Every architecture, engineering and construction firm wants good clients.  Clients who appreciate what the firm brings to a project including its approach, particular design priorities and ability to add value to the project.  They respond to the firm’s passion for the kind of work it does and the people who work for it.

But how will clients get to know what drives the firm, if it doesn’t tell them.  Often when I ask firm leaders what makes their practice special, they offer the following with great conviction.  That they really listen, give superb service, approach each project with no pre-conceived ideas, are very responsive, and stay on track with the budget and schedule.  In other words, they are all special in the same way.  That is, not at all.

So what distinguishes an A/E/C firm?

Fairly early in my design career, one of my unofficial mentors, Nancy Egan, told me that what defines a firm are the values and passion of the people who lead it.  And if a design firm can convey that information, it is well on the way to setting itself apart.  But are design firms ready to reveal that?

For firm leaders, it pays to wear their heart on their sleeve – to talk about what really turns them on about design.  Identify the elements which distinguish their projects whatever it may be – love of complexity, fascination with pattern, the desire for essential forms.  Be clear about the kinds of buildings that fascinate them.  Explore what are the most important things clients should know about their firm – and then tell them.  Let clients feel their passion.

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