Webinar Recap: Small Firm Exchange: AIA Resources to Advance Local Firms

Being part of a small architecture firm can be exciting and overwhelming—all at the same time. However, the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) provides support to small firms, allowing a sense of community, leveraging resources, and a creating a more level playing field in architecture.

Our most recent AIA webinar featured Matthew Clapper, AIA, who is the 2021 Small Firm Exchange Chair and Founding Principal of Modern Architecture & Development in Wisconsin. Clapper discussed the SFx overview, repositioning, new workflows, and converting to a state-based structure. Highlights from the webinar follow.

The core functions of the SFx are to: 1) curate and disseminate resources and information from the AIA and other organizations to small firms; 2) inform the AIA of current issues facing small firms and resource/information gaps; and 3) advocate the value of small firms and the national and local SFx groups. Educational resources such as branding guidelines, crisis management tools, and business plan formats provide small firms with a competitive and operational boost.

A major upcoming goal is a sustainable framework of communication. To achieve this goal, both SFx and AIA are creating better integration with a more fluid organizational structure between both organizations. Communications and resource silos in the past have caused duplication of efforts and wasted energy. This organizational change with active liaisons will allow for small firms to gain big benefits.

SFx Workflow Management is undergoing a major renovation, as well. Leveraging social media and work applications, SFx is breaking down informational barriers while encouraging conversations and wide audience reach. Apps such as Flipboard, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter will create channels of discussion and opportunity. This marketplace of small firm information is open. 

Finally, representation at AIA may look different as regions convert to a state-representation methodology. SFx is considering this change, as well. Currently, one representative may serve three to four years in a region of six to seven states. This current model is not efficient or effective for individualized needs for states. Equity for all is a far reach. 

Potential changes for the new SFx Board include a board of 30, eight permanent states, and 22 additional reps from rotational states. Additionally, board members will make an ongoing effort to identify a representative from every state/territory, totaling 55 representatives. The board will increase its communications from a more diverse standpoint, which will bring about better inclusiveness and equitable opportunities.

AIA Colorado will keep you informed of the latest changes in the SFx as we help small firms achieve their design and business goals.

Meet the 2022 Board of Directors


Wells Squier, AIA


Sarah Broughton, AIA

Past President

Rachael Johnson, AIA


Sheva Willoughby, AIA


Marc Swackhamer, Assoc. AIA

Associate Director

Kari Lawson, Assoc. AIA

At-Large Director

Ron Abo, AIA

Denver Director

Julianne Scherer, AIA

South Director

James Childs, AIA

West Director

Scott Munn, AIA

North Director

Scott Rodwin, AIA

Meet the Chair: Academy of Architecture for Health Knowledge Community

Associate Principal, TreanorHL

Mike Hagan, AIA

What’s happening in the healthcare industry? It’s no simple task of staying apprised for the Academy of Architecture for Health Knowledge Community, chaired by Mike Hagan, AIA. We caught up with Hagan to learn the latest happening in the knowledge community and the ever-changing healthcare industry.

How did you come to chair this committee?

My initial involvement with the new committee immediately generated much excitement, thanks to the great key members involved. The steering committee members helped encouraged me to maintain a high-level of commitment to help the organization succeed from its infancy and suggested a chair role for the 2021 year, which I was grateful to accept and embrace.

What drew you to this group initially?
With a passion for healthcare design and construction, this organization piqued immediate interest for “sharing health knowledge” within the community.

How has this committee grown or changed since you initially got involved?
The committee continues to grow with numbers of participants and thanks to the dedicated steering committee members from various local design firms. Diversity of knowledge continues to be strong. The committee has also become more structured in the recent year with defined roles and responsibilities for each steering committee member.

What are some of the accomplishments this year you are most proud of?
I am most proud of the committees success this year during very unique times of the continued virtual setting. Despite the challenges of not being in person, the group has maintained focus and a result had many successful events with participation continuing to increase.

