PcM Fail - RFP's

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    Michael Ermann

    Abigale, See the section beginning on page 381 of AHPP (fifteenth edition) for a dive into RFPs and judging which ones to respond to, etc. Know that passing the exams doesn't require "passing" a certain number of sections. Rather each question is worth one point and you need a certain number of points (about 2/3 of the questions correct) to pass the exam division. . . . so, if you needed five more points to pass PcM, those questions could have come from a section you failed, but they also could just as easily have come from sections you passed and had the same passing result. the NCARB Fail Reports are terribly misleading in this sense. Good luck on your retake and remember not to obsess about the questions you saw last time, because they are unlikely to show up next time (though, admittedly, test items are more likely to recycle in PcM than in any other exam division).--Michael Ermann, Amber Book Creator.

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    Abigale Mullet

    Thanks! I found that section from the AHPP after my test. I had read the sections that were given to me as being for the practice management sections which didn't include those sheets unfortunately. I had been getting in the 70% + range on both the practice tests from Ballast and Amber Book so I thought I would be really prepared, but I need to further expand my study material to get more information on the sections I felt really underprepared for on the actual test. The test seemed to dive really deep into areas that my study material glazed over but didn't go super in-dept to and then overprepared in some other areas that my test didn't test me on. But the good news is I felt really prepraed on the math questions, which everyone says is the hardest; this was my first ARE test so I feel much more prepared on what I need to focus on and how the test functions the next time around. 

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    Michael Ermann

    Which RFPs should you apply to and which ones should you skip?

    Clients put out requests for proposals (RFPs) that architects respond to. Often the owners choose which architect to hire based on the architects' responses to these.

    Time spent on more proposals means less time spent on each proposal so put the initial euphoria about the job prospect aside and be a rifle--not a shotgun. Don't chase longshots and stop being an eager golden retriever. Develop a clear-eyed intentional firm "go/no-go" policy to determine which RFPs to respond to

    What is the realistic likelihood of winning the job?

    Does it align with the firm's mission?

    The firm's market sector?

    The firm's target geographic radius?

    Can we realistically make the RFP deadline with a good proposal? 

    Does the client have a reputation of paying on time?

    Are they sufficiently funded to see the project through?

    How do you write an RFP response to win and advance to a shortlist interview?

    Treat the RFP-response process like a design problem: approach it with intentionality, intensity, organization, efficiency, and iteration.

    Develop a reusable template with common information requested in RFPs: one-page firm profile; project management philosophy; current workload; firm quality assurance program; list of responsibilities of key personnel; design philosophies; resumes; past projects & awards; and claims history (clients want to know what you've been sued for in the past!)

    Actually read the RFP. . . the full document. Have an eye to long-lead-time items: You may need to find a minority- or woman-owned business as a partner, your project manager may need a certification or government clearance that takes weeks to obtain, you may need to find a consultant that specializes in the design of large saltwater aquariums.

    Does the RFPs narrative offer clues to what's important for the project? Low-energy use? Secrecy? Client's employee productivity?

    Make a checklist for the RFP: What are the RFP's deliverables? Who's responsible for which pages of the document? What are their individual deadlines? 

    Make a mock-up of the pages on the wall, color-coded by who's responsible for which pages

    Work with marketing from the beginning

    Use the client's evaluation criteria (often included in the RFP) to determine what to highlight. For instance, if the quality of key personnel is worth 80 out of a total possible 100 points, spend more time on the resumes. If firm experience in a building type is worth 80/100 points, spend more time on the past projects section of your response.

    Clients may have thousands of pages of RFPs to sort through and studies suggest they spend an average of only 18 minutes on each one, so be concise. Less is more. 

    Avoid archispeak jargon, be specific, and write in an active voice (active voice = avoid too much is, are, was, were, and will be in your verb selection. . . we could all use that advice in our writing within architecture. Try it: it's difficult)

    Be responsive to all the RFP requirements. Clients overwhelmed with too many RFPs will use responsiveness as a shortcut first pas to cull to a reasonable number of quarterfinalists

    You have longstanding relationships with consultants you're comfortable working with, but consider picking your team based on the constultants' likelihood to help you win the job instead. Maintain a spreadsheet of consultants you meet or read about that might help you win a future job.

    Proofread your submission. (I've found architecture students--so careful at iterating design--to be impatient with actually reading what they wrote and satisfied to submit a first-draft written narrative with a final design board. Just like with design, writing requires far more time editing than creating the first draft. I suspect architects in practice sometimes forget that too.)

    Clients hold pre-proposer conferences or walk-throughs for those who might be interested in responding to an RFP. Attend those! 

     Your RFP won and advanced you to the next round--the shortlist interview. Now what?

    Prepare. Rehearse. Prepare. Rehearse.

    Learn who is on the selection committee (if possible) and tailor to them

    Learn what other firms are short-listed (if possible)

    Remember always that you are there to answer the question, "Why us?"

    This is not an "everyone on the team gets equal time in front of the selection committee" kind of presentation. The person on the team who will be calling the shots through the design process (usually partner-in-charge or project manager) needs to exhibit leadership in the interview and establish themselves as the point of contact for the process.

    The team leader should be warm and human. The client will be working with that person for the next 20 months, and we'd all rather work with real humans than robots. Make eye contact. Don't read slides or re-read your RFP to the committee. Make the interview as conversational as possible (rather than a one-directional oratory).

    Bring additional "leave-behind" written material and images to leave behind with the committee, but don't hand that material out until the end--you want all eyes on the presenter during the meeting if you hand out the props at the beginning, the committees' eyes will be buried in your literature.

    When asked a question you don't know the answer to, explain that you'll get back to them on that issue. Then follow up with a thank you letter. It'll give you a chance to answer the questions you couldn't answer in real-time and help get your firm front-of-mind if they're debating between you and one other firm.

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    William Hutch

    This is great. Thanks Michael

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