For the second year in a row, we are honored to be one of the top 100 fastest growing urban businesses in America by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC)! Based on our 5-Year Annual Growth Rate of 34% and 2011 Revenues of $3.3 million, we are proud to be ranked 36th: http://money.cnn.com/interactive/smallbusiness/inner-city-100.fortune/
We were so excited to find out in January that we were an official 2013 Inner City 100 winner for the second year in a row! It’s hard to believe that four months have gone by since then and yesterday, our founding principals, Deborah Fennick and Jonathan McCredie and project manager, Charles Fletcher, attended the 2013 Inner City Symposium, which took place at Harvard Business School and the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. There, hundreds of high-growth small businesses from across the country gathered for a full day of cutting-edge management education and networking opportunities. Following the day of education, CEO participants and winners were joined by corporate and civic leaders for the Awards Gala. The 2013 Inner City 100 rankings were revealed for the first time at the Gala and small businesses shared their inspiring stories about how they created jobs in their urban communities.
It was a truly wonderful day and we are so thankful to have been part of it.
Deborah and Jonathan at the 2013 Inner City 100 Awards Gala
We are proud to be taking part in the 2013 Walk/Ride Day Corporate Challenge, a competition to see what workplace commutes the greenest, in the Boston area and beyond! The Challenge takes place on the last Friday of each month from April until October and encourages and inspires people to go green by walking, bicycling and using public transit as they travel to and from work, school or other appointments. http://gogreenstreets.org/
See what we’ve been busy working on for Salem’s New MBTA Intermodal Station. Read more here and see what you can expect the station to look like when completed in the winter of 2014: http://salem.patch.com/articles/a-virtual-look-ahead-salem-s-new-mbta-station#photo-13819258
Our project at Boston Logan is one step closer to completion and was recently featured in the Boston Business Journal! Read more about it here: www.bizjournals.com/boston/real_estate/2013/03/massport-tops-off-300m-logan-garage.html
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.
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.
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.
East Boston’s 1893 Atlantic Boiler Works, one of the last waterfront structures that recalls its district’s maritime history, is threatened to be demolished.
The neighborhood was once a thriving marine industrial area with wharf, docks, and piers lining the waterfront’s edge. These once ubiquitous structures are now almost gone, replaced by condominium, shopping malls and parks.
Boston Towing, a harbor tugboat operating company, owns Atlantic Boiler and is one of the last water dependent businesses in the area. Recently the Fire Department required them to bring the building up to code, and from Boston Towing’s standpoint – demolishing the building costs less than spending the estimated $750K-1M to fix it.
The community is looking for ways to save this building. Given the short period of time (demolition permit deadline is September 10, 2012), options are running out. The 3 strategies being discussed to save the building are:
1. Change the zoning boundary of the building: It can function as something other than marine/ water related industry. This will make the property more valuable to develop; however, it wouldn’t necessarily save the structure.
2. Apply for the landmark status: This will protect the building from demolition; however, the landmark status may put restrictions on the alteration of the facade making it harder to develop the property.
3. Lease the space to nearby marinas and extend harborwalk into the property: This potentially would require the owner to maintain the property, which they are not interested in the first place.
What are your ideas to save this building? Have you faced a similar issue? For inquiries or suggestions – please contact Scott Hamwey at firstname.lastname@example.org Susan Brauner at email@example.com
It is both humbling and inspiring that the most junior of our office are able to teach the most senior.
Learning is always encouraged at the Fennick McCredie studio. At the initiative of younger project designers Ashley and Dan, a new, bi-weekly Software Series was implemented where we have a short tutorial during lunch on the Adobe Design Software Programs – InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. While attending the InDesign tutorial last week, which was given by our ambitious and software-savvy interns, Eric and Blake, I was impressed by the quality and relevance of the content. It is both humbling and inspiring that the most junior of our office are able to teach the most senior. In addition to these software series presentations, we also receive a weekly quick-tip relating to what we’ve learned.
Check out this one Blake sent out today!
This inverted mentoring is just a small piece of our office culture that encourages knowledge and idea sharing. Talent bubbles up everywhere in the studio – how can we capture it, share it? Check out the nicely designed poster Eric made for our Software Series Forum in InDesign set as our banner image.
Learning has no pre-disposed boundary in age, background, or educational level. Knowledge is meant to be embraced, regardless of the source as long as it’s good stuff! As a wise Chinese proverb puts it, “It’s a blessing when one can live until an old age and learn until an old age!”
Part 2 of FMA’s project designer, Sia Herr’s, experience with Architecture for Humanity and Ambassadors for Sustained Health (ASH) in Waumini, Kenya.
One of the issues identified during my assessment trip to Waumini was the hazard of smoke caused by indoor cooking. The World Health Organization estimates nearly 2 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use – the burning of maize. The homes in Waumini are typically one room structures constructed of a wood frame covered with mud. All of the daily activities, such as sleeping and cooking, are held in the space. Additionally homes are constructed without enough, if any, openings for ventilation and smoke to escape. The homes lack openings for daylight and ventilation in part because the families are trying to keep the cold out during the cold months and can’t afford windows and vents.
The ASH housing team, through our field ambassador Kyle Murakami, worked intimately and collaboratively with the residents to build a rammed earth stove – a cooking surface that has been implemented by the East Africa Trust in Kenya and other parts of Africa. The stove provides a healthier and efficient means of cooking indoors because it allows smoke to exit directly to the outside. It is made by ramming several layers of damp soil into a mold, making sure it’s compacted, then letting it dry for several days. The design of the mold also allows for two pots to be cooking at the same time compared to the single pot methods currently used by the residents.
With the assistance of the East Africa Trust, the stove has been tested and tweaked and is now working as designed. Its completion pushes Waumini one step closer to creating healthier homes to support the healthcare that ASH is bringing to the community. It is amazing to see the difference that a mound of dirt can make when used resourcefully.
Our next challenge is to build the stoves in a reasonable amount of time and establish a plan to make the mold accessible to many families throughout Waumini and surrounding villages. Stay Tuned.