaware of, you can create new market opportunities for tomorrow. When you integrate your work pipeline and opportunities with your “Resource Management System”, it gives you the necessary information and confidence to bid on new

Conclusion Once you accept that effective resource management is ‘best practice’ in terms of running your people-centric business operations, it’s time to look at investing in appropriate solutions. What the right solution does is effectively provide a real-time overview of resource availability that is fully integrated with your project plans. You can monitor availability, workload, chargeability and revenue across all employees, and easily assign people to tasks relating to projects and opportunities. You can avoid projects based on ‘guesstimates’ and target your resources accordingly. You can develop project plans and estimate the cost and revenue of opportunities and real projects, as well as monitor progress with actuals against baseline at any time.


When you have a long-term overview of your capacity situation, you can work smoothly between operational, tactical and strategic planning horizons and view revenue forecasts based on the plans. Overall, with an effective system you benefit from having a highly visual, intuitive and transparent resource overview across your business. This can be accessed by the leaders and project managers, as well as employees, in real-time and based on facts. The Return on Investment (ROI) is compelling. For example, if you have a resource pool of 100 people, with an average hourly chargeable rate of $150, finding just one extra hour per month, through the use of effective resource management will result in $180,000 extra revenue per year. It is evident that when you have a single, integrated solution supporting everybody in your organisation in their project planning and resource-related work, you can really look at increasing profitability.

With the right solutions, you can: • Become less prone to the changing economy as you gear your business to match the current market situation. • See who is doing what at any given time. • M onitor availability, workload, utilisation, and revenue of all employees, and easily assign people to projects and opportunities. • R educe the risk of lost profits caused by under-utilising resources. • G et a resource overview that is fully integrated with your project plans. • Tap into the hidden profitability potential of your people as you start billing more hours to clients with greater accuracy. • Gain a clear insight into long-term capacity plans. • F ormulate exact revenue forecasts based on your resource allocations. • H ave one integrated solution that supports everybody in your business in their project planning and resource-related work.




Introduction Your team consists of a lot more than the people you employ — they are only part of the equation. Leaders work with a team for which there are four critical components. Alongside your employees, the people who work with you include business owners, partners, your future leaders, specialists and advisors — this is your team. All components have an equally important role in your business.

1. Your partners Choose your partners carefully! Above anything else, you need to be sure you can trust one another, enjoy each other’s company, and work and communicate well to ensure you achieve great things for your business. Sharing similar values and aspirations for the future of your business, alongside being financially astute and forward-thinking are all important traits of a successful partnership. Finding a partner that offers credibility to your business, while also having skills and expertise that support and complement your own ensure a far broader skillset. This in turn will enable you to plan, grow and run your business more effectively. Today, your partners should possess an element of risk-taking, a desire to control their own destiny, and an enjoyment for watching

Sharing similar values and aspirations for the future of your business, alongside being financially astute and forward-thinking are all important traits of a successful partnership.

others receive the recognition they deserve. In a nutshell, they should complement your weaknesses and share your business passions. It goes without saying that you and your partners establish the culture within your business. Cultural misalignment among the leadership team is one of the first things that arises when business becomes difficult. When business is performing well, inadequate communication can be papered over. When there is leadership conflict and a sense of dissatisfaction in the business, this misalignment is one of the first things to come to the fore that really never goes away.


2. Your future leaders

• Business development and work generation

Your future leaders should offer diversity to your business by bringing new skills and behaviours you don’t have. What are the characteristics to look for? Professionalism, independence and entrepreneurship. These individuals have a great work–life congruence — they value teamwork and respect others, and have the ability to put their egos aside to listen carefully and nurture those around them. Forward-thinking and open to new opportunities, future leaders challenge the status quo — by not being risk averse in their approach to business. They are keen to discuss their concerns with you and have solutions, not problems, to the business issues. In a nutshell, they have a winning personality and are invaluable assets to your business.

• S ervicing clients and representing the business

Your future leaders need to be mentored by you. You need to spend time with them on business management — very few others will! They need and deserve a plan for growth and advancement. In our experience, they typically won’t ask for this plan so the current leaders need to be pro-active about this. This should include an agreement / expectations surrounding:

• Delivery of services • Design collaboration • Client agreements and fee structures • Their role in strategic objectives • Attracting and retaining key people • Building and contributing to cultural values • Business and service innovation • Financial objectives and systems.

3. Your people Without people, you don’t own a practice — you own a job. It is obviously necessary to focus on hiring people who have the correct skills, but, more importantly, who culturally fit in your business and can bring quality and talent that you will need into the future. Foster a culture of accountability by surrounding yourself with people who want to build a career, rather than have a job.


Your people should be trustworthy, hardworking, productive and work well as part of a team. There should also be a mix of demographics across gender, cultures and age. Hiring people with great energy and a positive outlook on the business is essential — after all they are representative of your business and will influence the impression others have of you and your credentials. A successful team needs to have experience, passion and commitment. Be careful not to simply go through the process of hiring people and then forget to interact with them. Working alongside your people to develop their skills and responsibilities makes an enormous difference when looking to build a team that is fully engaged in their role and is excited for future opportunities in the business. Don’t make the mistake of putting the wrong people in charge of hiring or failing to let go of the employees who don’t fit well in the business. The key issue to remember is trust your judgement! When evaluating your current and potential people, ask yourself the following questions: • Are they passionate? • Do they have a great work ethic? • Are they skilled? • Do they embrace challenges? • Are they fun to be around? Having strong, engaging systems across your business that enables your people to do the right work at the right time will not only ensure your business is run more effectively, but your people will be happier too! Such systems will also enable you to delegate responsibility comfortably. That in turn will ensure your staff members confidently take control within their roles — your systems are your path to independence and fulfilment!

Working alongside your people to develop their skills and responsibilities makes an enormous difference when looking to build a team that is fully engaged in their role and is excited for future opportunities in the business.

