The DLN hosted multiple small group video calls every day last week opening a new venue for discussions and connections within our community. Unlike large webinars, these are intimate conversations among 10 people cross boundaries and demonstrate the incredible commonality of professionalism, caring, and experience within our community.
Given the expanded scope of the crisis and the frequently changing landscape we face, these calls will continue as we seek to provide everyone a chance to check in, get advice, and share…and come back to keep checking in. Future calls will mix members and partners to gain greater understanding each other’s needs and to expand the experience further. All of these calls are in addition to the calls taking place within our DLN Forums which are also reporting the significance of connecting with fellow principals at a time like this.
Among the magical moments experienced during calls, a highlight was one in which a member led a conversation about the importance of bringing a positive message to clients during this time. The designer spoke from experience of how confidence, a positive outlook, and proactive communications can make a very big difference in keeping projects moving ahead when it would be easy for them to stop and thoughts to become negative.
Other important discussions focused on some of these topics:
- It’s important to simply connect with fellow members and get to know one another. In some calls, it was enough just to feel like you were part of something and had a place to hang out and touch base. Sharing personal stories and being among friends is reason enough to be on a call.
- Many are focused on options and ideas for conserving cash and lowering expenses given the level of uncertainty and in many cases, the reality of projects going on hold. There is a strong sentiment that many firms have their best teams ever and want to find ways to keep them together through salary reductions and changing to contract work. [Click here to see the DLN’s summary of potential employee-based actions].
- A potential idea came up of DLN members recommending people who had to be laid off and sharing employees with specific skills and who have extra time.
- Some firms have taken the step of furloughing or laying off employees if they know revenues will fall. Most firms are trying to take actions that are short term in nature to try to preserve options depending on the recovery.
- There was discussion about how people in various firms are rising to the top, or otherwise, and how some business owners are using this time as a filter to see who the future leaders of their firms will be.
- In all cases, members and partners report their staff understood that this is a time when leaders have to make hard choices and have been supportive of moves to reduce expenses. They also report that transparent and frequent communication including in some cases daily video calls have been important to staying connected.
- Proactive firms are diligently reviewing their open purchase orders to be sure they understand potential delays and other challenges in their supply chain and vendor base. Similarly, the proactive vendors are actively monitoring production and communicating with clients about the status of orders. Given the number of temporary factory closures around the world, it seems likely that some products will be be delayed.
- Firms are concerned for their vendors, particularly the trades and artisans that operate on a small scale and depend on projects to keep their firms going.
- Many projects are proceeding, in whole or in part depending on where they are in development or construction. Increasingly, the activity on job sites is slowing due to government rules or contractors and their subs reacting to health and safety issues as well as materials delays. In some cases products are available, but in some states workrooms and receivers are closed. Timing seems to be everything, with the status of projects, products, and the pipeline of future projects variable and changing.
- Hospitality projects have taken a much faster pause than residential projects.
- Different regions of the US are responding differently, with the south and west appearing to be operating more normally than the northeast, and particular, the New York area.
- There is curiosity about the “CARES” stimulus measure signed into law last week. [Click here to see the DLN’s detailed summary of the plan as it relates to the design market]. The mechanics of key aspects of the measure still need to be determined to firms know how to proceed.
- Many members shared stories and ideas related to adapting to working remotely both with respect to their offices and connecting with clients, vendors, and contractors. Most members and partners see that the future is likely to revolve around more digital tools than ever.
- Several members are having roundtable discussions with their offices on a regular basis. This includes, in some cases, a management team but, in other cases, the entire office . It seems to be a time to build the culture of the office and team spirit.
- A number of members said they are using this slightly more quiet time to work “on ” their business rather than “in” their business . People are working on new marketing ideas, their websites, long term planning, and taking the time to discuss the meaning of their work and what it is they are trying to create.
- Finally for this summary, there is a lot of discussion of how and when to think about marketing for new projects with ideas and experiences shared among members.