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.

About the Author

JP Arnold

JP Arnold, LEED Green Associate, APR, is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Bridgers & Paxton. He is an AIA Colorado Allied Member and is a member of the Editorial Committee.

Arnold is a retired U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and Signal Officer. As a PAO, he worked with more than 150 media engagements around the world to include The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Newsweek, NBC News, along with Seattle and Colorado Springs media markets. He worked on the National Army Marketing and Advertising Recruiting Campaign alongside Weber Shandwick PR and McCann Erickson Ad Agency.

He is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication from Ouachita Baptist University and Middle Tennessee State University (Phi Kappa Phi Honors). He has been married for more than 20 years to his wife and they have two children and several pets.

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