"Market power is critical to the future of design firms. There is neither time nor the resources for design firms to know all they need to by themselves. Who do they look to? They look to Kerry Harding for support, thoughtful ideas, useful advice, and coaching...he offers a complete tool kit of ideas for professionals."

James P. Cramer, Hon AIA, Hon IIDA
Chairman & CEO
The Greenway Group
Norcross, GA

Time for a Staffing Audit?

June 1, 2009
by Kerry Harding

At a recent job interview for a senior executive position, a candidate arrived wearing jeans and a polo shirt. He was 20 minutes late, had brought no resume or samples of his work, and spent much of the hour grilling the firm president about the firm's culture, backlog and business plan. Toward the end of the session, in a reflection of the "sellers market" for design talent, the candidate remarked, "You know, you really need me more than I need you."

The unfortunate thing is that, no matter how irritating and arrogant that sounded, he was absolutely right. Talented designers and project managers with key market segment expertise are still a hot commodity. After a brief decline earlier this year, print and Web-based recruitment advertising spiked noticeably in late spring. The number of ads under the "architect" heading in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post was 67 at the end of May, down from a record 231 in January 2000. For a similar period, Careerpath.com hosted 872 architecture-related positions, e-architect, 431 and Monster.com, 310 - mostly for positions requiring less than ten-years of experience.

On the confidential recruitment side, some clear trends have emerged. Recruitment for senior marketing/business development positions have stalled with six major firms shelving key hires in the last two months out of anxiety over the economy. Yet, at least 123 top practice management positions -COOs, CIOs, CFOs, and, in a few cases, CEOs, are in the process of being filled around the country. We see this trend as a clear indicator that many firm principals are focusing on that which they do best- selling and doing the work-and leaving the rest to the experts.

Approaching the time for mid-year strategy checks, it's time to examine the firm's allocations of key staff resources and, based on the "highest and best use" principle, to refocus the duties and energies of the principals to maximize their productivity and, ultimately, value.