Client Feedback Tool
  • Ten Things I Learned in 2015

    Posted on November 24th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Ten Things I Learned in 2015

    I’ve spent the year attending many of the best conferences in the industry, traveling alongside a few of the savviest business consultants, and working with many of the most forward-thinking professional services firms in the world. We’ve shared books, ideas, and other resources with each other.  It’s December, and my brain is full!

    Before I re-calibrate over the holidays and gear up for another new year of learning in 2016, I wanted to pause and reflect on the best of the best ideas I encountered in 2015. These ideas all went beyond AHA! moments and became integral pieces of how I operate. In short, these are the ideas that stuck, that changed my perception, and affected my behavior.

    Perhaps you’ve been too busy this year to get the professional development you wanted. Perhaps you’re just curious. Either way – I’m sharing my curated list, the best of the best, the things that rose to the top.

    In no particular order, here are ten things I learned this year I thought worth sharing:

    1. There Is No Hope! Darren Smith at Cima Strategic taught me to stop hoping for a project to end well. Instead, put processes in place to KNOW that it will end well. His goal: Have a “best project experience ever” – on every project. I have focused on understanding ideal outcomes from the beginning, and driving towards those more consistently.
    2. Precise Questions Matter. Bob Stocking at Vervago revealed the necessity of asking the right questions, precisely. A few simple techniques can keep even a talker like myself focused on listening with purpose. I have put into practice skills that are both more efficient and effective than the “old way” – leading to deeper conversations and more success in both sales and services delivery.
    3. Social Status is a Matter of Survival. Michelle Brown at Sentis shares how perceived social threats affect our neurochemistry, triggering base instincts and reactions rooted in the origins of humankind as a species. Becoming aware of these triggers, I have been able to re-wire my brain to handle criticism and negativity without the anxiety of before.
    4. Don’t Reject Myself. Jia Jiang at WuJu Learning, revealed how we’re so hardwired to avoid rejection, we will often reject ourselves before we allow others to reject us. Jia’s practical exercises have helped me be bolder, get over myself, and ask for more in life – and getting it.
    5. Clients Don’t Buy Me. Tim Asimos at circle S studio highlights how clients want their problems solved. I will never be an aspiration purchase, I will only be a practical part of a solution. I have begun to focus more on sharing relevant content that solves problems – and the work has followed.
    6. Communication Reduces Risk. Tim Corbett of SmartRisk presented evidence that firms that communicate effectively have a greater probability of being a “high performing firm.” These high performing firms realize dramatically increased profits and both reduced liability and liability premiums. I have begun re-engineering our services delivery process to increase the quality and frequency of client communication to drive better results.
    7. Client Journey Maps are Magic. Tania Salarvand at Valeocon showed me how to create a visual diagram that maps every step of a client interaction. Seeing all the exchanges and touch points enabled me to streamline our own client journey, launched a reorganization of our team to deliver accordingly.
    8. Client Delighters Drive Growth. Terry Reynolds at Kleinfelder shared a story of shopping at three stores one of which stood out. They surprised him with a unique approach that created real delight. It also created a new client and a sale. Terry’s experience encouraged me to look for delighters that we can insert into our processes every day.
    9. 21st Century Businesses Must be Frictionless.  Geoff Colvin at Fortune Magazine discusses the concept of “frictionless” businesses – new ways of doing old things that simplify processes – taking all the bumps out of the path. Uber revolutionized the transportation market – and continues to threaten many other established businesses. Uber works because it’s EASY for the consumer. Every week at our weekly team meeting we now discuss where our clients see friction points, and discuss ways to remove the friction.
    10. Build a Habit Forming Business. Nir Eyal from Nir and Far reveals the four step process every game-changing application employs. In a decade, Facebook grew from nothing to actively engaging 20% of the world’s people on a daily basis – ever wonder how? I have taken the core insights from Nir’s research and begun to shape both our services and our products accordingly. Our clients succeed when they develop habits of engaging with us, and we succeed when they keep coming back for more.

    I certainly learned more than these ten things – but these are the concepts, ideas, and best practices that have actually caused me to change how I approach business, leadership, and the future.

    What are the concepts you have put into practice in 2015? If you’re not already registered, join us on December 15th for a complementary webinar and share your ideas (so I know what to work on next year).

  • Do you know how much your clients value your services?

