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Product News by Forms + Surfaces, Victor Stanley, ANOVA, and Topos

11/15/2016

ASLA Survey Reveals Tepid Conditions for Landscape Architecture Firms

Billable hours and inquiries for new work decline; hiring plans weaken.

Economic conditions have softened for landscape architecture firms, according to the latest American Society of Landscape Architects’ Business Quarterly survey. During the third quarter of 2016, firms reported a decrease in billable hours and inquiries for new work, with plans to hire also softening from the previous quarter.

However, a comparison of survey results with third-quarter numbers from the last four years shows that business conditions remained consistently within range as firms headed into the fourth quarter of 2016.

The survey found 78.38 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, a drop from the 82.67 percent the previous quarter. This result is also a step back from what had been reported for the third quarters of 2013 (80.6 percent), 2014 (84.18 percent) and 2015 (83.4 percent). It is much higher than the 70.9 percent reported during the third quarter of 2012.

Some 80.33 percent stated that inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher during the third quarter of 2016, a slight decrease from the 81.03 percent the previous quarter. This result is also a drop—but still within range—from what had been reported for the third quarters of 2014 (83.89 percent) and 2015 (81.56 percent). It is higher than what had been reported for the third quarters of 2012 (70.7 percent) and 2013 (78 percent). 

Year to year, 80.44 percent of firms said that billable hours were stable to significantly higher. This result is about the same for what had been reported for the third quarter of 2013 (80 percent), and a slight drop from the third quarters of 2015 (81.3 percent) and 2014 (82.38 percent). It is much higher than what had been reported for the third quarter of 2012 (73.4 percent).

Year to year, 81.97 percent of respondents said that third quarter inquiries for new work were stable to significantly higher. This result is a drop from what had been reported for the third quarters of 2013 (84.7 percent), 2014 (86.1 percent) and 2015 (84.52 percent). It is higher than what had been reported for the third quarter of 2012 (77.5 percent).

Less than half the firms with two or more employees (47.95 percent) said they plan to hire during the fourth quarter of 2016, a noticeable drop from the second quarter 2016 survey (51.2 percent), but still far higher than what had been recorded for the third quarter surveys of 2012 (23.17 percent) and 2013 (40 percent). It is about the same as what had been reported for the third quarter of 2014 (48.06 percent) and 2015 (48 percent). Some 83.33 percent of firms with 50 to 99 employees say they will hire either an experienced landscape architect or an entry-level landscape architect.

The survey also revisited questions from the third quarter 2013 survey about firms’ use of social media for business purposes. The majority of firms with two or more employees (70.67 percent) indicated that they use social media to support corporate business strategies, a marked rise from the 52.7 percent in 2013. Some 56.67 percent agreed that social media have the potential to transform all aspects of their firms' business, including branding, marketing, strategic analysis, and outreach, compared to the 52.3 percent from 2013. However, many firms (48.98 percent) still do not use social media to analyze potential new business, risks to business activities, and to measure practice performance, a decrease from the 55.8 percent reported in 2013.

The top reasons why firms use social media include advertising (57.36 percent), interacting with clients (55.04 percent), and researching competitors (51.94 percent). These rankings show big gains from the 2013 survey: advertising (42.0 percent), interacting with clients (45.4 percent), and researching competitors (37.0 percent).

The most popular social media platforms used by firms continue to be LinkedIn (90.37 percent), Facebook (77.04 percent), and Twitter (37.78 percent). This top three has\ve remained the same since 2013: LinkedIn (84.6 percent), Facebook (64.8 percent), and Twitter (30.8 percent). 

Fewer firms (53.02 percent) do not collect metrics or summary information from their social media accounts, compared to what had been reported in 2013 (68.1 percent).

Key Survey Highlights:
Compared to the second quarter 2016, your third quarter 2016 billable hours were (all firms):

Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.14%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 28.65%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 34.59%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 12.97%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 8.65%

Compared to the second quarter 2016, your third quarter 2016 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.30%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 27.87%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 37.16%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 12.02%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 7.65%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2015, your third quarter 2016 billable hours were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 19.02%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 32.07%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 29.35%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.33%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.24%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2015, your third quarter 2016 inquiries for new work were (all firms):
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.30%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 27.87%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 38.80%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.48%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.56%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the fourth quarter of 2016 (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 23.29%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 17.81%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 10.27%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 11.64%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 15.07%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 8.90%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 52.05%

Does your firm use social media to support corporate business strategies (filtered for firms with two or more employees)?
Yes – 70.67%
No – 28.0%
Not sure – 1.33%

Social media have the potential to transform all aspects of my firm's business, including branding, marketing, strategic analysis, and outreach (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees).
Agree – 56.67%
Disagree – 13.33%
Not sure – 30.0%

My firm monitors social media to analyze potential new business, risks to business activities, and measure practice performance (filtered for firms with two or more employees).
Yes – 42.18%
No – 48.98%
Not sure – 8.84%

My firm uses social media for the following activities (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees):
Interact with clients – 55.04%
Advertise – 57.36%
Research clients – 48.84%
Research potential new business – 44.96%
Research competitors – 51.94%
Research new products and services – 44.96%
Communicate with employees and other stakeholders – 42.64%

My firm uses the following social media platforms (multiple answers filtered for firms with two or more employees):
LinkedIn – 90.37%
Facebook – 77.04%
Twitter – 37.78%
Instagram – 22.96%
Pinterest – 21.48%
YouTube/Vimeo – 16.30%
Google+ - 18.52%
Snapchat – 2.22
Tumblr – 0.0%
Vine – 0.74%

My firm collects metrics and summary information from social media (filtered for firms with two or more employees).
Yes – 31.54%
No – 53.02%
Not sure – 15.44%

About the Survey
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey asks quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries, and hiring plans. The survey is not intended to be statistically significant but instead provides a snapshot of the landscape architecture industry. The Q3 2016 national survey was fielded October 3 to October 17, 2016, with 188 primary firm contacts responding.

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