4. Your trusted advisors The main difference between a business and being self-employed is the team you surround yourself with. Consider what skills you don’t have in your business and surround yourself with experts, mentors and advisors that bring this capability. This will include experts in finance, tax, legal, risk, marketing and strategy etc. Having the right people around your business will enable you to learn from experts in your industry. You will get the return on your investment that is imperative to the success of your business. Surround yourself with experts who: • Have demonstrated expert knowledge and skills in their field of work • Know how to get things done • H ave a network of people they can refer you to promptly • Complement your weaknesses


• Put your interests first

• A re forward-thinking and able to assist in driving your business further.

Once you have established a strong relationship it is important to nurture it as your business develops further. Asking questions as you go and liaising closely together will help to build a stronger relationship on which you can fully manage every element of your business.

Proper guidance from your accountants, tax advisors, financial advisors, and legal counsel is imperative for building a strong, successful business. Although these advisors can be expensive, their advice can provide you with an incredible return on your investment by helping you structure a strong business while avoiding pitfalls along the way.

Being able to receive the support and advice you need from the experts around you will make an enormous difference to how you view your business and the decisions you make as a result. Having a strong and respected team on board will contribute to any decision you make — it is the combined input of your team that makes it the right decision.

• A re reliable, credible and available when you need them




In Australia* there are approximately 10,800 Architecture, Engineering, Planning and related consultant and design businesses*. Of these: • 60% of practices have less than 5 people • 80% of practices have less than 10 people • 90% of practices have less than 20 people. This is just under 10,000 businesses who have a heavy reliance on the principals to bring in the clients, recruit and manage the people, design and deliver projects and control the finances. Ultimately, it doesn’t leave a lot of headspace, time or capacity to build and grow the practice. It also doesn’t allow much time to deal with success and the increasing risks that result from demanding contract conditions, finding and retaining the right people, lower fees, investment needs, and the changes in an increasingly global economy. Most Architecture, Engineering and Consultant (AEC) practices have a desire to develop their businesses and watch their practices prosper. But what’s holding them back from achieving this? Today, some forward-thinking businesses are considering how they break the mould. As BDP’s alignment with Japanese consultant Nippon Koei in March 2017 demonstrated, size, it seems, does matter. *Australian Bureau of Statistics Professional Service Businesses 2016.

In the past six years alone, approximately 600 architecture and engineering firms have been either sold or merged in the US.

The benefits of merging Merging — the coming together of two businesses and becoming a new business — is an increasing trend worldwide, an approach that Australia is slow to embrace. In our region, we are a long way behind what’s happening in other parts of the world — in particular, Asia and the US. In the past six years alone, approximately 600 architecture and engineering firms have been either sold or merged in the US. It is clear that the total number of Architects, Engineers and Designers in Australia far exceeds the commercial demand for services. There are too many businesses competing for a diminishing


service in an increasingly competitive market place. The number one concern for AEC leaders is the diminution of fees and services — the consequence of high and increasing competition for clients and projects from a myriad of sources. This includes other professions, the construction sector, the impact of technology and the forces of globalisation. The advantages of merging / combining your business in today’s increasingly competitive and oversupplied market place include: • Increasing the client base • Stronger and more talented leadership • Increasing your skill base • Increasing productivity • Economies of Scale • Increasing the capacity to invest in technology, innovation and systems • Building scale to engage experts in business • Improving the firm’s competitive position • Expansion into other geographic regions • Adding new practice areas • Greater capacity to devolve and spread the client relationships

• Diversification of work to mitigate the risk • Sharing the workload and improving work / life balance • Increasing your influence in the marketplace • Succession and exit strategy. Although it is often overlooked in our industry, one of the greatest strengths of leaders of AEC businesses is their innate capacity to work with others and collaborate more effectively than most professionals. Add to this the reasons above, and merging becomes a recipe for success! Our advice is to start with the premise that you should merge your practice — not why you shouldn’t. By merging with like-minded businesses, you will accelerate your path to success and break the innate tendency to incrementally improve the way you do things. As Nick Schumann, UK Board Member Rider Levett Bucknall and ex Shumann Consult says “After three and a half successful years developing and growing SCL we have now merged with Rider Levett Bucknall, a global multi service line consultancy which will provide further opportunities for success. In my experience, a merger gives a better chance of having a longterm influence and continuing business as usual”.


The downsides AEC businesses, in particular, are different to most in that each has a clear identity, a distinctive design proposition and unique culture. Merging with another company and maintaining that uniqueness is ultimately seen to be especially difficult to overcome for many AEC business leaders. Below are a few of the primary reasons that Management for Design regularly confronts with businesses who are hesitant to merge: 1. Leaders not wanting to lose control of design and clients 2. Lack of outside trusted advisors — “who do I go to?” 3. Answering and being accountable to others 4. Inability to step away from the day to day 5. Not knowing where to start and how to go about it 6. Not knowing potential partners / targets 7. Culture of independence and freedom. Let’s look at some of these reasons in more detail. Losing Control “Control” is a crucial factor for the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that leaders achieve from running their own practice and producing their own work. The ability to influence your own environment and change what you don’t like is critical for the sense of satisfaction an owner gets from their work. Unfortunately, when you are part of a team you surrender some of that control in exchange for the resources and support of your team. If you are insistent on not having to argue your decisions and explain your reasons every step of the way then you will hold your business at its present level. You can’t expect your business to grow. If it does, and you are holding onto

One of the greatest strengths of leaders of AEC businesses is their innate capacity to work with others and collaborate more effectively than most professionals.

control, then you are embedding yourself in a job and not building your business as a result. Inability to step away from the day to day More often than not, AEC leaders are engaged in the here and now — the current and next project; the current and next client etc. Yet, at the same time, they bemoan the fees they are receiving for their services, the lack of business acumen and project management expertise in their businesses and wonder why they’re not attracting and retaining great people. The ability to step away from the here and now is not innate in AEC firm leaders — “there is too much to do!”. As a business leader, this is your challenge — more notably, your obligation — to your clients and people. They are looking for you to discover and implement innovative ways of working; designing; collaborating; more exciting work and more opportunities. Lack of outside trusted advisors Simply put, there isn’t a great deal of merger and acquisition expertise readily available in Australia in the AEC sector. Partners that have expertise and specialism in AEC businesses are


few and far between in our region, primarily because of the low level of activity. Having said this, they are out there. There are two businesses based in Australia that have the required criteria, including: • Australian presence and expertise • In depth knowledge and experience in the marketplace • A track record of closing deals • Target sourcing and screening • Valuation and transaction negotiation • Due Diligence • Strategy development and execution. Not knowing potential partners/ targets   

45% of AEC businesses that have conducted a merger in the past five years identified finding quality partners to be their biggest challenge (PSMJ 2016 M&A Study). Sifting out the businesses with tarnished brands, poor strategic alignment and ineffective systems, it is evident that people issues are a huge challenge. Not only that, finding a business that shares common aspirations, cultural values and is a fit financially makes it even more difficult. Having said this, be assured, there are a myriad of businesses that should merge or be absorbed by more developed businesses — you just need to put in the work to find them.

