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Word Nerd - FANBOYS

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 4, 2020
Updated: Monday, May 4, 2020

Do you know Cherie Tucker? She’s a grammarian whose claim to fame (one of them, at least) is getting Seattle’s Nordstrom stores to correct all of their signs from “Childrens shoes” to “Childrens’ shoes.”

The Seattle Chapter has hosted Cherie as a speaker a few times, and she’s also presented for SDA National (we love the grammar/writing knowledge she shares!).

One of the things that Cherie helped me remember was the use of commas in independent clauses. An independent clause is one that can stand on its own. Like this: This sentence is an independent clause, and you should insert a comma after clause. That’s a two-part sentence that contains the conjunction “and.” The second part of the sentence (you should insert a comma after clause) is a full sentence on its own. If both parts of the clause — joined by a conjunction — can stand on its own . . . it’s an independent clause.

What a lot of people do though, is not insert a comma before the conjunction in their independent clauses. Did you know that you should add a comma before each conjunction in that case?* (Note: It depends on the context; you might consider a semicolon instead.)

Here’s where Cherie came in and helped me remember all of the conjunctions, and thus the use of commas in my independent clauses. She calls the conjunctions “FANBOYS.”








If I have a FANBOY in a sentence, I know to stop and test whether I have any independent clauses. If I do, I know to insert a comma (or a semicolon) before the FANBOY. Will you?


*Tons of sites that back this up. For example:




Judy Beebe, FSDA is our resident Word Nerd.

She currently serves as the SDA Seattle Chapter President


Tags:  SDA  Society for Design Administration  Word Nerd 

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Why It Is Important to be a Role Model

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 20, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Role models are important because they help guide us in the right direction as we make life decisions, they provide inspiration and support when we need it, and they offer their experiences with similar obstacles or struggles.  Throughout our lives, we will have several different role models, from our parents and coaches to peers and bosses.  These people are integral influences in our lives and our careers.  So how do you know if you are a role model?  And why is it important?

There is no ceremony commemorating one’s transition into a “role model.”  Often times, this is a gradual transition that seamlessly happens throughout the years.  A Canstruction team member who becomes a team captain, who then joins the event planning committee and eventually chairs the event.  Another example could be someone who participates regularly with local Habitat for Humanity events and then steps up to serve as leader with a local build event like Carter Work Project.  Both of these examples allow for one-on-one connections between those in leadership positions and others, but also the connection between that individual and the organization as a whole.  Have you found yourself serving on a public or community service organization board?  Have you helped make significant sustained contributions to that organization?  Then you are a role model.

A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.[1]    When we are younger, we look up to our role models for inspiration and use this as a blueprint for how to achieve success and happiness.  It’s important for SDA members to serve as role models because it will help each member continue their personal and professional growth, continue to practice model behavior, and guide future generations of leaders.  Role models are not perfect, they are human, and they make mistakes.  Don’t be afraid to step up and explore the benefits you gain from serving others.  You may be surprised how much you get back in return. 

One of the criteria to become an SDA Fellow is to be a role model.  Have you discovered that you already are a role model and didn’t even know it?  If so, you may be eligible to submit for the 2021 Fellows Class.  If you haven’t taken that step to serve as a role model yet, evaluate your opportunities to do so in order to continue your leadership path and maximize your growth potential.




Sarah Wallace, FSDA is the Chair of the SDA Fellows and is a member of the SDA Atlanta Chapter. 


Tags:  Role Model  SDA  Society for Design Administration 

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How CFOs Can Tackle the COVID-19 Financial Risk

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Updated: Friday, April 3, 2020

What can senior finance leaders do to manage these headwinds?  The construction industry is still considered an essential business in most states and construction companies need A|E firms to continue with their services to stay on schedule many times, so there shouldn’t be any problems, right?  Probably not, especially here in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area.  The A|E|C community depends on the government — federal, state, and local — as a client.  While construction companies can still work, the City of Virginia Beach is examining what construction projects it can delay, so at some point, the delays are going to filter down to the A|E community.  This is similar to what occurred in the 2008 recession.  It really did not hit the A|E community hard until 2010.  The government’s response to the crisis with an economic stimulus package has been much quicker this time, however.

