Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer 2020

May 11 is Ziti Day!

Ziti celebrated her one-year anniversary with us on May 11, 2020. She got her annual shots and weighed in at 30 pounds, exceeding earlier predictions of 26 pounds. Ziti’s vet is conveniently next door to the office, and new COVID-19 rules mean we have to call them at the front door, and they take her away for her exam and then return her while we wait outside. On a nice day, many people wait outside instead of in their cars. Ziti has taken to barking at some of them, probably because faces covered by masks and sunglasses just don’t look right to her!

Ziti as she appeared on May 12, right after her annual exam.

Scioto Southland Community Center is Open!

Construction on the renovation and addition to the Indian Mound Recreation Center, renamed the Scioto Southland Community Center, did slow down with the onset of COVID-19 but is now almost complete. The parking lot was paved at the end of April, and the contractors are just correcting items on the punch list. When recreation centers were allowed to open at the end of May, staff slowly started moving in and setting up. The facility is partially open for structured programs they had previously committed to, but it is not yet open to the general public.

Overall exterior view, with the original gym at the left, next to the new entry spine.
      On the left is the new entry lobby with plentiful natural light. On the right is the existing gym that was saved and refurbished, with new windows and seating.

Construction Commences on Columbus City Schools Restroom Project

HDC has been reviewing shop drawings and submittals for the project, and the first of the weekly construction progress meetings was held on-site in mid-June at Winterset Elementary School. Each week the team will meet at a different location to view construction progress until the project is completed in early August. The construction contract is being led by Tommy Bocook of Bomar Construction Company, which is working on several restroom packages this summer.

      Left: The old partitions at Winterset Elementary School have been removed and accessories stockpiled for reinstallation on new partitions. Right: The doors on the terrazzo stalls at Hamilton STEM school have been removed, leaving the panels ready for cleaning.

Gardner Homestead Roof Work is Complete

Construction on the first phase of the Flint Cemetery Office / Gardner Homestead rehabilitation project is complete. Steller Construction LLC of Powell completed work on the attic structural reinforcement and new roof, gutters, downspouts, soffits, fascia, and rafter tails. The firm had previously worked on the chimney flashing repair and removal of the bathroom addition, and it hopes to be able to complete the remaining two phases of the project.

      On the left is the south side elevation of the Gardner Homestead. On the right is a detail of the completed soffit, fascia, gutter, and downspout.

Ziti in the Office and at Home

Since Ziti is so friendly, people have wondered how anyone can get anything done when she’s in the office. In reality, if everyone sits still and works at their desk, then Ziti is content to take a nap in her bed. Once people start moving around, the cattle dog in her kicks in and she wants to herd everyone around. When we’re working in the garden, Ziti constantly runs back and forth checking that we’re still where she left us. This also happens if one of us is upstairs and the other is downstairs.

Click HERE to watch the video of Ziti going nose-to-nose with a doe that has been following her around for the past two weeks on her midday walk at the office. Neighbors think the doe seems lonely and Ziti may remind her of a fawn.

      Left: Ziti declares NO PUPARRAZI in the office–go back to work! Right: It’s OK to pose for planting season on the weekend.

Spring 2020

Hardlines Design Company Celebrates 30th Anniversary While Working Through COVID-19

Hardlines Design Company will celebrate its 30th anniversary on April 28. In the history of the company, it seems that recessions come every 10 years or so. When HDC was founded in 1990 during the 1990-1991 recession when architectural firms were not hiring recent architecture school graduates. HDC weathered the bust in 2000-2002 and then survived the Great Recession of 2008-2011. Right on schedule, HDC is now in the midst of an economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since an open house celebration is not possible, we are celebrating with the release of a 30th anniversary logo:

Fortunately, HDC’s employees have experience working from home and most of our project work (CAD drafting, writing specifications, preparing cost estimates) can be completed while working remotely. Company president Charissa Durst is the only person coming to the office on a regular basis in order to check the server backups, get mail, deposit checks, make payroll, and resolve any technical issues staff working from home may encounter. However, Charissa isn’t stuck in the office by herself — Ziti has also stayed on her same work schedule!

Ziti doesn’t have much to do except lounge around since there’s no one around to greet.

