Here at Fennick McCredie we were thrilled to be named among the top 100 urban growth companies in the nation by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.
Since the announcement the most common question has been “So…how’d you do it?” Looking back, some of the answers were a little surprising:
Focus. This one isn’t surprising. In fact it’s a bit overused – every company talks about focus. Still it’s good advice so we tried to focus and it worked. The surprising part however…
Our focus was never, ever on growth. True statement. Our focus is on client service. Deborah and I allocate the majority of our time to current projects and maintaining client relationships. This is the exact opposite of most growth firms and flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Just to be sure, we had our accounting firm run the numbers: industry-wide the utilization rate for firm partners (time spent on current projects) runs about 57%. At Fennick McCredie we ran 65%. On top of this we had zero full-time marketing staff. Conventional wisdom centers on getting new clients. We did the opposite, choosing to take care of the ones we had. How does a firm who doesn’t focus on new business, get new business?
Start humble. In the beginning we took smaller roles to work on the projects that most interested us. Partnering with larger companies got our foot in the door with clients who might have otherwise seen us as too small or too risky. An atypical approach, but a great educational opportunity – thanks to our partners we learned all about the inner workings of the industry: how to take care of clients, how to solve and even prevent problems, and how to make a difference. All this knowledge is only useful if, instead of chasing opportunity, you…
Stay present. By staying fully engaged in the project at-hand we got exposure that we otherwise might have missed. The process allowed us to hone our skills so when new opportunities arose we didn’t disappoint. It was only a matter of time before someone felt comfortable enough to hire us directly – at first for a small job, then later a larger one. Soon, we were getting referrals. A simple recommendation from one client to another carries more weight than an entire marketing department could unleash in a year. We were now credible in a world beyond the present, but only by focusing on the present could we truly become credible.
We are convinced that the reason this worked is because we focused on what matters to us, our clients. By not working towards growth, we GREW. There were of course other factors, not the least of which was luck (to some extent or another luck always plays a role, good or bad). As we look back however this contrarian approach served us well, and I’m certain could work for other start-ups looking for a chance – just one chance – to show their stuff.
Deborah and Jonathan at the Inner City 100 Symposium held by the ICIC.
The landscape oil paintings of Agnes Jacob, project designer at FMA, are now on exhibit at the Marblehead Library/Abbot Public Library. There will be an opening reception Saturday, Dec 8th from 3-5 pm. Join us in celebrating our coworker and the local arts.
“Living in Boston, my family and I love to spend time at many of the beautiful beaches, salt marshes, islands, fields, and towns surrounding our home town. Plum Island, Rockport, Gloucester, Marblehead, and the Berkshires are among my favorite places where I (and probably many of you) have fond moments. Every painting I did is about trying to evoke this memory and emotion I had of the place rather than trying to capture every detail realistically. With oil, a palette knife, color and every brush stroke, I try to capture the way the sun and the wind hit my skin, the feeling of the surface I’m standing on.” -Agnes Jacob
Visit her online gallery at www.gingerteastudio.com to learn more.
Agnes and Meaghan livened up the studio with some great costumes for the holiday. What could be scarier than a rejected submittal?
Chris joins us with over twenty five years of experience, primarily focusing on cultural, educational and institutional projects involving large client groups and technically challenging projects.
Prior to joining Fennick McCredie Architecture, Chris was Principal at Schwartz/Silver Architects where he led the firm’s largest and most important projects, including the Shaw Center for the Arts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Shaw Center has been featured in numerous national and international publications and has received the highest honor in every design awards program for which it was eligible. In 2008, the American Institute of Architects selected the Shaw Center for a National Honor Award.
Other notable projects include the A.H. McCoy Federal Building in Jackson, Mississippi (a GSA Design Excellence project), Ruffin Hall for the University of Virginia (the first purpose built Studio Art Building at the UVa) and the New England Aquarium West Wing Addition.
Chris is passionate about projects which bolster community and institutional vision and aspirations where the potential impact can be greater than the project alone.
As a like-minded colleague, we’re excited to welcome Chris to FMA.
In the summer of 2005 I started my first co-op at a small architecture firm on the Southcoast of Massachusetts.
I had been looking forward to this day since the age of six–the dress clothes, the professional demeanor, the start of my career–it’s weird, but I always dreamed of my thirties. And here was my first co-op, the beginning.
By luck or fate the firm was run by two women who identified with my young ambition and gender. Challenging me from the start I was involved with everything from competition entries to construction details. Then one day I had my break, I was asked to design a stair. Seizing the opportunity to impress I sketched a series of ideas and presented to the team. But to my surprise the principal did not react as hoped. Something was missing, a conviction, and she asked, “well what does the stair want to be?”
Years later I still ask that question every day, what does the stair want to be? The answer is never isolated; there are circumstances and proclivities to frame the design. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was no different from that stair and co-op was my tool to answer the question “what did I want to be?” Returning from that first co-op it was apparent that my classmates and I were no longer the same. As my colleague Blake is noticing our individual experiences start a differentiation, or more appropriately a process of self-discovery. While I loved my first job I pushed myself to try something new the following summer. I sampled a big firm, a small firm, the East coast, and the West coast; each time learning something new about myself. I enjoy working with the co-op’s that come through the office and never forget to ask, “well what do you think it should be?” And while still under thirty I now approach my career with the confidence of experience.
We had a great time celebrating our partnership with YouthBuild Boston, as well as toasting the completion of their newly renovated headquarters located on 27 Centre St. in Roxbury, MA. A BIG thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate. We had a number of people from YouthBuild Boston as well as youth who participate in the program. If you would like to find out more about YouthBuild Boston and their commitment to the community – please click here.
Every morning when I take the orange line to work from Northeastern’s campus, I run into my fellow architecture classmates.
We’re heading to co-op: an internship program that all Northeastern students participate in instead of taking classes for a semester. (Northeastern’s co-op program.) On the train we catch up on our different jobs and talk about what the work day has in store. We’ve been in class with each other for five years and have even traveled to Germany together for a semester, but for the next four months we’ll be having our own unique experiences that will shape us in different ways.
Many students see co-op as a way to “test out the waters” in a certain profession before they graduate with a degree. This still applies to architecture majors, but it’s only a small part of why co-op is so important for us. Co-op has shown me that some things just can’t be taught in school. At Fennick | McCredie, I’ve been able to visit construction sites, participate in meetings with clients and consultants and help prepare construction drawings. It’s also been wonderful having mentors that are willing to spend time teaching me the ins and outs of the profession. Whether it was Judy telling me that, “good architects are not just designers but managers of people,” or Scott sitting with me for hours at a time teaching me how a building is put together – I now have a greater understanding of what it means to be an architect. (Reverse mentoring at FMA.)
At different firms across the country, my classmates are gaining their own insights in the field. When we return to classes for our last semester as undergrads, we’ll bring with us this new knowledge – and we’ll learn from each other. I’m grateful to have been able to combine professional experience with my education, and I look forward to seeing how it shapes the rest of my career.
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: Hangar 8 has transformed from its bare-bones steel framing to luminous metal panels. Take a look!
We are pleased to announce the promotion of Scott Brodsky, AIA to the position of Associate. Scott has been with the firm for seven years working as Project Architect on notable projects such as the conversion of a former fire house into YouthBuild Boston’s new headquarters as well as the Logan Airport Consolidated Rental Car Facility under construction.
Please join us in congratulating Scott on his promotion.