Three suggestions that may help your company:

1.      Conduct scenario planning and stress tests.  If you’re going to have to close down for 3 months, what is that going to look like cash-wise?  If 40% of your work is municipal, and the municipalities cut 40% of their next fiscal year’s projects, how are you going to replace that revenue?  Start conducting what-ifs and solutions to replace the revenue.  Maybe looking at more commercial projects may be a short-term solution.  Not hiring and trying to ride it out with the present staff in order to NOT have to let people go might be another.  In the 2008 recession, firms suddenly wanted to get on the government bandwagon because the commercial market had dried up, but most decided too late. It takes time to establish a new client, project type, or change your business model.  Diversity is good in any economy.

2.     Focus on key customers.  Understand your contracts and the commitments you have made.  If you are in the design|build arena, you know construction is driven by schedules.  Understand how having a quarter of your staff out for COVID-19 related absences — sick, childcare — may affect your ability to meet milestones, and work to minimize those delays.  Contact your clients, officially in some instances, that you may have a delay that will affect schedules. 

3.     Get a jump on cash flow.  Recalculate 1. how much cash you need to keep your business afloat. Here are a few ideas to consider:

·        Line of Credit. Lots of firms are going to be looking to max-out their lines of credit.  Contact your banker and discuss this to ensure lines of credit remain available.  Be prepared to handle the fact that if your line of credit is not now personally guaranteed and if you ask for a larger amount, the bank may look for a personal guarantee from the owners, at least temporarily.

·        Factoring Companies. Look for alternative sources of cash.  There are factoring companies for your accounts receivable, but you need to get in touch with them now.  Your bank loan officer is a good source for a lead on a company.

·        Owners personal cash reserves. Owners need to reexamine their own personal cash reserves, too, and assess the liquidity of any assets they may need to count on for cash.

·        Stay on top of Accounts Receivable.  Do not let this slide.

Read the entire article by downloading the attached file.  Share your comments below on what your firm is doing to manage the financial risks during the COVID19 pandemic.

Special thanks to Deborah Gill, CPA, FSDA from SDA Hampton Roads Chapter for sharing this article.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Cash Flow  SDA  Society for Design Administration 

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First, Fire All the Administrators? Here's Why That's Bad Advice.

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2020

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on UnsplashThe gut reaction in some A/E firms is to first ‘fire all the administrators,’ a statement made by Frank Stasiowski in an article advising on how to get through the 2008-11 recession.  Here is why that’s bad advice.

Now, more than ever, administrators have specific skills and duties that are always necessary, such as project administration, spec preparation, payroll, finance, as well as the specialized software knowledge to manage all of those functions such as Newforma, Vision, Ajera, Masterspec, and Quickbooks.  They’re also the ones who maintain a relationship with your bank’s loan officer for your line of credit, manage your Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable. So why would they be the first to go?  The business of architecture and engineering has become much more complicated since 2011.  Keeping the business personnel in your office allows you, the design professionals, to do what you do best--design.  Isn’t your time better spent reaching out to clients, asking if they’re in need of anything, such as help on scheduling issues, coordinating with other consultants or construction firms on their behalf, rather than collecting timesheets and making sure the billing still goes out?  Your business personnel are the ones with existing knowledge and relationships with the bank and insurance companies.  The first thing that happens in a down economy is construction companies start filing lawsuits. That’s when you need access to A|E business networks like SDA.  Why spend your valuable time trying to get up to speed in any one of those areas?  The COVID19 virus pandemic is a marathon not a sprint, and just as it is hard to find good architects and engineers (heck any architects and engineers), it is very hard to find an administrator who knows Vision or Ajera.  Ask more of your administrators, yes, just like you’re going to ask more of your technical personnel to compensate for possibly sick personnel or family members but maintain your staff levels.  Everyone in your firm is probably more capable than you think, when asked to step up.  Let’s all step up together.     

Share the Pain. Wouldn’t it be fairer for everyone to take a 10-15% pay cut or reduce everyone’s hours by 10% and keep the family that is your firm working hand in hand to overcome this challenge?  Come August or September when things start getting back to normal and everyone is in a rush with accelerated schedules, do you really want to spend time and energy hiring and training new people?  The new OASDI or social security tax relief passed today will provide you with some relief. The example below shows that the new legislation just passed could save you $120,000 or the salary of at least 2 or 3 of your lowest paid employees for a 20-person firm.    