    Posted on March 4th, 2014 Ryan Suydam No comments

    As the premier feedback surveying group for the professional services industry, we
    are gathering anonymous fee and rate setting strategies from firms across the

    By taking the following poll, you will have immediate access to the data
    gathered to help you in your fee and rate setting.

    Confidential Poll
    * Required
    What do your clients really think of your fees? They think…. *
    What do your clients really think of the value you bring to solving their problems? They think… *
    When competing for jobs against other firms, what percentage of the time do you suspect that their fees are at or below their cost? *
    How often are you forced to set your fees at or below your cost? *
    This content is neither created nor endorsed by Google. Report AbuseTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy

    Interested in a final report?
    This poll will remain open for several weeks. If you would like to have the final combined results emailed to you, please send us your email.

  • Win-Win Outcomes – A&E Business Journal

    Posted on July 31st, 2012 Ryan Suydam No comments

    Read Mike Phillips’ article “Managing Your Clients For Win-Win Outcomes” in the A&E Business Journal: AE Business 2012.

    For a free copy of the entire journal, call 405-848-1111 or email

  • Marketing with Client Feedback: Transpo Group’s Winning Methods

    Posted on April 13th, 2012 Matt 1 comment

    Headquartered in Kirkland, WA with offices around the western US as well as the Middle East, Transpo Group has been providing transportation planning and engineering solutions since 1975. A firm grounded in service to both their clients and their community, they strive to treat others as they would like to be treated, and to exceed client expectations.

    Committed to service and collaboration, they were excited to partner with DesignFacilitator and use the Client Feedback Tool to learn more about the quality of their client services. By using a tool that systematically collects data on a numerical scale that can be merged and tracked over time, Transpo Group has the opportunity to see both a snapshot view of their client feedback and long term trends.

    Asking for feedback regularly gives Transpo Group the data they need to determine what practices or ideas lead to client satisfaction, and also identify areas where their process may need adjustment. Because the feedback surveys are tied to specific projects, they can pinpoint exactly where more attention is needed, and give their client a chance to offer positive feedback or voice any concerns that were not addressed in previous conversations. It offers clients an easy and comfortable way to offer their suggestions and their positive comments and praise.

    Transpo Group is using the overwhelmingly positive results of their feedback in a creative way. They periodically summarize their consistently great results, and place them into a chart posted directly onto their website. Additionally, testimonials and rave comments collected via the feedback process are displayed in rotation on the page’s side-bar. Now, when clients visit the firm’s website, they can view evidence that the firm is truly dedicated client service and strong relationships. (See adjacent image.)

    Learn more about how to incorporate client feedback into your marketing efforts by exploring our blog. Find tips on how to get your firm into the Top 3%  by both collecting and taking action on your feedback,  read Koontz Bryant’s Client Feedback Journal describing how they started using feedback to improve their business, or learn Who should be asking for feedback and why its important to do it in a way that gives your firm honest, valuable information.

  • 2011 Best Firms to Work for Summit

    Posted on September 28th, 2011 Matt No comments

    The 2011 Best Firms to Work for Summit, presented by ZweigWhite, will be held September 29-30 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.  This two-day conference will cover topics such as globalization, intergenerational dynamics, motivating and inspiring commitment, recruiting and retaining great teams, diversification strategies, and staffing and cash flow.    

    If you’re attending this event, please join Mike Phillips, Founder of DesignFacilitator, for his Thursday, September 29 2:00pm presentation: Using Strategic Feedback to Enhance Staff Performance and Retention.

    For more information on the event visit

  • Project Delivery – SHAZAM!

    Posted on September 15th, 2011 No comments

    Shazam! An exclamation we’ve all heard – but most of us (myself included until today) probably don’t know the origin. In 1973 Marvel Comics created a character who, upon shouting this word, became Captain America. Shazam has many meanings, one of which is this:

     S   The wisdom of Solomon
     H   The strength of Hercules
     A   The stamina of Atlas
     Z   The power of Zeus
     A   The courage of Achilles
     M   The speed of Mercury

    Now what does Shazam! have to do with project delivery?  Well, who wouldn’t want a little Shazam! in their projects?  Wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage, and speed – what if we could purposefully and systematically introduce a little of these on every project we touched?