There are a myriad of businesses that should merge or be absorbed by more developed businesses — you just need to put in the work to find them.

Making it work for your business In our future Business Journal, we will look at the main considerations and risks behind a business merge and how it can be managed effectively to ensure it benefits your business.


Management for Design has developed a unique approach to executing an approach to developing and executing a merger strategy that, if implemented, effectively ensures alignment of strategy, brand, aspiration and results. At the core is a methodology and system to ensure successful execution that involves the key people in the business. For more information, contact Rob Peake on


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 113 SHOULD YOU MERGE YOUR FIRM? PROBABLY! - PART 2 In our recent Business Journal we presented the business case for merging your business with likeminded businesses. Our advice is to start from the premise that you should merge your practice - not that you shouldn’t. By merging with like-minded businesses, you will accelerate your path to success and break the innate tendency to improve incrementally. The advantages of merging in today’s increasingly competitive and oversupplied market place include: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Increasing your client base Stronger and more talented leadership Increasing your skill base Increasing productivity Economies of scale Increasing the capacity to invest in technology, innovation and systems Building scale to engage experts in business Obtaining additional expertise Expansion into other geographic regions Adding new practice areas Capacity to devolve and spread client relationships Diversification of work to mitigate risk Sharing the workload and improved work/life balance Increasing your influence in the marketplace Succession and exit strategy

Our advice is to start from the premise that you should merge your practice - not that you shouldn’t

Considerations While mergers can be a valid option, making them work is often another matter all together. Problems are mainly due to cultural misalignment, personnel differences and improper due diligence. Successful mergers are based upon a sound integrated business strategy that creates synergy, and a combined firm that produces greater client and business value than either firm could produce alone. Start by determining your merger objectives: • What size of firm are you considering? • Do you want to practice in a large firm? If not, what is the largest firm that you would want to practice in?


• Is having your name a part of the business name important to you? • What are your expectations and objectives for a merger? • What are you looking from a merger partner? If you are weak in firm leadership, management and administration – look for a firm that is strong in these areas. Having said that, strong leadership, management, and administration may be hard to find in a firm fewer than 20 to 30 people. You also need to get your head around the fact that mergers typically occur without compensation or goodwill to either party. No doubt you will find that outside resources can prove invaluable to bolster the internal team - an experienced consultant can find the right targets and facilitate and drive the entire process. Additionally, experienced legal and tax counsel will also be vital, and an experienced partner will be able to manage these resources and bring them into the fold where and when needed. A major consideration for an Australian practice, however, is who do you work with that has been through the process and can provide expert advice?

Preparation Typically, a merger occurs between companies of comparable size and finances, taking two likeminded businesses and making them stronger together. It should be a friendly transaction since both entities are agreeing to the deal, and both parties should benefit from the arrangement. We’re not talking about the path to acquisition, which typically involves one business (the larger one) taking control over another. Once you are sure that merger exploration makes sense – you should ensure that your business is in order. In other words – can anything be done to enhance the value and/or marketability of your firm? For example: • Do you have a business or strategic plan? If not – how will you convince a potential merger partner that you have a plan for the future and know where you are going? • Work on and clean up your financials. Improve the financial performance of your practice. Eliminate deadwood. Get your debtors under control • Fix up your business systems. Great systems seriously underpin the value of your business and the attractiveness of your offer to a potential partner


• Avoid entering into long term commitments that might make your firm undesirable to another firm. (new long-term leases, risky client matters/cases, loans, admission of new partners, unfunded partner buyouts/ retirements, etc.) • Your communications and branding collateral needs to up to date Next, develop a merger marketing plan and begin working the plan. Try to generate enough leads that you can explore a merger with several businesses rather than engaging in “random merger talks” which often result in isolated merger offers, leaving you with no framework for comparison.

Making it work The real question that businesses struggle with is not the what (merge) but the who (people). The ‘who with’ should be a firm with a similar culture, excellent leaders (or potential leaders), great relationships and clients who understand the long-term benefits to all parties, resulting in what is often described as being 2+2=5: compatible culture, systems, technology, project, client and design aspiration. Identifying acquisition targets, buyers or another firm to merge with is not an AEC firm’s core competence. There are though, many Australian businesses that have successfully achieved this in recent years including: • Rothe Lowman | White Architecture – establishing a Brisbane presence • SJB and FKA spinning off a separate business – PLUS Architecture • HDR and Rice Daubney • Prior Cheney to DWP | Suters to DWP • Cox Group and Coda Studio • Grieve Gillette | Anderson • Mark Williams Architects and AEV Architects In the CODA | Cox scenario - CODA directors Emma Williamson and Kieran Wong assumed

By merging with Cox Architecture, we have a real opportunity to get stuck into larger and more complex work and to continue our interest in developing practice culture

directorships with Cox, with all CODA people transferring from the practice’s former studio in Fremantle to the Cox office in the Perth CBD. Williamson said “By merging with Cox Architecture, we have a real opportunity to get stuck into larger and more complex work and to continue our interest in developing practice culture.”

