ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid. It’s Value.

04.02.13 by Brad Thurman
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I recently attended a regional conference for the Society of College and University Planning.  Futurist Glen Hiemstra, who discussed the trends and forces affecting education, presented the opening plenary.  During the Q&A session following the presentation, the topic of pricing pressures on education was raised.  Most of the discussion centered around the public’s desire for lower and lower prices, and the impact that will have on future educational offerings.  The general consensus was that colleges and universities certainly had to face the issue and that programs deemed to have a lower ROI might be in trouble.

Oddly enough (because its how my mind works), I recalled a conversation as I was nearing my college graduation.  A speaker at one of the commencement ceremonies stated that we should feel a debt to our alma mater because it had “given us” a great education and that we should remember to repay that debt by supporting the university financially in the future.


Now don’t get me wrong.  I had fabulous professors and I received a great education.  They were all incredibly instrumental in helping me achieve my goals.  I love my alma mater and I continue to support it in any way I can.  I wouldn’t have gone down any other path.  But in my mind at the time, my education was bought and paid for, thank you very much, and I’d worked hard to complete my degrees.  But here was an individual whose approach was “you’re welcome, you owe us one” instead of “thank you for supporting the reason we exist.”

How many times do we treat our clients the same way?

I believe that biggest issue facing the AEC industry in the next ten years is commoditization.  In the wake of the economic reset, we are all feeling the pressures of fee compression.  Much like education noted above, firms are reacting to the belief by many that we’re all the same.  One firm is pretty much like the other.  And when we compete in that arena, we compete on only one thing: price.

But you can fight commoditization.  And you fight it with value.

It’s simple.  People will pay more for things they perceive are of a higher value.  Of course, that puts the onus on us to actually provide value to our clients, but isn’t that a better way to do business anyway?  High client value is what separates great firms from the rest of the pack.  People buy from people they like, so why not do everything we can to be likable?  Remember: clients have to use someone, but they don’t have to use us.

I encourage you to continually strive to find ways to add value to the things you do every day.  Go the extra mile.  Exceed expectations.  Smile more.  Complain less.

And never – NEVER – take a client for granted.

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Brad Thurman, PE, FSMPS, CPSM


As Chief Marketing Officer, Brad directs marketing and business development for Wallace. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and Master of Architectural…

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