Contributed by Michael Chambers
Continuing education for design professionals is arguably the most effective and powerful marketing opportunity available to construction product manufacturers in North America. However, there appears to be some confusion as to what continuing education is supposed to accomplish. In my opinion and experience, continuing education can bring three things to the bottom line. First is brand recognition, second is getting specified, and third is holding specifications against non-competitive substitutions.
There is a bizarre notion that manufacturers provide continuing education out of the goodness of their hearts for the benefit of design professionals. Or worse, manufacturers think that continuing education is a perfect tool to sell product to design professionals. Is there any wonder why local AIA components and a growing number of large design firms no longer allow manufacturers to present programs?
Unless manufacturers can begin to bring excellent programs to the design professionals, the opportunity inherent in continuing education is going to be lost.
One of the most powerful and least understood aspects of continuing education is brand recognition. The biggest issue I see here is that manufacturers do not understand how to brand with education. Successful branding is never about logos or products; it is about high quality education that speaks directly to the audience and provides solutions to design and construction issues. It is never about product, never, never, never.
A high quality program designed for adult learners, presented by qualified, knowledgeable product representatives is the best possible branding opportunity. At the level of design professionals, people brand manufacturers far more effectively than product advertising and the like. Product representatives must be knowledgeable not only about their products but about the industry and most importantly about the competition.
In this same regard, presentation skills are even more critical than product knowledge. A poor presentation will trash a brand faster than anything. Product representatives must be good presenters and have the ability to make effective presentations.
An excellent education program presented by a professional product representative can have an incredible impact on the bottom line by providing usable information and identifying the “go to” resource for the design professionals.
Contributed by Michael Chambers
In my perspective from the back of the bus, I often wonder why so many product representatives feel ineffective or intimidated calling on architects. Granted, some architects can be quite a treat. The terms argumentative, aloof, know-it-all, unapproachable, abstract, and expletive deleted are often mentioned. Have you ever stopped to wonder why?
Without trying to defend architects, consider that often an architect’s attitude towards product reps is the result of being misled or over-sold on the applicability, features, and benefits of construction products. Look at a typical reaction to telephone marketers or used car salespersons, what is it that is so offensive? I would suggest two aspects. First, the unrelenting hard-sell without having any idea of your needs or interests; and second, the underlying attitude that the product offered is the only possible choice and how could an architect be so stupid not to immediately understand?
Unfortunately, product representatives must overcome the back wash of less enlightened sales types that have gone before them. However, it is relatively easy to overcome this type of resistance by using a solution-oriented approach rather than a typical product-oriented approach. Architects are primarily concerned with finding the most appropriate range of solutions not the best or greatest product.
In a survey done (editor's note: many years ago) by McGraw-Hill Sweets, architects were asked what they wanted from product representatives. The top 2 results were ‘recommended uses & application of products (92%)’ and ‘guide specifications (88%)’. The last choice was ‘manufacturer’s history, experience, overall capacities & range of products (40%)’. This means that architects want to know how to appropriately apply and integrate products into their designs, not be confused by competitive features and benefits. The need for guide specifications clearly indicates the need write clear, competitive, and enforceable specifications. Lastly, horror of all horrors, the least thing architects want to know is about your company.
Another critical element for effective architectural sales calls is the ability to listen. Practically every time a rep calls on me, the first words are about company history, the president’s ancestors, and how many products have been installed in Outer Slabovia last week. Next, we hear how many years he or she has been in the business, how big their territory is, on and on. Then, a guided tour through the product binder, page by page by never ending page. In all this time, usually 30 minutes, never once has the rep asked about projects, how products are selected, are the office master specifications up-to-date, and the like. The best advice I can offer for effective architectural sales calls is to SHUT-UP AND LISTEN!!!! You will be amazed by the knowledge and insights you can discover about what the architect knows and wants to know about your product. There is a definite reason why the Creator gifted us with 2 ears and one mouth. Here is the outline that I used when making architectural sales calls. These are basic issues and touch points that I found highly effective when dealing with project architects, curmudgeonly specifiers, and firm principals.
Contributed by Roy Schauffele
Late fall and during all winter, concerns and problems arise with air barrier applications on CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit). I know because I get the phone calls. Generally speaking, the fluid applied water-based vapor permeable air barriers go on OK but take a long time to cure or set.
Additionally, I’ve observed a myriad of job site problems with self-adhered vapor impermeable sheets, flashings and tapes. The vapor impermeable materials were applied properly but exhibited blistering and lack of adhesion within days. When investigated there was always liquid water on the adhered side of these sheets.
