AIA Small Firm Exchange Q1 2020 Update

I had the pleasure of attending AIA National’s Small Firm Exchange’s (SFx) Annual Meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas from March 2nd thru the 4th as your Pennsylvania Representative. The SFx Member Group’s mission is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing within small firms. Please find more information on the resources related to those interests available to members on the AIA National Website under the Topics tab and a direct link to the AIA National Small Firm Exchange (SFx) Knowledge Community here.

Please find a summary by outgoing president Christopher Toddy from Ohio of last quarter’s SFx efforts. I am happy to answer any questions and/or connect you to the best person within AIA to address your concern. Typical of AIA at all levels, there is great work being done on everyone’s behalf and tremendous resources available but given the intensity of our professional lives and commitments outside the office as a member one is often unaware.

77% of all firms in the country have fewer than 10 employees meeting the small firm definition and about 20% of AIA members work in small firms. About 30% of the AIA National Conference attendees are from small firms. Since “Convention” (as it used to be known) has been my primary connection with AIA National I joined, and now Chair, the SFx Conference Work Group. The 2021 AIA National Conference returns to Philadelphia and I will be seeking your help over the next year as we look to enhance the small firm practitioner’s experience at Convention. Marlon Blackwell, FAIA was named an AIA Gold Medalist earlier this year and he was the very first architect I invited to lecture in Central PA in 2006 when I began chairing my local chapter’s lecture series. Marlon came and spoke to the SFx Executive Committee meeting on March 2nd and shared insights about finding success as a small firm. He is featured in a new book titled, Small Firm Success: How Small Firms Can Thrive in an Age of Acceleration by James P. Cramer & Scott Simpson which I recommend.

I was privileged to be able to have dinner with Marlon and gain further insights and inspiration from a small firm practitioner working hard, putting “purpose before profit” without being a martyr for the profession, and receiving well-deserved recognition while dealing with the same issues we all deal with. I was surprised to learn that he has difficulty recruiting staff for an office not in NYC or LA, with clients making regrettable value engineering changes to design, and getting paid by clients, etc. I am in my 11th year of practice as a small firm owner in Harrisburg, PA that has grown to 9 people. I will continue to share reports of the AIA National SFx activities and contribute to the new AIA PA SFx group and its Inaugural Seminar *tentatively* slated for September 30th in Lancaster, PA. Soon I will also be soliciting your help to prepare for A’21 in Philadelphia June 17th thru the 19th 2021.





Chris Dawson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Principal, Chris Dawson Architect
Pennsylvania Region Representative to the AIA National Small Firm Exchange (SFx)