HDC Continues with QuieterHome® Project in Louisville, Kentucky

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that certain homes around the Louisville International Airport may be eligible for sound insulation improvements to minimize aircraft noise inside the home. The Louisville Regional Airport Authority (LRAA), working with the FAA and C&S Engineers, has created the QuieterHome® Program to administer these improvements. HDC has been working with C&S Engineers on this project since 2007, and recently surveyed homes for historic and/or architectural significance located in Group 8 of the project area. The properties are mostly single-family, bungalow-style homes built in the 1920s and 1930s, of varying levels of historic integrity.

Left: A bungalow rendered almost unrecognizable by additions and alterations. Right: A brick bungalow with good integrity.

Columbus City Schools Commissions Hardlines for Restroom Improvement Project

In December 2019, Columbus City Schools commissioned HDC to prepare construction documents for restroom improvements in six schools: Cassady Elementary School, Hamilton STEM School, Mifflin High School, Mifflin Middle School, Salem Elementary School and Winterset Elementary School. Since construction can be completed only over the summer when school is not in session, the HDC team quickly surveyed and submitted documents for review in January and February. The project was bid in March with a construction contract to be awarded in May. Construction is scheduled to start in June and be completed in August before the students return to their classrooms. Bid numbers were good and all alternates will be awarded!

Drawing for one of the elementary school restroom improvements.

Construction on Devon Pool Mechanical Building to Start Soon

After the Devon Pool Bath House replacement was completed in May 2019, HDC began working with the City of Upper Arlington to design the replacement of the pool equipment buildings. The north building was constructed in the 1930s for the original pool, and the south building went up in the late 1960s when the city added the diving well. Both buildings are wood-frame structures sitting on concrete-foundation walls that also serve as retaining walls for the pool deck along Coventry Road. To meet budget and schedule constraints, HDC’s design includes retaining the existing foundations and removing only the wood-frame portions of the buildings and replacing them with masonry structures. The space between the buildings is being enclosed to create inside storage space. A new wing at the north end will house a new pool heater for the main pool. As part of this project, the city is also replacing some pool equipment that is near the end of its life cycle. The construction contract is anticipated to be approved in April, but construction will not start until mid-August when school begins and the pool season ends. The new mechanical building will be operational in time for the 2021 pool season, which will start on Memorial Day weekend.
Drawing of the west (pool side) elevation of the new Devon Pool equipment building.

Ziti Deals with Social Distancing by Going to the Park

The mandate for social distancing has canceled Ziti’s agility classes, and she hasn’t been able to run and wrestle with her usual doggie friends in the neighborhood. But, all that energy must go somewhere! Our solution has been to take her to the park no matter the weather and go to the more remote sections if the weather is nice. We’ve never seen so many people walking in these parks before! We are keeping our fingers crossed that all parks continue to remain open during the pandemic, or Ziti will really go stir crazy!

Left: Ziti at Tar Hollow State Park, one of the least visited parks in Ohio. Right: Ziti splashes through a flooded trail at a metro park.
When home, Ziti sure enjoys watching videos of herself!

Click HERE to watch the video shown on the TV above of Ziti chasing balls on empty tennis courts during a cold weekend.

Winter 2019

Click here for the HDC holiday greeting

Woodward Opera House Project Receives OHPO Award!

Each year, the State Historic Preservation Office recognizes achievements in historic preservation by presenting awards in Public Education and Awareness, and Preservation Merit. The Woodward Opera House project received a Preservation Merit award at a lunch reception on October 19, 2019, at the Ohio History Center in Columbus. Completion of this rehabilitation project was 25 years in the making, starting with the creation of two non-profit groups to own and operate the property, many grants and donations that enabled work to the first floor and exterior to commence, and finally the creation of a for-profit partnership and successful utilization of the historic tax credits that enabled completion of work to the upper floor theaters. In January of this year, the theatre saw its first performance in nearly 100 years. And an unexpected visitor, Susan Woodward, great-granddaughter of the man who originally opened the venue, attended. Click here to read about all of 2019’s award winners.

The Woodward Opera House project team: Jim Demsky (Korda Engineering), Sandy Crow (Woodward Development Corporation ), Pat Crow (Woodward Development Corporation), Patrick Crow, Jr. (Woodward Development Corporation), Jay Panzer (Facility Strategies Ltd.), Fred Hall (Modern Builders), Richard Mavis (Mayor of Mount Vernon), Steve Hall (Modern Builders), Burt Logan (Ohio State Historic Preservation Officer), and Charissa Durst (Hardlines Design Company)

American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) Conference Has Interesting Side Trip Sites

The 2019 ACRA national conference took place October 24-26 in Spokane, Washington, in the historic Davenport Hotel. HDC resident Charissa Durst attended as a board member, chair of the awards committee, and served s one of the panelists who spoke about the first 25 years of the organization. Don Durst flew to Spokane after the final event on the 26th, and the two went sightseeing on Sunday before flying back to Columbus on Monday.