$5,000,000 gross revenue

$3,000,000 net revenue

$2,100,000 labor expenses

$1,575,000 labor expenses last 3 quarters

$120,488 7.65% of labor – savings under new tax relief

And, you also do not want your unemployment coefficient to go up because your fired employees file for unemployment.  The these firings will follow you for three years into the future. 

Think long-term.  Some of the strategic planning tasks administrative staff can be working on:

  • Have marketing brush off or write a 5-year marketing plan.  Research new project types you’re interested in pursuing
  • Have accounting write up accounting manuals – especially in the event this crisis lasts longer than we think. There are no accounting manuals for Ajera, Vision, or QB out there.
  • Have human resources keep up with all available information on the business aspects and effects of the COVID19 virus.  Examine your employee handbook and note any policies that are in discrepancy with practices you’ve implemented to adapt to the situation. Write a pandemic policy for now and the future.
  • Clean up those databases, libraries, storage unit, employee files, plan files
  • Develop standards for CADD.
  • Emphasize over-looked training and new certifications that will position individuals and the firm in a better place when the pandemic ends.  

Take the Lead.  Show your clients and employees you have the business savvy to weather this storm.

What are your firms doing to weather the storm? Share your ideas in the comment box below.




Deborah Gill, CPA, FSDA is the Owner of Profit by Design in Norfolk, VA

Tags:  SDA  Society for Design Administration  Staff Retention 

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SDA Fellowship - Path to Career Success

Posted By Stephanie Kirschner, FSDA, Thursday, March 5, 2020
Updated: Monday, March 16, 2020

SDA’s Fellows Program recognizes the value of a member’s contributions to SDA, peer organizations, and the A/E/C community in the area of excellence in design firm management.

Wow!! Fellowship is the highest recognition SDA offers, and the number of Fellows is growing each year. So why pursue Fellowship, and how will it benefit your personal and professional growth?

The first requirement is 10 years of experience as a manager or administrator in the A/E/C industries, of which seven have been as an active member of SDA. The designation of CDFA for at least five years is also required. So it doesn’t come easily or quickly!!

Making Fellowship a goal, however, will propel you forward in your personal and professional growth. Here are things to start working on:

Significant Contribution to SDA. By continuing to be involved with SDA in a leadership position at the chapter and national levels, you will expose yourself to others who can inspire you to grow, to contribute, and to expand beyond your comfort zone. And in turn, you will add value to SDA and its membership through speaking, committee service, and introducing other A/E/C industry professionals to the benefits of SDA.

Contributions to Practice Management in the A/E/C Industries. Outside of SDA, there is so much you can do to improve this crazy industry we care about so much. We each find ourselves unexpectedly an expert on some topic that we have mastered or challenge we have conquered. How can you share this knowledge and not keep your light under a bushel? Local AIA chapters are always looking for seminar speakers; university students need to know more about the actual practice beyond their technical skills (how many architects have told you they “slept through Pro Practice?”). Can you advise your firm’s AXP®, EIT, or LSIT program? Can you serve in other building industry-associated boards or organizations? By so doing, you will increase your own knowledge while at the same time passively marketing your own firm.

Contributions as a Role Model. Outside of your own firm, how can you mentor individuals or organizations as an advisor, trainer, mentor, or participant in public/community service? This includes Canstruction®, where you can have a huge impact beyond the design community. Again, every time you expand your horizons, you are growing personally, you are representing your firm, you are expanding your network, and you are increasing your influence.

So get started now! Chart your course to Fellowship, and you will simultaneously gain tremendous personal growth, demonstrate your value to your firm, and elevate the design community.

You never achieve a goal without a deadline, so start checking off what you’ve already achieved towards your Fellowship goal, and what still needs to be done.

Have a look at the Fellows Program Guidelines and the Fellows Application and start your path to career success. What steps can you take to start your career development with an eye toward becoming a Fellow? Share ideas in the comment box below.




Betsy Nickless, FSDA is a member of the first SDA Class of Fellows (2018).

She currently serves as the SDA National Bylaws Committee Chair.


Tags:  SDA  SDA Fellow  Society for Design Administration 

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