Observations of quite a few jobs leads me to state that, in this investigation, the vast majority of “problem” jobs had the following in common:
OK, let’s deal with what will lead to an excellent new construction air barrier installation and long-term performance:
1. If the Architect/Specifier has specified a dry water repellent in the CMU, it is already causing a potential problem with the adhesion of a water-based air barrier or primer. This issue has been written about previously in an article in Coatings Pro Magazine July 2018 “Legacy Specifications, Wall and Air Barrier Performance”. The Air Barrier installer absolutely needs to make the Architect/Specifier aware of this prior to bid.
2. If the project is wide open with doors, bay doors and windows not finished or openings not protected from water entry, then a tremendous amount of water can enter the CMU causing some of the problems referenced above. The top of the walls and window openings should be treated in such a way as to prevent water from running in to these open areas.
One of my friends and great technical writer in Austin, TX, Mr. Dave Watts, RA, has the following statement in his specifications: Section 04 20 00, 3.18 PROTECTION OF FINISHED WORK, 3.18.e “Protect tops of masonry with waterproof coverings secured in place without damaging masonry. Provide coverings where masonry is exposed to weather when work is not in progress.”
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
On a recent project of mine, the lack of a submittal for the contractor’s proposed solution to an unexpected situation caused a problem. The contractor didn’t think that a submittal was required by the contract documents, and the architect didn’t realize that a submittal was required by the contract documents. The contractor could have saved himself some money and time, and could have saved the architect and the owner some time, if the contractor had just prepared a submittal for the architect’s review before proceeding with the work. (Oh, yes, some freshly-installed flooring underlayment had to be removed before the project could proceed. THAT was a waste of time and money.)
If something is added to a project, because of an unforeseen condition, everyone (architect, owner, contractor) often acts as if it’s the first time this sort of thing has ever happened. It’s not. Unexpected things happen all the time on construction projects, and that’s why we have standard processes to deal with them.
Anything that wasn’t originally in the project, but is part of the project now, is in the contract as the result of either a change order or a minor change to the contract. Whether it’s a moisture mitigation treatment for an existing slab, or a whole new roof assembly, whether it was initiated by an owner as a late addition to a project, or it was initiated by the contractor as a solution to an unexpected condition, or initiated as a substitution request because of a sudden product unavailability, it ends up in the contract as the direct result of a change order or a minor change (such as the type authorized by an ASI, Architect’s Supplemental Instructions). Even when the change results in no added cost to the owner, and even when its purpose is solely to repair a mistake made by the contractor, it’s a change, and it should be documented (and submitted on).
Architects and specifiers can make sure that the contract documents require submittals for things that weren’t originally in the project. Requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction is a good idea. In fact, requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction may be even more important than requiring submittals for things that were originally part of the design, since the new element wasn’t originally thought through along with the rest of the design. The contractor’s preparation of the submittal, and the architect’s review of the submittal, act as a double-check mechanism to help make sure that the added item will be appropriate.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
The AEC community needs more people like Michael Riscica.
Michael is a Licensed Architect who once resided in Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever, Molly. And to say he is passionate about helping Young Architects is an understatement. After becoming licensed, Michael was frustrated by the lack of support, bad advice and misinformation he had during the years between graduating architecture school and becoming a licensed Architect. In early 2014 he began blogging at YoungArchitect.com to address that problem.
A few years back, Michael sold most of his personal belongings, bought himself a van, packed up Molly and only what he needed and literally took Young Architect on the road. Rarely in one place for long, you can typically find Michael speaking to aspiring designers somewhere. In five years, he has assembled a massive following of future leaders in the architecture industry through presentations, persistence, and passion.
Cherise and I were fortunate enough to meet Michael a handful of years ago and we immediately saw a kindred spirit, an individual who was not happy with the status quo in AEC and set out to make a change.
Recently, Michael announced the first ever Young Architect Conference, which will be held over three days, August 23rd to the 25th in Portland, Oregon. The mission for the Young Architect Conference is to explore leadership, connection, and service within architecture. All keynotes, workshops, parties, and everything related to this conference will connect back to these three themes in some way, shape or form.
Here is the proposed agenda:
Let's Fix Construction is honored to be friends with Michael and involved with the Conference, as Cherise will be leading the session 'Public Speaking in Architecture'. We're also a hand-selected affiliate of the Young Architect Conference. What does that mean, exactly? That means, you, as part of our community, can register to attend and save $$$. You have one month to use the code LFC for $150 off of your registration.
Please take two minutes to view this message below from Michael and then visit the Young Architect Conference website for details, registration and more.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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