    Don’t go into your next project scheduling meeting and shout Shazam! while wearing a cape (though if you do, please let me know how it goes).  Instead, learn what some thought leaders in the A/E/C industry have been doing to bring about real, meaningful, and valuable change to entrenched project delivery methods – with results that have Shazam! impacts for everyone involved.

    In 2003 DesignFacilitator grew out of a small A/I firm looking for ways to do things better.  We developed a body of knowledge using client feedback to help project delivery firms continuously improve.  As we encountered more and more organizations who were looking for ways to do things better, with better results, and with better value for both clients and themselves, we began to find other thought leaders doing different, but equally amazing things.

    One group leading the charge with a big dose of Shazam! is the Lean Construction Institute.  Don’t let the name fool you – they spend as much focus on the design and engineering processes as they do construction.   The lean movement takes the many lessons learned in manufacturing (as pioneered by Toyota) and other industries, and applies them to every day projects.  This amazingly innovative and yet necessarily practical group of people continue to discuss, promote, and operate design and construction processes that cut costs and schedule by huge margins, while increasing product quality and consistency.  And they do all this with a keen focus on maximizing value to the clients.

    For the last year, DesignFacilitator has sponsored LCI and been actively involved in both their national Congress and many regional events.  If you are not yet aware of Lean Construction, or the ideas behind Continuous Improvement – I invite you to join us October 3-7th in Pasadena, CA at the 2011 LCI National Congress.   An introductory day outlines the key concepts of Lean, followed by two days of real-world case studies from architects, engineers,  contractors, and owners; followed by a fourth day of specialized break-out sessions.

    DesignFacilitator and LCI co-sponsor Newforma will be hosting a 3-hour breakout session on Friday, October 7th to discuss real-world software tools that are helping firms around the world bring a little Shazam! to their projects.  You’ll hear from actual users and be able to participate in brainstorming sessions to help define a “state of the industry” approach for innovative project delivery.  We will demonstrate our Client Feedback Tool and how the process of Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) helps everyone in your organization constantly adjust to meet client expectations.  Newforma will demonstrate their Project Center and highlight the value opportunities found in Project Information Management (PIM).

    If you are able to join us, please register here – admission is free to Congress attendees (register separately for the Congress here).

    Those who can’t make the trip can’t afford to miss this required reading, and learn how a little Shazam! can change your project delivery for the better.

  • The Client Feedback Tool and the Lean Construction Institute

    Posted on May 26th, 2011 Matt No comments

    DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool is one of two Sustaining Sponsors of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), the premier worldwide organization for firms practicing or interested in implementing continuous improvement strategies.

    We hope you can join us at LCI’s national event, the Lean Design Forum, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; June 9-10.

    Here’s more from LCI Executive Director Dick Bayer:

    Join us for 2 days of in-depth dialogue on Lean design and construction philosophy and methodologies. Hear from national leaders in design and construction who have been implementing lean thinking and integrated project delivery methods specifically related to design and the participation of designers throughout the life of a project. Meeting format will include both presentations, workshops and question + answer periods.

    Presentations will include: Todd Henderson from Boulder Associates to reprise Romano Nickerson’s presentation to the Nor-Cal COP on integrating lean into a design practice; Stacey Root, also from Boulder Associates reprising her presentation in Cincinnati last year on the team approach they took on the Van Ness California Medical Office Building; Kevin Kerschbaum of HGA discussing contemporaneous modeling of post-op and emergency care for Affinity in Wisconsin.

    We’ll be discussing the role of Lean principles in Design in the workshop on Friday.  The purpose is to begin a robust conversation in the community about design.  However, we need to tap into our resources on this subject from around the country so we won’t be developing a specific, adoptable document that defines or tries to define the role of lean principles in design. Structural engineers, mechanical system designers, architects, city planners – all are important to a great diversity of ideas on how the creative process we call design is informed by lean principles.

    Registration details are at: 

  • Client Feedback Tool Testimonial – Cara Phillips

    Posted on February 4th, 2011 Matt No comments

    We interviewed Cara Phillips of Phillips Architecture about her use of the Client Feedback Tool.  Cara is Principal and COO, and has been using the Feedback Tool for four years.

  • When Clients are Your Biggest Problem

    Posted on December 28th, 2009 No comments
    When Clients are Your Biggest Problem

    We give seminars all over the country about feedback and it’s impact on professional services firms, their clients, and the industry.  We often ask a fun question:

    What is your biggest problem?