What are some immediate and long-term plans we can hope to see from the committee?
The committee will continue to actively provide knowledge sharing opportunities though events and partnerships with other organizations. In the future, we hope with the growth of members and participants the knowledge will extend beyond architects to other important members in the healthcare community.

What one thing do you wish the membership and profession at large knew about this topic or what your committee is doing?
The committee is not only full of knowledge, but also—and most importantly—we are resources.

Webinar Recap: Building and Running a Successful Hybrid Practice

Hybrid. Work from Home. In Office. COVID-19. Epidemic. Pandemic. Endemic. Fully Vaccinated. Booster. Delta Variant. And now the Omicrom Variant.

The year 2022 is nearing, and these words have dominated our discussion, lifestyle, and firms since early 2020. As we live in a steady state of safety, how are we connecting as a workplace?  Life continues. Work moves forward. Design continues. Our community and the built environment need our attention. People require structure—both physically with our buildings and mentally as we seek to adjust to what seems as a new normal. These are just a few takeaways from the recent AIA Colorado webinar with Evelyn Lee, FAIA, “Building and Running a Successful Hybrid Practice.”

“Firms need to reflect, rethink, and revise.”

Evelyn lee, faia

Lee is a nationwide thought leader and shared her insights into how your firm can overcome and work in a hybrid scenario. She is the first Senior Experience Designer at Slack Technologies, Founder of the Practice of Architecture, and Co-Host on the Podcast, “Practice Disrupted.” She received the 2014 AIA National Young Architects Award and currently serves as Treasurer on the AIA National Board. Following are takeaways from Lee’s presentation on successful hybrid firms.

A hybrid practice is a resilient practice. Aim to build a more agile and adaptable environment. As Lee said, “Firms need to reflect, rethink, and revise.”  She framed these concepts in six different areas: 1) culture, 2) people and policies, 3) team management and productivity, 4) security and support, 5) tools, and 6) the hybrid employee. 

  • Culture.  Cultivate a workplace that is values-based in which every decision is rooted in this culture. Flex your behavior and response to address how values may manifest in different ways.  Revisit your firm’s “why.” Conduct an annual employee survey. How many employees would recommend your firm to others? Remember, culture is the sole differentiator for your firm.
  • People and Policies. Empower your employees with a shared definition of trust that enables their best work. She indicates that 95 percent of workers considering changing jobs in what is called, “The Great Resignation,” and 92 percent of workers are considering changing industries.  Lee recommends building a framework that supports each employee’s career. Transform hiring outcomes to yield first-day productivity and continue onboarding for an entire year. 
  • Team Management and Productivity. Stand up a digital headquarters that is relevant and essential. The digital HQ centralizes information and efforts. Ensure your firm distributes decisions made in-person onto the digital HQ platform. Too, adjust the firm’s mindset to that of remote even if just one person is working from home. Create time for deep work without distractions and brain-write for innovation / creativity. Establish balance with a burst of activity and slower simmer modes. 
  • Security and Support. Build a virtual cloud of data warehousing that enables anywhere access for employees. Invest financial and personnel resources toward information technology in order to provide timely and effective data management.
  • Tools. Ideally, software or hardware tools create an ease of operation and design. But first, know the capabilities of these tools and what your firm needs these tool’s functions to perform.  Understand who requires what tools to assist your team and client. Know each category of tools and how to operationalize these IT assets to enhance workflow and communications procedures. 
  • The Hybrid Employee. Work From Home (WFH) does not mean anything goes. Set work boundaries and routines. Optimize your workspace to fit your work needs. Over communicate with your team. Be a thoughtful teammate and take care of yourself. Back-to-back virtual meetings can be detrimental; manage your calendar well to manage yourself even better.

Lee concluded her presentation with a few overall tips: Your firm’s people are your greatest assets. Manage expectations and learn. Be patient and trust the process. 

AIA Colorado seeks to foster your firm’s best path forward during this challenging time. We are providing innovative speakers and solutions that will enable your firm and employees to be successful for your clients, community, and company. To learn more about hybrid working hybrid, you can view Lee’s full presentation on YouTube.  Let’s collaborate and learn together as we stay safe. 

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