Left: The grand lobby of the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane.
Right: The grand Doges Room was removed from the original building and reinstalled in the hotel’s addition.

Left: One of the multiple wooden train trestles that dot northern Idaho.
Right: The Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho. Don and Charissa did not spend the night but picked up a wooden beagle sculpture by the artist who started the bed and breakfast in 1997.

Addition to Belmont Correctional Institution Paper Packing Plant Completed

HDC was commissioned by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to design an addition to an existing toilet paper packing plant operated by Ohio Prison Industries (OPI). The facility takes gigantic rolls of toilet paper and turns them into individual rolls of paper that are then sold to other prisons throughout Ohio and other states. OPI has been extremely successful and after receiving contracts with additional states, needed to expand its warehouse space so it could move materials out of the main plant to make room for another machine to assemble the individual rolls. At OPI’s request, the expansion was made as large as possible within the confines of the existing loading dock and proximity to the perimeter road and wall. The floor structure spanned an underground electrical vault, and the loading dock was reconfigured to be more efficient. The addition features a tall space with a shorter connector to the main building, which allowed clerestory windows to light the space and did not touch the existing roof, which was being replaced under a separate contract.

Left: Interior view showing clerestory windows high on the wall. Right: Interior of the loading dock that is now under roof.

Rehabilitation of the Gardner Homestead Moved Forward

After completing the master plan to convert the house into offices for the Flint Cemetery, HDC is now preparing bidding documents for Phase 1, which will replace the asphalt shingle roof, reinforce the attic structure, and demolish the modern rear porch addition. Since the Cemetery board opted to retain the two existing garage buildings, the new asphalt shingle roof on the main house will match that of the existing support buildings. News of the rehabilitation was also featured in Worthington News, the local weekly newspaper.

Southeast corner of the Gardner house.

Ziti Starts Taking Puppy Agility Classes!

With her energy level, it is painfully obvious that Ziti needs a job. As a result, Don Durst enrolled her in a puppy agility class with ARF (Agility for Rally and Fun) that meets Wednesday evenings in Gahanna. Ziti does OK on the basic fast and slow heel around the room (she’d rather sniff the floor), and she does very good on coming when called. She’s not so great at the exercises designed to strengthen her core muscles, such as walking backwards, sitting up to beg (she’d rather stand), and the equivalent of a doggie push up: a series of sit, down and stand commands one after another. Ziti, however, is happiest when using the actual apparatus: leaping on the balance board, walking across elevated beams, jumping through tires and running through tunnels.

Don gets Ziti ready to run through the tunnel.

Ziti has also taken to going on outings to Prairie Oaks Metro Park, especially on a sunny day.

Left: Ziti now walks elevated logs with ease — good training for the agility course! Right: Ziti photobombs a landscape shot at Prairie Oaks Metro Park that Don was in the process of setting up.



Summer 2019

HDC President Charissa Durst Presents at SIA Chicago Conference

For the first time in 15 years, Charissa Durst attended the Society of Industrial Archaeology Conference, held this year in Chicago in June. This conference was more personal than usual, as Charissa also took her mother — who was visiting for several weeks from Nevada — with her to the conference. Charissa and her mom attended the Friday tour called “Energy Research and the Nuclear Age” that visited the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. On another personal note, the tour was selected in memory of Charissa’s father, Hai-Boh Wang, who passed away in January. Dr. Wang was a structural engineer who designed nuclear power plant containment shells and retired from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2004. On Saturday, Charissa presented a paper titled “Putting the ‘Cold’ in the Cold War: Nose Dock Hangars of Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska,” based on the HABS/HAER documentation of the last remaining 1946-1947 hangar designed for the B-29 on the base. The conferenced wrapped up Saturday evening with a banquet at the Lost Marsh Golf Club, built on the site of an old steel mill, in Hammond, Indiana, and coincidentally in the town where Charissa was born.

