Our Business of Architecture Knowledge Community could never have predicted the challenges that our members would face in 2020.

For the past two years, we were a committee that created an annual series full of curriculum focused on providing mid-career architects with essential tools for managing their practices. This year, we had a fresh reboot as a newly minted Knowledge Community. Not only were we looking to expand our audience across our members and increase our impact, but we also knew that the world health crisis created an opportunity for us to be an important resource for architects looking to make sense of a rapidly changing environment.

To speak about our Knowledge Community’s goals this year without speaking about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic would be impossible. Almost immediately after we held our first meeting of the year, we saw that firms were beginning to experience challenges that no one had experienced before. Our primary goal to serve our members during this time has been to provide relevant, meaningful content to aid architects in managing risk, business development, financial planning and understanding their markets. We used our AIA Colorado’s new Virtual Connect program as a platform for delivering presentations on relevant and topical content. Thus far, we have planned the following presentations:

  • Nick Belitz, Principal with Morrissey Goodale, who specializes in financial analysis and strategic business analysis, presented on managing through a pandemic and planning for the future.
  • Doug Parker, AIA, Principal of Design Business Advisors, provided financial tools, such as revenue projection and cash flow analysis, that any size firm can use to aid in decision making in times of economic uncertainly.
  • And finally, Phil Cardi, of Cardi, Schulte & Ford, LLC, reviewed how to manage our contracts in quarantine conditions and how the force majeure clause might apply to our projects.

We knew our members represented a diverse group of emerging professionals and senior leaders from across the state, all with unique stories of their own.  We believed our members would also want to hear from voices like their own, speaking about real life experiences navigating the current crisis. So, to further support our goal, we also assembled a number of panel discussions for the Virtual Connects with a wide variety of participants representing different areas of Colorado, market sectors and firm sizes. We gathered a group of senior leaders to discuss how they emerged from past recessions and lessons they are applying to today’s economic downturn. We also held two firm principal round tables, representing both large firms and small, to discuss the unique challenges of managing remote teams, securing work, visiting job sites safely and how they ultimately see this pandemic changing our profession. Our next panel discussion in June will have panelists discuss marketing strategies and for business development in the midst of a pandemic.

Another significant goal of ours is to create member forums, where firm leaders and entrepreneurs gather regularly in a round table format to discuss effective strategies for running their practices. Each forum will be focused on a unique topic. Many topics arose in our group discussion, such as:

  • Risk management and safe construction administration during a pandemic
  • Changing employee benefits and human resources
  • Remaining strategic in times of economic stress
  • Organizational structures, leadership transition and firm life cycles
  • Presentations, interviews, and business development while staying socially distant
  • Leading and managing teams, leveraging new technologies

Our Knowledge Community’s hope for the forums is to provide a supportive environment where members can engage their colleagues in productive conversation. Each forum will provide participants the ability to safely share their challenges and successes, and discuss strategies to effect positive change in their firms. We are excited for the ability these forums will have to bring members together through meaningful discourse. We see the potential for new and lasting networks to be formed among our members and increasing dialogue about running our businesses well.

Our Business of Architecture Knowledge Community has taken a deeper look at the value we could offer our community this year. As a result, we have seen our capacity to reach more members improve. In the short term, we helped support some of the immediate needs of our members with content on best practices and topical discussions. While we hope to never be in another pandemic, we hope to always be a touchstone for our community in this respect. Moving ahead, we are looking forward to increasing and deepening the conversation among our colleagues in focused small-group settings. While there are many ways in which the events of 2020 will impact us deeply, it has been exciting to envision the new ways we can serve our community in increasingly impactful ways.