Managing the risks “There aren’t a whole lot of catastrophic failures when it comes to mergers in the architecture and engineering space. Of course, these major failures can and do occur. But, they are very rare” – The Ultimate Mergers and Acquisition Manual, PSMJ Resources Inc. However, there are certain steps to take to minimise the risks of the merger not working out as intended: • Perform proper due diligence on the people and, in particular, the leaders and potential leaders. It’s critical that businesses ensure cultural due diligence is a key component of the merger assessment process. Philosophies, personalities, and lifestyles should be compatible. The partners should like each other!


• Decide up-front who will be in charge, how you’ll deal with people changes (including redundancies), how you’ll integrate your financial and human resources systems, who will inform who about the changes, and what the plan is to action this.

• Plan for client retention. Who will talk with clients about what’s going on? What will the message be? How will the new entity maintain its level of service during the change?

...don’t commence the planning process until you have thought through these issues and put in place the mechanisms to ensure you deliver on your aspirations

• Consider retention of key staff. How can you ensure that you don’t lose talented people because of this period of uncertainty and change? Who will go and who will stay after the agreement is formalised?

Merging versus acquisition

• Decide whose systems will be utilised in the new entity, or are you going to go down a path of renewal. Plan how you will announce the changes and how you will phase them in. • Typically, the cost savings can be realised in general overhead/corporate services. In our experience you’ll achieve efficiencies in finance, IT, and HR. Bear in mind that with the AEC industry being a peoplebased business, you won’t be consolidating manufacturing facilities or finding large-scale redundancies. • Assign a senior executive to “make it happen” – and find the right advisor to work with and guide this key person. Successful mergers require a critical degree of communication, alignment and consensus amongst your leadership team. Get on the same page and commit the resources you need to “make it happen.” Finally, don’t commence the planning process until you have thought through these issues and put in place the mechanisms to ensure you deliver on your aspirations. Now is not the time to procrastinate. Make it happen!

Most people misunderstand the meaning of these two words as they are often used together e.g. M&A activity. But the meanings of them are totally different - an acquisition refers to one company taking over another whereby the larger business takes control over the other business they’ve acquired. Acquisitions as opposed to mergers don’t require mutual agreement, but they do require a huge amount of cash! But, to be clear, they both have their pro’s and cons. In our future Business Journal, we will look at the path to acquisition and why it doesn’t happen often in our region.


Management for Design has developed a unique approach to developing and executing a merger strategy that, if implemented effectively, ensures alignment of strategy, brand, aspiration and results. Our methodology and systems will ensure successful execution, which involves the key people in the business. For more information, contact Rob Peake on


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 114 PROFITABILITY AND GROWTH STRATEGIES FOR ARCHITECTS, ENGINEERS AND DESIGNERS Current economic conditions are strong—albeit challenging—and the indications are that this will continue. Having said that, Management For Design

So how can AED firms position themselves for future growth and meet the challenges of increasing competition, technological changes, a changing

continually encounters Architects, Engineers, and Designers (AED) that are not realising the strong and consistent profitability that could be achieved.

workforce, and potential ownership transitions? The answer is that today’s success-minded firms require a concentrated focus on strong project, resource, and financial management practices—the kind that can carry their long-term growth goals to fruition.

To match the high pressures of an increasingly competitive environment, the trend within AED firms has been to reduce fees (without a subsequent reduction in services). There is downward pressure on pricing and businesses are competing with a higher emphasis on attractive price, rather than increased value. And, as wellintentioned as these strategies are, it has made it even more challenging for firms to deliver projects profitably. Unfortunately, Project and Resource Management for many AED firms is not what it used to be, and many businesses have moved away from best practices—that is, if they ever had them in the first place. Although information is now more readily accessible than ever, more and more of the routine Project Management activity is being left to overworked and under-resourced Project Leaders. It is becoming more and more difficult to deliver a profitable project.

Project and Resource Control and Management is the key to successful and sustainable business profitability. And profitability is the key to growth — Gordana

Milosevska, Director, Management For Design


Project and Resource Management Best Practices Typically in AED businesses, 75% of business profit is generated from 25% of projects. Which could also be read as 75% of project work is contributing little to the bottom line—this can be changed! To improve and maximise project profitability (and hence overall business profitability) we recommend applying the following project and resource management best practices:

1. Financial Overview of Project Results The most critical component of effective project performance is having financial oversight of projects. “This doesn’t just mean having a finance person looking at the project results, but making sure the project leaders understand the financial status of the project and its impact on the business. When it comes to project communication, it means communicating the project status to the client, subcontractors and the entire project team that is involved—and you need a system for this,” says Callum Bruce, Head of Business Systems, Management For Design.

Ensuring that the project leaders are knowledgeable about a project’s finances can lead to a number of benefits across the enterprise, including: •

Planning and matching the work with the resources and costs

The ability to manage the scope and deliverables

Enable effective pricing and scoping

Accountability for performance

Identification of the areas of business that need improvement

An understanding of what types of projects the company generates the most profit from

Stronger project manager contribution to the overall profitability of the firm

2. Leadership Accountability The leaders of the business—directors, principles, asociates—can’t expect the responsibility for project performance to sit entirely with the project leader. The business leaders need to show the way, they need to develop and expect a culture of accountability and this starts at the top. Leaders need to expect and be involved in project budgets, scope expectations and project performance for their projects. By developing and investing in a culture of accountability


and project control, AED businesses ensure that their most important assets—their people resources— understand the underlying purpose, skills and profitincreasing practices associated with strong project and resource management. “By creating a culture of project and resource management excellence, firms will be able to realize consistent, meaningful profitability for years, or even decades, to come,” says Milosevska.

resource costs are expected to be. Tracking percentage complete against expected hours can be a key source of information for addressing productivity. “Often, what you invoice and how you invoice does not always follow the percent complete,” says Carla Dexheimer, financial controller, Management For Design. “Estimating your costs through to the end of a project requires having set budgets in place right from the beginning, and ensuring that the right data is available to all people on the team.”

