Archive for May, 2010

Why the AE Industry Needs AEBL

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

If you are an architect or engineer and you need training of any kind, myriad sources of information are available. Architects can look first to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). If not there, they can always turn to one of the for-profit A/E industry consulting firms such as PSMJ or ZweigWhite.
Engineers may have even more choices. Depending on their specialty within the profession, they could consult the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Structural Engineers Institute (SEI), and so on.
Industry marketers have the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). Technical staff can contact one of the big software providers – Autodesk or Bentley. Even organizations with a broader audience, such as the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) or Construction Financial Managers Association (CFMA), offer resources for A/E staff in their specific areas of expertise.

With all these training and information sources (and more) out there, who needs another? What does the Association of A/E Business Leaders (AEBL) offer the industry that all these sources can’t provide?
The answer lies in a few key words in AEBL’s mission statement – “AEBL is an unbiased, not-for-profit, member-supported organization that exists to strengthen and support the A/E industry by promoting best practices, corporate stewardship, effective leadership and free exchange of ideas.”

“Unbiased, not-for-profit, member-supported.” Every group and company dedicated to any aspect of business management or the A/E industry has an agenda. This is not a criticism; it is a fact. Each group’s agenda makes it what it is. For example, the AIA exists to promote the best interests of its member architects, a job it does well. For-profit companies exist to make money. For each organization, there is an undertone to everything they do that helps drive their agenda.

AEBL is not agenda-free; it wants to gain members and improve its offerings. It wants events to draw well, primarily because the sessions are better for everyone when they do. Financially, its minimum goal is to break even so it can survive and grow.

But AEBL has no bias toward any profession, role or discipline. It is not trying to make anyone rich and it isn’t preoccupied with cross selling or product pushing. Board member John Cowdery, who moderates a session called Key Operations Metrics for AEBL’s flagship training program “Step Up to Leadership (SUTL),” says, “This is the only forum where they’re not trying to sell you something.”

“Strengthen and support the A/E industry.” The key term is “A/E.” AEBL is the only not-for-profit group that targets the full breadth and depth of the A/E industry – all disciplines, sizes, management levels and roles.

Christopher Parsons, founder and president of technology consulting firm Knowledge Architecture, Inc., wrote on his blog, “I’ve consistently seen a great mix of CEOs, COOs, CFOs, marketing and human resources directors, project managers, architects and engineers from A/E firms of all sizes at AEBL events. The cross-functional, cross-discipline discussion is what makes the roundtables so compelling. Attending the events is a great way to network with your peers, partners and competition.”

By encompassing the entire A/E industry, AEBL offers a comprehensive range of viewpoints, while reducing the likelihood of competitive pressure inherent in the professional societies.

“Best practices, corporate stewardship, effective leadership and free exchange of ideas.” AEBL is all about improving the ability to manage, lead and succeed through effective business practice. But the “free exchange of ideas” is what makes this possible. AEBL’s focus on honest, open dialogue truly differentiates the organization.

Matt Henry, CEO of transportation consulting firm Fehr & Peers and moderator of the SUTL session Developing a Vision, says, “The unique aspect of AEBL is that it is industry practitioners sharing real stories of what they are actually doing in their organizations.”

AEBL’s predecessor, the Professional Services Management Association (PSMA), flourished in the 1990s and early 2000s before losing its way and contracting significantly. Pockets of PSMA chapters continued to thrive, however, illustrating that the industry’s need for a broad, unbiased organization never waned.

At its core, AEBL is people from all corners of the A/E industry fearlessly sharing ideas with the singular goal of helping to improve the management abilities of its members, its session participants and the industry as a whole. It is a unique resource that offers industry leaders and future leaders the greatest opportunity to gain practical knowledge and insight through proven management techniques, without the distraction of high-pressure sales, professional prejudice or ulterior motive.

No other professional organization or company can honestly make this claim – there is simply nothing else out there like AEBL.

And while this asset would be welcome in any industry, it is absolutely essential for architects and engineers (and planners, environmental scientists, etc.) who so often struggle with the business aspects of running a business. For all these reasons, AEBL more than validates its existence within the spectrum of A/E industry groups and resources.

AEBL’s Step Up To Leadership is ongoing in Orange County – the next session is June 3 (2pm – 4pm) at Harris Associates in Irvine, where Laurie Dreyer will moderate a session on workplace trends – and scheduled for a two-day session June 17-18 at the office of Merrick & Company in Aurora, Colorado.