    Every seminar we pose this question, a large percentage of the audience quickly and simultaneously chime in “THE CLIENTS!”

    The audience says this in jest, but the notion is rooted in truth.  Too many professionals have the attitude that it’s clients that make our life so difficult.  That somehow, if we could just get the client out of the way, we could really do some good work.  The client hires us to solve their problem, then we commandeer their problem and turn it into our project.  No wonder why clients are our biggest challenge – they don’t care about our project at all!  All they care about is their problem.

    Whose agenda are we serving when we preempt the client and claim a project?  Many architects are talking about “green” everything.  Many try to be environmentally sensitive on all their projects – even if it costs more.  Is that really what the client wants?  Or, is your social conscience to save the planet costing your client the only “green” he cares about?  Don’t get me wrong – green is good, and it often can save a lot of money.  But if your client’s problem is a budget that’s too thin – green should only be a consideration where it saves him money.  Use green strategies to solve his problems, not to create new ones!

    The same thing applies with any variable on the project.   Our preferences for quality, aesthetic, budget, social conscious – they really shouldn’t matter.  In order to maximize our value to clients, we need to focus doggedly on their needs and preferences, not ours.  We need to demonstrate an awareness of the client’s problem, and demonstrate that we care enough to solve it.

    The thing is, we can’t actually know our clients’ preferences if we’re not asking!  Even worse – their preferences change!  Their problem is not static, but constantly shifting, evolving, and responding to a vast matrix of variables and external influences often beyond control.  How can we possibly get the project right without constantly seeking to understand the evolving nature of the original problem as presented?

    You can’t, of course.   We need conversation, communication, and feedback throughout the project life-cycle.  Feedback allows us to identify when we’ve gone off track and made the project ours.  Feedback makes known the changing parameters of the client’s problem.   Feedback keeps us focused on the client’s problem, let’s him see our focus, and truly maximizes our value.

    Imagine what business would be like if we truly embraced the clients’ problems and became their expert problem solver, instead of just another problem they had to manage?

  • When People Think Cheap

    Posted on December 21st, 2009 No comments
    When People Think Cheap

    When you are busy – and busy making money – you don’t have time to deal with aspects of life that are outside your realm of expertise.  Why would you change your own oil to save $10, when you’re busy making more money than that working?  Instead, you head to the local quick lube pay a little extra, and catch up on phone calls and email on your mobile while someone else does the dirty work.  That is so 2007.

    As 2009 rolls out, we’ve seen a very different attitude.  In the A/E/C industry (and others), the amount of available work ground to a halt.  Almost everyone slowed down.  Almost everyone had extra time.  They didn’t have enough work to fill the hours they were hired to work.  One result – dramatic plunges in profitability.

    When profits drop, you try to economize.  When people aren’t busy making money, they will often try to stay busy saving expenses.  Insourcing, rather than hiring experts where appropriate.  If you don’t have phone calls to make and emails to catch up on, why pay someone to change your oil?  You’d just be sitting in the reception area waiting.  Instead, you put on some grubby clothes, head to the auto parts store, and you save yourself $10.

    Whatever your profession, your clients have likely done the same thing.  In the boom, they scurried around with more to do than time to do it.  With all the deals going on, money was flowing, so the easiest solution to getting work done was to hire you, the expert, to do it.  Now, with deals drying up, your clients have time to do parts of your job for themselves.  Not only is there less work overall, but less of the available work filters down to you.

    Your value has changed.  In the “old days” a key part of your value was simply ability and availability.  You could do the work, and do it well enough to be worth the price you charged, relative to competitors.  Now, you have a new competitor – the client!  Your value pitch has to focus on how giving work to you is actually more cost effective than doing it on their own.  When you change your own oil, do you do a 24 point inspection?  Do you check all the fluids, lubricate the chassis, etc?  What effect will it have on your car to NOT do those things?  Besides, do you like to change your own oil, or are you just trying to save a buck?

    You’ve got to understand the same case with your clients.  What are they doing (or trying to do) without you, that you used to do for them?  What are they doing, that they really wish you would do for them again?  Have you asked?  They may not only need help doing something, but might need help justifying to their boss why it’s more valuable and cost effective for you to do it instead.  Have you helped your client understand all the ways you can help them save money, and helped him give you the work?  Have you helped your client understand the risks of not employing an expert do to things that really need an expert to do well?