3. Resource Management Although some would consider this as obvious, Management For Design is often astounded by the lack of thorough and integrated systems in practice for managing resources across the studio, (i.e. who is working on what and when, who is available, who is utilised and underutilised, and what are the resource requirements moving forward). “No matter the size of your business, what you need is a system that shows you where and how your resources are allocated through the life cycle of your project— from the planning phases all the way to delivery—and a centralised and shared resource pool that captures who is doing what when”, says Bruce. This way you can steer your team and their work through obstacles and scope changes as they arise— adding and subtracting resources as needed. Having a comprehensive insight into how your resources are allocated lets you respond quickly, make strategic decisions, and keep stakeholders updated when those unforeseeable project risks and uncertainties make themselves known. All of this raises your chances of delivering projects when you say you will.

4. Regular Percent Complete Calculations This method of measurement is required for all fixed (lump sum) fee projects, and that means that businesses must understand what their project deliverables are at any given time, as well as what their total estimated

5. Out of Scope Management Also referred to as ‘scope creep’, or variation to the scope; out-of-scope management refers to the fact that projects can have many distinct phases, all of which are prone to widespread design and documentation changes. By setting expectations regarding the scope of the project up front, project leaders can effectively eliminate the potential for their firm to move into a ‘grey area' when changes arise—where neither the firm nor the client is in agreement about whether the changes are part of the agreed scope, the timing or pricing. Businesses need to have systems in place, and a culture that supports the system, to capture work that is outside of the scope of services.

6. Managing re-work Our research indicates that re-work can add up to 40% of project costs, and typically accounts for 1020% of project activity. In fact, re-work is one of the primary factors contributing to mediocre performance and productivity of projects and businesses. This can include design changes, unresolved designs and related documentation, documentation errors, inadequate or unresolved co-ordination, and ineffective project management. This is not an easy fix, it requires the business leaders to focus on, and commit to, an effective design management process, quality management, regular review, open communication, and accountability.


7. C  onsistent Backlog, Reporting, Monitoring and Updating

Know Your Numbers

“A well-managed firm is constantly looking at their backlog and monitoring project performance,” Dexheimer notes. “These businesses have a full picture of both their current projects and what is in the pipeline that will require management. Executed correctly, project leaders are involved in this process, and project performance is constantly evaluated to ensure maximized project profitability.”

All project and resource management best practices mean nothing without the strong financial control and understanding to keep your business ahead of the competition. It’s important for goal-oriented AED firms to recognize where they should be when it comes to key metrics. Below, are the key performance indicators (KPIs) to achieve and sustain significant growth moving forward.

Firms who are geared towards success in the upcoming years need to make it a priority to have a comprehensive resource requirements plan and strategy—one that will ensure they not only have the right number of people to complete the work, but also that they have the right people to help grow the firm and remain ahead of the competition.

Performance metrics are critical to the health of AED firms. Specific data that Management For Design recommends businesses measure and track include:

It goes without saying that these business practices need to be backed up by constant project leader and business training and follow up to make sure it’s happening in the business.

Fees per hour worked

Revenue per technical person

% complete / % hours used

Project profit

Work generated

Project backlog

% utilisation


Performance Measure


Best Performers

Fees per hour worked Revenue per technical person % complete / % hours used Project profit Work generated Project backlog % utilisation

Example performance metric tracking table.

“Having solid, visible historical performance information allows for more accurate project pricing and budgeting,” says Dexheimer. “What’s more, it really has a positive effect. Project management controls that keep projects on budget allow firms to achieve their target performance, and resource management and utilization rates on track. When combined, these all assure strong and sustainable profitability across the firm.”

Conclusion The economic climate is going to remain challenging for the foreseeable future—and will continue to impact the role of the profession, sustainability, growth goals, and planning for the next ten years. With expected industry-wide growth ahead, AED firms need to move beyond managing the workload, competitive pricing, and winning the next project; to ensuring that all projects are contributing positively to their overall profitability. Equally as important, firms require solid financial management, controls and expertise, to help them maximise profit margins and to build a sustainable and enhanced business. The first step towards financial stability in the current landscape is to ensure that your firm is managing and executing profitable projects across the board. By implementing best practice project and resource management processes your business will be far ahead of the competition and equipped to make the decisions required to achieve long term growth and success in an increasingly challenging AED landscape.


Management For Design can provide pathway for you to implement project and resource management best practices in your practice, allowing a greater number of your projects to contribute significant profits to the business. For more information, contact Rob Peake on


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 115 TECHNOLOGY AND ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEERING, AND DESIGN­ : WHERE IS IT HEADING? The advancement of technology is happening at an increasing pace, and as new tools and technologies are developed and released, they leave a wake of change behind them—with the potential to revolutionise the way we work in the industry. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the technology trends that will shape the way architects, engineers and designers will work into the future.

The Internet of Things (IoT) This is not recent technology—it’s has been around for some time, in many things that we use daily. The swipe card you use to access your work, security sensors in the parking garage, or temperature sensors throughout a building. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020. How will this impact designers? The biggest change in this space is being witnessed in the retail and work space, and around connected homes, influencing the way people interact with the buildings and spaces they will occupy. Future designers will have to consider how to ensure buildings, spaces and the built environment will customise a solution for each occupant and individual. Buildings of the future will use facial recognition to identify an authorised person, unlock doors, adjust the lights and temperature to an individual’s preferences, and

even connect with the coffee machine to have their choice ready and waiting by the time it takes the individual to move from one part of the building to the next. With a possibility space this diverse, buildings and spaces will use some form of digital solution to access, monitor, maintain and maximise the operation of all any facilities. These will include: ■■ Cladding, windows, or sun protection and weather protection that will self-adjust dependant on the level of sunlight. Not only that they will operate in conjunction with the heating/cooling system to ensure optimal conditions. ■■ Automation of waste handling and recycling – all syncing with third party contractors. ■■ Meeting rooms that turn glass walls opaque, for private meetings or turn walls into multi-purpose e.g. whiteboards, projectors, monitors, screens and interchangeable artwork.

AI and machine Learning Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have been branching out into our everyday lives more and more in recent years. As systems improve and the reliability of their results increase, these tools will be increasingly integrated into the design process, with the power to solve complex problems and the ability to create many


variations. All replacing, enhancing or replicating what

first-person perspective. No prizes for guessing who gets

was historically the domain of the “designer’.

the gig!

