How can small firms keep up?

Submitted by digital on Fri, 01/15/2016 - 14:47
{"version":"0.3.0","atoms":[],"cards":[],"markups":[["em"],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/live\/events\/small-business-forum\/2015\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/smallfirmroundtable\/home","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/content\/summary-size-standards-industry-sector","target","_new"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/practicing\/economics\/AIAB095791","target","_new"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/us\/DXjV8.i","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/\/store\/apps\/details?id=com.steven.myaia","target","_new"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/advocacy\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","http:\/\/\/practicing\/akr\/AIAS077109","target","_new"]]],"sections":[[1,"h2",[[0,[],0,"Business leaders emphasize the need to work together"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"At "],[0,[0],1,"The Atlantic"],[0,[],0,"\u0027s "],[0,[1],1,"Small Business Forum"],[0,[],0,"\u2014held last December and cosponsored by the AIA\u2014Kellee James, the CEO of online agricultural commodities trader Mercaris, remarked during a panel discussion that \u0022entrepreneurs are the worst people to ask about policy.\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"With all the demands of owning a small business, from HR and payroll to contracts and beyond, she felt there was just not enough time to stay properly informed about the laws being made. But when it comes to architecture firms, such reasoning won\u0027t get you very far."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022That attitude, which you find a lot, is a cop out,\u0022 says Brian Frickie, AIA, principal at "],[0,[2],1,"Kerns Group Architects"],[0,[],0," and chair of the "],[0,[3],1,"AIA\u0027s Small Firm Round Table (SFRT)"],[0,[],0,". He can\u0027t speak for the work James does, of course, but he knows small firms have no interest in disengaging from the policy conversation."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022Architects are high-level thinkers,\u0022 he says, \u0022and often really interested in policy because that\u0027s the planning and concept that gets your design informed, and tells what you the next steps are in the process.\u0022"]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"What is a Small Firm?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"To Frickie, the larger issue is that the federal government has a very broad idea of what constitutes \u0022small.\u0022 The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal agency created to support small businesses, "],[0,[4],1,"defines them"],[0,[],0," as producing under $7.5 million in average annual gross receipts. That translates to about 70 employees, according to Frickie, which is massive when compared to the size of most small firms."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022These people that are making decisions about small firms are addressing a group of companies that have nothing to do with us,\u0022 he says."]]],[1,"blockquote",[[0,[0],1,"\u0022We are better when we work together than when we work by ourselves.\u0022"],[0,[],0," Brian Frickie, AIA"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"According to the AIA\u0027s "],[0,[5],1,"2014 Firm Survey"],[0,[],0,", 88 percent of member-owned firms have fewer than 20 employees; that ostensibly classifies them as what the federal government would deem \u0022small businesses.\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022If the purpose was to raise the threshold to give small businesses \u0027advantages\u0027 and equal the playing field,\u0022 says Rob Walker, AIA, principal at "],[0,[6],1,"Rob Walker Architects"],[0,[],0," and the incoming chair of SFRT, \u0022yet almost 90 percent of firms fit that particular mold, it doesn\u0027t really help.\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In fact, in 2011 the SBA sought to raise that ceiling of average annual receipts to $19 million, a number that would have effectively redefined 97 percent of architecture firms as \u0022small\u0022; it was only through the grassroots advocacy of the AIA and the SFRT that it was instead set at $7.5 million, which still doesn\u0027t fit Walker\u0027s general consensus."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022Our own definition of small firms,\u0022 he notes, \u0022is \u0027if you\u0027ve got a HR department, you\u0027re not really a small firm.\u0027\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Thus despite federal qualifications that overlook the reality of the situation, owners have to traverse a complicated tax code and handle all the documentation that comes with a running a small business, while also finding the time to grasp key policy issues."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"Share and Share Alike"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"So what\u0027s an entrepreneur to do? James shared her solution at the Small Business Forum, which was to work primarily with policymakers at the local or state level. But Frickie doesn\u0027t think that\u0027s the answer."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022It can be very effective to build those more personal relationships,\u0022 he says, \u0022but no policy issue at the local level will make any real difference in how a small firm operates.\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"His advice is to increase transparency among small firms and come together to solve problems. The days of worrying about competition and protecting secrets are long gone; in this wintry economic climate, it\u0027s negligent to avoid assisting a fellow small firm in need."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022We\u0027re in a small-business-heavy profession,\u0022 agrees Andrew Goldberg, managing director of government relations and outreach at the AIA, \u0022with unique needs for so many firms. It\u0027s imperative that our voices be loud, both in conversation with each other and with policymakers at all levels of government.\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"With that need to be heard in mind, in 2015 the SFRT released AIAKinetic, an app for "],[0,[7],1,"iOS"],[0,[],0," and "],[0,[8],1,"Android"],[0,[],0," that provides a series of succinct articles aimed at young architects interested or already engaged in running a successful practice."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022Our strategy was, \u0027Put this information into somebody\u0027s hand,\u0027\u0022 Frickie says. \u0022It\u0027s by architects, for architects, to help them with the stuff they wouldn\u0027t understand until they\u0027re forced to actually do it.\u0022"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u0022My mantra for the SFRT,\u0022 he added,\u0022 is \u0027We are better when we work together than when we work by ourselves.\u0027\u0022 Whether that\u0027s within the SFRT, in tandem with the "],[0,[9],1,"AIA\u0027s advocacy efforts"],[0,[],0,", or through new technologies, treating business management like a profession-wide design problem might offer the swiftest solution."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Learn more about the AIA\u0027s "],[0,[10],1,"Small Firms Resource Center"],[0,[],0," or the "],[0,[3],1,"Small Firm Round Table"],[0,[],0,"."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[0],1,"Steve Cimino is the digital content manager at the AIA."]]]]}
The ins and outs of running a small business are complicated enough; how can principals properly wrap their heads around policy?
Members Only
Primary Image Caption
The Atlantic's Small Business Forum, held in December of 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Tile Sizes
Use on Homepage
Temp Draft
[{"updated-date":"2016-01-15T14:47:06+00:00","author-name":"Administrator","author-id":null,"action":"created"},{"updated-date":"2017-01-28T05:28:00+00:00","author-name":"Administrator","author-id":null},{"updated-date":"2017-01-28T05:28:00+00:00","author-name":"Administrator","author-id":null,"action":"published"},{"updated-date":"2017-02-01T19:17:05+00:00","author-name":"Stephen Cimino","author-id":"d7797f4e-b5f3-4588-b5c6-fe4e03d113dc","action":null}]