Down but not out: A Lesson in resiliency with Shelden Architecture
In the boxing sport there have been a few upsets that have made history. Upsets when least expected is shocking to the spectators and the boxer who thought he would remain undefeated. Paraphrasing Robert Portis comment on the matter, it’s like sending shockwaves felt by the entire sport. Legendary fights like Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson or Randy Turpin vs. Sugar Ray Robinson stunned fans by their outcome.
Upsets are upsets because they are unexpected, and in 2008 most architects were knocked sideways by the recession. Architectural leaders and their employees felt a financial shockwave that took them by surprise.
The question is not if we will have another economic downturn, but what to do to keep your business running, maybe not at full speed, but at least at a good pace. We were able to talk to Stan Shelden of Shelden Architecture, who went through a difficult season in 2008. He was not prepared for such a devastating blow. Keep reading to see how Stan led his company back to being a Smart & Healthy company through diversifying his clientele and keeping it this way through trusting relationships and innovative technology.
When it was good, it was good
Having a client who trusts you is critical for projects to be successful. Stan had built trust with a prominent developer, providing his company with dozens of projects. The company was successful, and life was good, but it all came crashing down in 2008. One of Shelden Architecture’s main clients shut down all projects, and with the majority of their eggs in one basket, the good thing they had suddenly was gone.
The importance of diversification
Diversification should be a key part of most firms. Being too invested in any single market or client can lead to the demise of your own company. Stan immediately realized this. With no public sector work and mainly working with one particular client, he had to begin getting his name out to new customers.
A great leader does not give up, but pushes forward during difficult times. It may not be easy, but they are willing to do the work to keep things afloat.
He began a long and arduous client acquisition strategy. He scheduled over 100 lunches with leaders to let them know he existed. He also met Robert Schmidt who built his confidence and gave him a strategic plan to get his company back on its feet. Robert worked with Stan to create simple goals to follow, built confidence and helped him to have hope for the future of his organization. Due to his effort, perseverance and coaching by Robert, Stan landed higher education projects with Heston College, Sterling College and universities like Kansas State and a $10-12 million project with the post office.
“It was not one thing, but a lot of little things that changed the trajectory of the company… We gave them a “Aha” Moment vs. the “Tada” moment…”
– Stan Shelden
Advanced technology such as Sam100 and Hydrian X, and innovative software such as Archicad, Revit, Fuzor, and Jaunt Vr are rocking the architectural industry.
Many business owners are wrestling with technology such as those formally mentioned because it’s expensive, complicated, and most leaders need to learn how to operate these types of hardware and software, which takes lots of time. The constant updates and technology changes are challenging to architectural firms. Due to technology constantly being perfected, when a company is capable, having a software expert, or focus group, can be crucial to your company staying competitive in the market.
Hiring a software engineer to the team
At Shelden Architecture, Stan knew he needed to hire someone who could keep his company at the front end of technology. Technology has affected how architects design buildings and even how clients experience the design process —3D modeling and visualization tools allow clients to explore renderings—providing a first-hand experience through the design. Having someone on your team who can research and train others about updates and new software creates success among your team members, allows the architects to do what they do best, and satisfies customers.
Technology and Talent retention
Today technology is a significant part of our daily lives. Technology has enhanced business organization, provided new levels of communication, increased business productivity, and employee efficiency. Having these systems in place helps employees complete goals faster and precisely.
“When you give your employees access to the tools and technologies they need to do their jobs and let them use them in the best way, they’ll be more efficient and engaged—and therefore much happier” https://www.protectedtrust.com/technology-in-the-workplace/).
Trust and Low Retention
Low turnover is an attribute of every healthy company. At Shelden Architecture, Stan keeps attrition low by developing trust. Your employees need to know that you value their ideas.
“I want the best ideas to come to the top. It doesn’t matter where the best ideas come from, I want them to share them, and I want them to feel valued. When people realize we want their input and trust them, they want to do a good job. They know if they mess up, it’s okay. We will be there to help them.”
– Stan Shelden
The power of setting goals
Knowing your employees’ strengths and weaknesses helps you distribute assignments. Some individuals are good at visualizing a concept, while others are good at finalizing the details. When your team can trust their leadership and feel like they are a part of the team, they will want to stay and continue to do their best.
Stan was surprised by how important setting clear goals was to the success he has had and continues to have. Over the past 30 years, Robert Schmidt has built lasting relationships with experts in information technology, finance, human resources, international relations, real estate, design, construction, and more.
For companies to reach their full potential, enable their employees to thrive, grow in their industry, and increase their bottom line, they need to make changes.