Through AI and machine learning, you’ll be able to fully unleash the power of your expensive design PC and software solutions. Using Big Data, parameters and constraints to empower the software to come up with many design variations far faster than any designer could.

In the future this concept could stretch to remote presentations, where you could meet your client within the virtual building, even if their office is on the other side of the world.

The underlying method is that the design is done via code—this is important because once you are happy with a design, that code can be codified, stored, repeated and altered – all making the design process far more comprehensive but also efficient.

Immersive Architecture (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality) While the hardware and technology are still a bit too new to be truly useful in the actual design process, it is mature enough to impact the presentation and bid stages. Imagine walking into a presentation with a prospective client, passing the competing firm, as they exit with arms full of A3 printouts, USB keys etc. As you enter, you set down (a suitably powerful) laptop and pull out a pair of googles. You instantly have everyone’s attention.

Robotics and 3D Printing While this may not have a direct impact on designers, it will change the way construction is done in the future. Robots will become smaller and faster, with embedded AI allowing for a degree of self-correction and autonomy. 3D printing will also get more robust, with a larger range of base materials available to be printed. In the future your next home might even be 3D printed. And while it may sound a bit farfetched, it’s already happening here in Australia. Australian company, Fastbrick Robotics has a developed a prototype for a fully automated robot (Hadrian X) for building houses using 3D printed bricks. The bricks are printed with all the channels for plumbing, electrical and other infrastructure, therefore drastically cutting down the time it takes to build a house.

You can then talk your client through the design while they walk through the building and see the details from a


Adoption of BIM


The BIM (Building Information Model) is based on several principles that can be implemented with relative independence:

Despite the increasingly fast pace of change of technology, there is no one trend that’s more valuable or dominant above the other. It’s crucial that business leaders, architects, engineers and designers take a holistic look to the horizon regarding how all these trends will fit within their own business.

■■ Projects are designed using a unique 3D model which is modified throughout the project’s life. ■■ This 3D model is not only the volumetric surfaces, but also has metadata attached (like the material of the element) and parametric modifiers (like the height of a wall). ■■ The 3D model can be stored in a multi-client database, as well as in the cloud, to be accessible at the same time by several people. ■■ Multi-user permissions on the model can be defined to accurately reflect team member’s individual responsibilities on the project. ■■ All construction elements are classified using standard categories, namely the IFC. ■■ Libraries of construction products can be inserted into the model, and can even get actualisation if the product version changes.

When considering trends like the IOT, AI and Machine Learning, the industry need to understand how these elements will change the way design is performed, and their work is delivered, ensuring they are part of and lead the conversation from the start and are not tacked on at the end. Those who invest early in key technologies, and embed them within their workflow and processes, will without doubt benefit in the next 3-5 years, as these trends become more mainstream.


Management For Design clients are at the forefront of technological solutions that enable them to control and build their businesses. For more information, contact Rob Peake on

While these aspects are promising, adopting BIM design practices may create tensions with members of the construction team, who have historically been hesitant towards the shift. As the adoption of BIM grows, it’s looking likely that it will be the mainstream tool to design and deliver architecture in the coming years and it presents an historic opportunity for Architects to lead and drive its adoption, working with the other design consultants to “encourage” the construction industry towards its use.


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 116 WHY SUCCESSFUL FIRMS OUTSOURCE Knowing where your business stands financially, at any given time, is a crucial business function of successful engineering, design or project-based firms—which is precisely why some savvy firms simply hire someone to accurately tell them. However, for those of you that are still doing it inhouse, you’re likely managing a resource you don’t have the expertise for, rather than focusing on your core business. In fact, outsourcing accounting and finance tasks is one of the most effective ways to make your business deliver greater efficiencies. By outsourcing your accounting function to a specialist service partner, your business can focus its attention on other key areas that directly impact its profitability. This will free you up to lead with confidence in a competitive market, with the knowledge your finances are in safe hands.

The benefits of outsourcing In an environment where every dollar has a place and purpose, outsourced accounting and finance can help your firm cohesively manage the bottom line. Time and cost savings are normally the main reason firms outsource, however there are many other advantages.

The language of business is accounting and unless you’re well versed in it, you shouldn’t be dabbling!

1. Sharper focus on core business activities and strategies Outsourcing non-core business functions means firms can devote more of their people and resources to the core mission. This is especially important in small businesses, who may have more limited resources than their larger competitors. By freeing the business from handling accounting and finance in-house, firms will be less distracted by back-end office functions. For independent entrepreneurs, outsourcing can help renew their enthusiasm in their work. Few


people start businesses because they’re looking forward to crunching numbers in Xero, but it’s a task many entrepreneurs find eating up their time. By outsourcing, entrepreneurs get more time to spend on the aspects of their business that they’re most passionate about, allowing them to develop new ideas and find better ways to do business.

2. A  ccess to high level technical resources, knowledge and financial management There are times when the geographical location of a firm doesn’t allow for access to the best accounts personnel. However, the outsourcing model puts an end to such difficulties. If the service provider is in a city or a country that regularly produces some of the finest financial minds, then that talent pool can be tapped effectively. The client can then have highly qualified accountants looking after the books. Quality of accounting and finance is then assured to be error-free.

3. Continuity of service, flexibility and scalability By selecting a specialist accounting and finance partner, you benefit from a solution that is customized to your requirements. They can scale accounting and financial processes up or down, much more rapidly than you’d be able to do inhouse. With outsourced accounting and finance, increasing or reducing service is merely a matter of getting in touch with your partner and outlining your needs—much easier than making tough decisions about your internal workforce and cheaper than paying huge compensations.

4. C  ost savings for larger firms and affordability for smaller firms Outsourcing accounting and finance activities to a specialist service partner can help firms save money. Hiring accountants can be expensive,

especially for smaller businesses with minimal personnel. Not only do you have to pay them a salary, but you also have to provide them with benefits, and cover payroll taxes. Accounting and finance employees also require workspaces, and the appropriate hardware and software. By outsourcing the work, you avoid having to worry about any of these additional costs.

