Thursday, April 30, 2009
Presenter: Robert Packard of ZGF
What people want to learn: “The status of where the world is right now,” Ryan Lee, AIA, of Gary B. Courtney and Associates in Atlanta.
Packard traced this economic downturn as compared to previous historical recessions. He expects large and midsized firms to reduce staffs by 13 percent. Fundamentally, architecture firms are going to experience shifts in how their business models work. Packard also pointed out that despite conventional wisdomand expectations of a starved design culture, design can flourish in a recession. Think about Falling Water (1937), the Bauhaus School in Weimar-era Germany, etc. This may mean that design becomes less flamboyant and expressive--an end to the Bilbao era that’s been predicted widely by critics. Tentatively, ABI rates are up, ZGF has been seeing an uptick in inquiries, and Packard doesn’t think this is just a fluke. He says the federal government’s stimulus package will filter down to architects, despite its “shovel-ready” reputation. “In the next 30 to 40 days, we’ll all be swamped by FedBizOpps ads,” he says.
Best Practice Tips: Packard’s tips for sustaining your firm during the downturn: get serious about client service, get used to stiff competition and prepare to defend your turf, never stop investing in smart and capable people, and have a vision of what you want your firm to be when the inevitable recovery occurs. And read the Economist.
Is this downturn completely unprecedented? “Have we been here before?”, asks Packard. “Yeah, I’d say we’ve been here before.”
What people thought: “The most useful thing I got out of it was that the staff plays as big a role in weathering the economic downturn as the people leading the firm,” Butch Reifert, FAIA, a managing partner at Mahlum in Seattle.