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Who We Are

The mission of the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing in small firms. The objectives of the AIA SFx are three-fold:

1. Advocate the value of small firms, the national SFx, and local SFx groups, both within the AIA and to the public.

2. Curate and disseminate the most pertinent resources and information, from the AIA & elsewhere, that benefit small firms.

3. Inform the AIA of current issues facing small firms and areas in which current resources/information are lacking.

Approximately 75% of all firms within the AIA are small firms (less than 10 employees), which equates to 14,459 small firms within the organization.

~26.8% = sole practitioners = 5,173

~33.5% = 1-5 employees = 6,459

~14.7% = 5-10 employees = 2,827

For context, small firms share of staff is 16.0% and share of billings is 12.0%

We need to find ways to leverage that size for collaboration and influence, just like the individual large firms do.



  • 1.  Be careful with remote employees

    Posted 03-08-2023 10:32 AM


    Just wanted to send out a warning - My firm had hired a remote employee with 7 years experience out of Tenn. (we are in Rhode Island) He missed two important deadlines! and we called him on it , only to discover he was working full time for three firms and couldn't keep up with the workload - we let him go immediately ! his reply was, " not to worry he would have a new job by Friday !"  I might be considered "Old School" But I really question why employees now have all the power with flexible work hours, remote working and work on a project team that is located all over the USA - I want to know how they are really learning, i.e. asking the "Old Timers" in the office all the real questions on how to detail something and getting real experience from working with someone that has been at it for 15 plus years,  when these "remote workers" are working on their time, remotely from the backyard and now we are discovering working for several firms just to bring in the paycheck.

    Gary Lepore AIA
    LDL Studio, Inc.
    Providence RI
    PM Lunch with 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. June 6, Washington, DC. Click here to learn more!

  • 2.  RE: Be careful with remote employees

    Posted 03-09-2023 05:45 PM

    Gary, this is interesting. My firm has discussed the potential of hiring remote staff but has yet to have gone down that path. I'm curious if you had a contract or non-disclosure agreement with the remote employee. Also, was he a true employee of your firm (benefits, salary, etc.) or a 1099 independent contractor? If the former, I would venture to say he breached his contract (if there was one). If my firm ever goes down this path, I would have a contract and non-disclosure agreement for the employee restricting what they can and can't do in terms of other employment (like I do with our in-house staff). If they breach it, they would be terminated. But how would I know if they were working with multiple firms is the question for which I don't have an answer. 

    Dwayne Eshenbaugh AIA
    NOVUS Architecture
    Las Vegas NV

    PM Lunch with 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. June 6, Washington, DC. Click here to learn more!

  • 3.  RE: Be careful with remote employees

    Posted 03-10-2023 08:04 PM

    Gary - 

    I feel like your post is a missed opportunity. The title alone feels biased and exclusionary (I'm a remote employee, FYI), and your comments suggest that remote workers as a group have a different work ethic and level of performance than in-person employees (or contractors for that matter). There are many more factors than location (remote or in-person) and type of employment agreement that impact an employee's performance. I'll share two here: management and leadership.

    But back to the missed opportunity... How about we use this forum to see how others are successfully meeting the challenges of remote work? What are other firms doing differently to ensure the quality of their work product? To grow and develop their project teams? What's the right cadence of checking-in/progress updates/reviews to ensure that the work proceeds in a timely fashion? How can we teach and communicate differently? 

    Remote work doesn't preclude people from continuing to learn or performing at a high level, but it requires the effort of both the employer and the employee.


    Caryn Ogier AIA
    Houston TX

    PM Lunch with 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. June 6, Washington, DC. Click here to learn more!

  • 4.  RE: Be careful with remote employees

    Posted 03-10-2023 03:33 PM

    Thanks for the heads up! Most employee handbooks have a provision that the company needs to be informed if the employee is providing any outside services, as it significantly could affect the firm's E & O exposure. 

    If the employee signed the handbook acknowledgment, they are definitely in breach of terms of their employment.

    Be sure to do your due diligence by checking references and looking at the prospective employee's LinkedIn profile.

    Betsy Nickless, FSDA
    Sda-orange County Chapter
    Newport Beach CA

    PM Lunch with 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. June 6, Washington, DC. Click here to learn more!

  • 5.  RE: Be careful with remote employees

    Posted 03-10-2023 04:08 PM
    Hi Gary, 

    That's really unfortunate to hear about your now former remote employee.  I currently work 100% remotely from Boise, Idaho for a firm in Austin Texas and it has been working very well for both of us so far.  I will say, however, there are some key differences between my situation and your former employee - 1. I used to live and work in Austin for several years before the pandemic.  2. I've been good friends with the principal that hired me on to this position for around 5 years before I moved away.  3. I'm turning 40 this year and I've always had a strong work ethic to do my best work with any employer. And lastly, this firm has several offices around the country and through Zoom we coordinate our work and tasks together on a daily basis, sometimes with various team members located in other offices.

    The irony of the pandemic, as terrible as it was, forced everyone to think outside the box and find alternative work solutions.  Remote work, as great as it has been for some like myself, can and will get taken advantage of at the expense of the firm who hired them.  The good with the bad always exists.  I think one of the keys is finding remote workers with integrity.  This may be the hardest task and might take time.  However, finding a remote employee with a good work ethic can be just as valuable a local employee you see everyday. Another key is to review and revise policies and procedures that allow for remote workers a flexible schedule while setting clear expectations, boundaries, and guidelines for deliverables and timetables that they're responsible for.  

    If you're dedicated to remote working conditions, it's impossible to control what their actions during typical work hours.  My schedule, for example, falls outside of "normal business hours" every week.  My wife is a healthcare provider and requires her to be physically at her office everyday.  This means I'm responsible for making sure kids get to their weekly appointments and other obligations that would otherwise cause me to step out of the office for an hour or so.  I make sure I keep track of when I work and for how long in case I need to wake up early the next day or work later that night to catch up.  My project manager (friend) thankfully keeps me on a loose leash. He simply asks for updates everyday and is patient when requesting I send him a document or a response to an email in case I'm not at my computer.  He also makes himself readily available on Zoom and text or phone for any questions or concerns I have through out the day.  

    I know this is a very long winded response to your initial message but I wanted people to know that remote work is viable and can work very well with the right people and a willingness to learn together.  I hope this message helps and that your next experience with a remote worker is more positive and long lasting.  

    Best Regards, 

    Ryan Campbell, AIA, NCARB
    Project Architect

    FGM Architects Inc.
    We Build Community

    PM Lunch with 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. June 6, Washington, DC. Click here to learn more!