5. Independent and objective advice Financial reports play a key role in business decision making, but as most firms tend to focus on the operational side of their business, the accounting and finance function may take a back-seat. In fact, most firms review their performance only when year-end financial reports are being devised. From budget cash flow projections, to management accounts, an outsourced professional accounting firm provides all the financial reports on a timely basis, making it easier for every firm to make the right financial decisions.

6. Certainty regarding up-to-date commercial and financial knowledge Outsourcing your accounting operations keeps you up-to-date with the global trends in the industry. It gives you access to the latest tools, which can help you to assess your firm’s past financial performance, as well as to predict its future as well.

7. Data-driven analysis to guide decision-making anytime and anywhere As in every other field, technology is making an impact in the accounting sphere as well. Most architecture, engineering and design firms can’t be expected to be completely aware of all the new software and applications that are available in the market—and which ones are actually suitable for their business. Many of the tools are


also simply too expensive to purchase. However, a specialist service partner is willing to invest in this technology, knowing which ones are right for what kinds of business. They find it profitable to invest in a whole line of new tools, because they are servicing different clients with different needs. By outsourcing to a specialist service partner, your firm will gain access to professionals using the latest financial services software. This results in more accurate and accessible work, and more organized records and documentation. This improvement in service can then help companies get a tighter grip on managing finances and be better prepared for potential audits. n

As a specialist service partner, our experience with financial and business operations brings value to your firm beyond day-to-day accounting tasks. We support architects, engineers and designers, in the following ways:

M4D Provides Full-Scope Accounting Services

• On-site or remote support on a part-time, full-time, or project basis, to meet your organization's needs.

Management For Design takes pride in being a strategic business partner for our clients, including sitting side-by-side with them in critical business meetings. “It feels very much like being part of our client’s business, rather than being an external consultant of an accounting firm” says M4D director, Gordana Milosevska.

• We are industry experts who are knowledgeable in industry-proven accounting processes performing your ongoing back office tasks. • Financial Controller and CFO level support and insight, for meetings with your leadership teams and boards of directors. • Financial and managerial reports, produced both on-demand and at regular reporting intervals.

• A fully integrated accounting and financial management system, powered by industryleading software.

Gordana is a Director and Owner of Management for Design and devotes her valued skills assisting clients to build successful and sustainable businesses that enrich the built environment by setting them free to focus on what they do best. With over two decades of broad experience in accounting and financial management, in a range of industries, including design, hospitality, retail and security and investigation; Gordana’s areas of expertise encompass accounting, financial strategy and control, business performance analysis and reporting. If you’re seeking a pathway for your businesses to attain financial stability and sustainable growth contact Gordana at


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 117 THE VALUE OF BENCHMARKING IN ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEERING, AND DESIGN How does your business stack up? How does your current performance compare to previous performance? How about other businesses in your industry? What does the future look like for you, your competitors, or your industry as a whole?

The value is not in the benchmarking, but in the decisions you make, as leaders, to create change that will enhance your performance. Benchmarking leads us to focus on change and provides a clear direction for the change process.

The answer to these questions lies in benchmarking—but what value does benchmarking actually provide in architecture, engineering, and design businesses, and how can it be used to give your business an edge?

There are two components to benchmarking performance:

Benchmarking is a radar for change; in and of itself, benchmarking is only a means to an end—and it’s worthless if not accompanied by a call to change.

1. Comparing your business with your own historical and expected performance 2. Comparing yourself to the industry and other businesses


By benchmarking in these areas, there will always be a call to action, a call to change. Benchmarking can be effective in driving performance and initiating change. For instance, for a business that’s operating in the top quartile, benchmarking could highlight areas where they are doing well and should provide a focus for how to maintain their advantage, as well as presenting an opportunity to raise their standards.

Alternatively, for business in the bottom quartile, benchmarking identifies areas of opportunity where they can make improvements such as: 1. Reviewing fees 2. The work they are taking on 3. How they're producing it 4. Employment costs


Case study

Decision making

In the chart on the previous page, we have a snapshot of a monthly management report for a Management for Design client.

Typically business leaders are regularly pressed to make decisions. These decisions are then converted into activities. Accountants then convert these activities to numbers and produce a report card, which will be in the form of an income statement, a balance sheet, and most importantly a cash flow statement. Business leaders usually then turn to their CFO’s to decipher the numbers, who then describe back the activities that caused the numbers in the first place.

Their total income is approximately $10m, with a profit margin of 40%. According to industry benchmarks, they’re at the top of their game, in the top quartile of their industry, and are exemplifying superior performance. But are they really at the top of their game? Their total income sure is, and so is their profit margin. However, when we drill down further, we find that their total employment costs to total income are running at 35%—less than their historical averages, and over 20 points below the industry average. How does that show up in the operations? The principals are buried in projects, with little to no opportunity to work on areas that could potentially improve, or to focus on where the company needs to head.

The numbers are always a reflection of the decisions that were or were not made. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if businesses want to change the numbers, they simply need to change the activities that caused the numbers in the first place?

By comprehensively measuring across all areas of the business, they have the numbers to know that billable time is high, income per employee is high, average hours worked is high, but work coming in from new clients is low in comparison to previous years. Therefore, the current position for this business is not sustainable. Armed with this information, they can now focus their attention and make the necessary decisions to see them well into the future. It’s not just financials that need to be measured; reputation, brand, quality of work, client satisfaction, and staff morale are equally as important. These metrics should be measured, year in, year out.


In another example, a new Management for Design client was previously relying on quarterly management reports to keep them on track—that’s only four shots a year to identify issues and make improvements. By implementing monthly reporting, we were able to provide them with a lot more data and more opportunities to change course and fix problems.

Conclusion Measure. Assess. Create change. Ultimately, if you want to run a successful business you need to know what’s going on in your business, so you need to be measuring as you go. Monitor your progress from year to year. And then compare yourself to your peers. n

In the 12 months following the business started monthly measuring and reporting. This resulted in their best year yet—they produced a profit margin of 25%, paid off their debts in the next year and were paying out dividends from cash flow in 2.5 years. You need to compare to how you are tracking yearly as well as comparing your results with those of appropriate peers, that is, businesses that are similar in size and business model to your own. Chances are that benchmarking will reveal many areas of your business that can be strengthened. For example, your results relative to your peers may present opportunities to: 1. Raise your standards 2. Focus on growing revenue 3. Reducing your labour 4. Increase your use of productivity-enhancing technologies 5. Or take numerous other actions.

