Updates from ASLA

ASLA 2021 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Ghost Wash. Paradise Valley, AZ. COLWELL SHELOR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE >

Taking Care of Business

Members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) were recently surveyed on a number of topics, with questions created with member input gathered at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, on social media, by email, and through comments on The Field. Responses were varied and included many insightful comments and suggestions, which will be shared and discussed with everyone here over the next few months, and also used to spark ideas for ASLA Online Learning webinars and posts for The Field.

In addition to being a highly creative and aesthetically focused design field, landscape architecture also has an important flip side: the business of design. To give our members a chance to share their favorite tips for success, we asked them for one key piece of business advice on how to do well in landscape architecture. A few key words that appeared again and again include: flexibility, adaptability, listening and communication skills, and a love of learning.

Lifelong Learning
• “Absorb everything.”
• “Always pay attention to places you visit - there are always ideas or something to learn from others.
• “Always seek new skills/training.”
• “Get licensed and sharpen your skills in collaborating with engineers and architects as an equal
• “Never stop experimenting, keep learning, and evaluate the outcome of your designs.”
• “Push your creativity.”
• “READ, and show up and be amenable to learning many new things every day.”
• “Remain curious and mentally invested in the future. This is what will keep you afloat and relevant.”
• “Travel.”

Cultivate Versatility
• “Be diverse in the type of projects you work on.”
• “Be flexible; be passionate but don't be married to a single design solution.”
• “Continue to learn as much as you can - develop a diverse set of skills.”
• “Diversify your skills and do not get locked into one niche of the design philosophy.”
• “Mix it up - public, private, non-profit.”
• “Put yourself out there and don't be afraid to show that you know just as much—if not more—than architects and engineers sometimes.”
• “Retain mix of public and private clients.”
• “Seek a variety of professional experience during the internship years—work with a design/build firm, a multi-disciplinary firm, a small landscape architecture firm, a public agency, etc. Find out where your special interests lie so that you gain a better understanding of your professional potential.”
• “Start with grass roots design. Get a good base and don't be in a hurry to specialize too soon.”

Do What You Love
• “Communicate your passion.”
• “Do what you love; people will see your passion about it and will want to hire you.”
• “Find the area you love and do it.”
• “Pick an aspect you love and become better at it than anyone else.”
• “Remember that it IS a business - in addition to being our passion!”

Be Consistent and Persistent
• “90 percent of business is showing up. Do what you say you were going to do. If you can't do something, say that...”
• “Be persistent, resilient and embrace change.”
• “Being reliable is one of the most important keys to success.”
• “Build a brand for your work.”
• “Make connections and get out there! Try and try again.”
• “Need to be thorough in preparing construction documents—do not assume contractor will do what you intend.”
• “Never give up! Keep your chin up and forge ahead no matter how many times you get knocked down.”

Work Well with Others (Both Colleagues and Clients)
• “Always be willing to compromise and never stop listening.”
• “Be a team leader, listen to all input and share the gifts that you have.”
• “Be patient, humble and kind in your ways...let your skills, past work, and creative design thought do the talking...and consequently I believe you will become well liked by your peers and you will (should) feel good about yourself.”
• “Be true to your own beliefs and collaborate with others who share your values.”
• “Communicate to all those you work for or with honestly, respectfully, often humorously and as often as needed to keep all concerned up on important project information and ideas from budget to design details.”
• “Don't let pride prevent a good design from forming—it's important to listen to others even if you think you have the best idea.”
• “Find the most talented people, and then do everything you can to support those people and help them succeed. When others succeed, you succeed.”
• “Learn how to communicate constructively with all types of people and confront issues before they become a problem.”
• “Listen, respond and respect those around you.”
• “Show clients and collaborating team members respect and warmth.”
• “What we do is ultimately about people, directly or indirectly, and to succeed we must recognize that the human and environment relationship must be in harmony.”

Be Client-Focused
• “Be a good listener when talking to your clients.”
• “Do what you do so well that your clients provide you with referrals.”
• “Focus on providing the best service possible to your clients.”
• “Learn the construction end and plants. Speaking to clients, these are always questions that come up and clients appreciate the expertise with details.”
• “Listen to the client’s vision/dream and bring it to life...”
• “Listen to your clients, which may consist of individuals, corporations, governments or someone else. Listen to their needs and build from their vision or requests. The client’s needs should come before your own portfolio needs.”
• “Provide creative solutions that respond to the client's needs.”
• “Scope. Be mindful of it! And proactively manage client and community expectations.”
• “Treat clients with honesty and respect yet challenge them as well.”

Understand the Business of Design
• “Be an owner and hire LA's. Learn to be profitable and get projects completed on time and on budget. Profitability keeps the doors open. Everyone wants to be a designer, an artist, a creator but virtually no one understands that if there are no profits there is no design and there is no firm.”
• “Be good at what you do. Be sure the client knows your value. Charge a price which reflects the value you bring to the solution.”
• “Be vocal; stand up for what we know we can do as a profession. Don't let others dictate what we can and cannot do.”
• “Don't undervalue services.”
• “Find a good civil engineer and surveyor with which you can partner so that you offer a full site plan package.”
• “Focus on VALUE ADDED. Don't just design a park or office campus or etc. —focus on designing EXPERIENCES.”
• “I am in design/build. I would say have craftsmanship that is over the top and better than anyone else.”
• “Learn how to be a fantastic marketer and client service leader.”
• “Understand how national, regional, and local statutes, regulations, and the policy environment long term effect short term design decisions. Those are the areas that determine what funds and opportunities are potentially available for those who are designers.”

Building Relationships
• “Build long lasting relationships.”
• “Build your relationships and network.”
• “Have a great attitude and listen to others! Having good collaborative working relationships is your best asset.”
• “Invest time in knowing your subjects; be prepared to build friendships and partnerships to help achieve a better world.”
• “Market, market, market—build relationships and the projects will come.”
• “Network with and educate allied professionals—architects and engineers in particular. Once they come to understand what you provide, they'll never do a project without you.”
• “Network with other professionals.”

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