Management For Design adds certainty to business decisions by combining your vision and hard data. We uncover the fundamentals of your business, identify areas for improvement and enable sound, evidence-based decisions, to move your business and projects forward confidently with fewer surprises. For more information, contact Gordana Milosevska on


MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN BUSINESS JOURNAL 118 LEADING A DESIGN BUSINESS In design businesses, it’s common for leaders to be the face of the business, to nurture existing and future clients, as well as be the key initiators of design. But it’s often also the case that leaders have a challenging time separating themselves from the day to day activities of the business—allowing for time and energy to focus on building the business, improving the operations, surrounding themselves with great people, and nurturing the future leaders.

It’s often the case that leaders have a challenging time separating themselves from the day to day activities of the business

As a leader of a design business you are confronted by a set of circumstances (challenges) that are somewhat unique: • Often the leader is the face of the business • Leaders are typically the key initiator of design and client relationships • Leaders have a difficult time separating themselves from the day to day activities of the business • Leaders often don’t share financials • Effective business management is considered secondary to other considerations, including design capability, client relationships, and delivering projects • Profit and profitability can take a back seat to producing great design • The entrepreneurial drive of the founders is usually not found in the second generation • Client relationships tend to be deeper, stronger, and more personalised

This approach often results in profitability taking a back seat to producing brilliant design, which is great for the clients, but not so great for the design practice.


How important are sound business principles in your business? How do you demonstrate and drive this? Do you have a culture of empowerment? It’s incumbent on business leaders to lead by example and set the tone. Not only that, entrepreneurial vision and drive are often not inherent in the next tier of management, so enthusiasm for your vision, clear strategic objectives that filter through to every aspect of the business, and empowering your people are key to driving your business forward. What are the priorities for your business and how do you communicate these to your team? Do you pursue a culture of trust, sharing, collaboration, empowerment, performance, and profit? Talk about what you believe in, be open, and address those values in the everyday conversations that you’re having with your people. Use phrases that are inclusive of the collective whole of your business, using the tone and language that reinforces ‘this is important to us’.

Successful leaders, more often than not, exhibit the following personal qualities: • Have a clear purpose • Keep to clear and actionable goals and priorities • Are relationship builders • Understand and challenge their people • Understand the true value of their time • Constantly ask themselves ‘am I the right person to be doing this’ • Focus on what will make a difference • Accept and embrace performance criteria • Are realistic (self-assessment) • Follow up and create energy • Effectively balance life and work • Let go of design decisions and client relationships • Mentor others • Actively pursue professional development


In most design businesses there are critical elements of the business that the leaders need to drive and ensure they contribute to continuously – the ‘business drivers’. In a design business, these are typically to generate work, to nurture client relationships and to design and deliver great work. But what about all the areas of the business? For a design business to be truly successful, the leaders’ attention is needed across strategy, communications, design, delivery, innovation, operations, human resources, and financial control. Having said that, most architecture, engineering, and design (AED) leaders that are elevated to senior roles or directors’ positions don’t have the necessary business management expertise to manage, direct, and drive a successful business that performs across these key business drivers

None of this comes overnight and it typically requires small steps. It comes through a wellconstructed plan, time and experience, and the assistance of your team—the team of experts you surround yourself with. It goes without saying that what’s required is a balance between the time you spend ‘in the business’ and ‘on the business’. You need the time out from project-related activities to make this happen. Be clear about where the business is heading and be prepared to engage your key people in why, where and how you will get there. Ideally, you will be able to empower your staff, hand over control and give some of the responsibility and accountability for achieving your business objectives to others. Your objective as a leader should be to empower your key people to take on responsibility for project and design delivery, project performance, client relationships, and business systems. Set them up to succeed and flow responsibility for decision making through the business.

For a design business to be truly successful, the leaders’ attention is needed across strategy, communications, design, delivery, innovation, operations, human resources, and financial control

Ask yourself the following questions of your key people (and future leaders):

• Do they have the information and tools they need?

As a leader, you need to be clear about your expectations around client outcomes, project and financial performance, and managing deliverables.

• Are they trained? • Do they have the necessary skills? • How much responsibility and accountability do they have? • Are they responsible for performance (project deliverables)?

• Are they financially literate? • Do they embrace technology? • Do they delegate effectively?


And if they don’t have the necessary (or desired) capability, work with them to develop a plan to make it happen. Motivate your team by driving a culture of leadership and ownership succession. Articulate and provide an opportunity for future leaders and be clear about what it takes to become a leader in your practice. By providing a transparent path to leadership you will set the standard for future growth. Here are some steps to create a culture of leadership among your key people: • Involve your people in articulating and clarifying your business ‘drivers’ and desired business outcomes e.g. strategy, rainmaking, design, innovation project delivery etc. • Define, articulate and measure the performance criteria across these business ‘drivers’ • Ensure your key people are working in their core capability (set them up to succeed) • Understand and nurture their inherent personal strengths/weaknesses, temperament, and abilities

Successful and effective leaders today, more often than not, are doing less and achieving more. To borrow from Mies Van Der Rohe ‘less is more’

Management For Design provides can provide you with a framework to turn your ideas into actions. Refocussing your way of working means you’ll spend less time micro-managing, while the key decisions will always remain firmly in your hands. For more information, contact Rob Peake on

• Include measurable criteria in your executive agreements • Provide individual (and team) contribution requirements and link these to the profit/bonus pool • Provide regular (and expert) feedback on performance on a quarterly or 6 monthly basis Your business can be the vehicle that enables you to shape and control your destiny – both in life and your career. Your challenge as a design leader is to balance the creative and commercial aspects of what you do. Successful and effective leaders today, more often than not, are doing less and achieving more. To borrow from Mies Van Der Rohe ‘less is more’. n


M4D Business Journal Collection