View from the top of Wilson Hall at Fermilab National Accelerator
The Gammasphere at Argonne National Laboratory, which was featured in an Incredible Hulk movie

Roofing Work Underway at Five Oaks Historic Home

The red slate roof on the Five Oaks Historic Home in Massillon has been a key character-defining feature since the house was constructed in 1895. It is New York Red slate, one of the world’s rarest and most expensive slates due to its exceptional high quality and life span. After enduring 124 years on this roof, the slates show no deterioration, no surface spalling, no crumbling or softening, and they sound with a clear ring when held in the air and hit with a hard object. Since the slate could easily last another 50 to 100 years, HDC’s project is designed to retain the majority of the existing slate, make minor repairs and replace damaged slate. Red slate native to the west side of the porte-cochere was removed to use as replacement slate on the highly visible main roof. Inappropriate Pennsylvania gray slate was removed from the porte-cochere, and the roofing contractor was able to find salvaged red slate that was an excellent match to use on the less visible porte-cochere roof. The project also includes replacing copper valleys, gutters and flashings at the six chimneys and two turrets.

The built-in gutters at the North Turret were relined with copper.
Detail of stone scupper and copper gutter at the North Turret.
Detail of copper cricket wrapping around one of the many sandstone lion sculptures.

Devon Pool Bath House Opens on Memorial Day Weekend!

After almost 10 months of construction, the Devon Pool Bath House opened on Memorial Day weekend with a ribbon cutting for the 2019 swim season. The new Bath House features an expanded office area, which includes a pool manager’s office, staff break room, staff restroom, and first aid area. The locker rooms feature an increased number of toilets and lavatories to meet building code and skylights for natural daylighting, plus the addition of a family restroom. The concessions area, previously a separate shack, was brought up to health code with a grease interceptor, 3-compartment sink, and custom worktable. Between the concessions and Bath House is a large storage room, and between the office area and locker rooms is a covered entry area with service windows under exposed decorative trusses and skylights.

Upper Arlington council member Carolyn T. Casper cuts the ribbon along with attending children on May 25, 2019.
Devon Pool Bath House with offices at right, locker rooms in the center, and concessions at left.
Covered entry area featuring decorative wood trusses, exposed decking, and skylights

A Columbus Carriage House Tells a Story with a Tragic Ending

In March, HDC was commissioned to prepare HABS level documentation of a carriage house at 602 E. Town Street. Charissa Durst and photographer Jeff Bates shot the exterior and interior of the first floor (the second floor was unsafe to access), and Charissa researched the history of the building, which was in poor structural condition and scheduled for demolition. This large Stick Style carriage house was originally associated with a house (now demolished) constructed in 1888 for James Kilbourne, a successful businessman and grandson of the founder of the city of Worthington. James Kilbourne was born in 1842, one of five children of Lincoln Kilbourne and his wife Jane. James had a brilliant mind and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Kenyon College before the age of 21. Upon leaving Kenyon in 1862, James volunteered and enlisted as a private in Company A of the Ohio 84th Infantry Regimen. He distinguished himself in multiple Civil War campaigns in the west, rising to the rank of captain. He was made a brevet colonel and was addressed as Colonel Kilbourne for the remainder of his life. After the war, James earned a law degree from Harvard Law School but elected to help run his father’s hardware and railroad supplies store.

He married Anna Bancroft Wright, and they settled in a house (still standing) down the street at 550 E. Town Street. James left his father’s store in 1886 to form Kilbourne & Jacobs Manufacturing Co., which made construction equipment such as road scrapers, wheelbarrows, steel sinks and trucks. Two years later, he moved into the new house at 604 E. Town Street and remained there for the rest of his life. The company was phenomenally successful, capitalized at $100,000 in 1886 and grew to more than $1 million by 1900. James and Anna had two children, and his son worked in the business with him. The years during and after World War I saw labor unrest, high wages, and escalating income tax rates. James died in the summer of 1919, and his son Lincoln tragically passed away two months later. With the loss of two owners in one year, the Kilbourne & Jacobs Manufacturing Co. descended into bankruptcy by 1923. The bankruptcy occurred just one year after the untimely death of James’ daughter Alice in 1922, leaving his widow Anna to weather the tragedies alone. Anna sold the house in 1923 and lived the remaining two years of her life in a room at the Seneca Hotel. The house was demolished to construct the Chateau De Ville Luxury Apartments, which opened in 1932 with 13 one- and two-bedroom units.

Southwest corner of the carriage house at 602 E. Town Street in Columbus.
Chateau De Ville apartment building built on the site of the original house at 604 E. Town Street.

Click here for a copy of the report.

HDC Welcomes Ziti…the Beagle*

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Charissa Durst brought home a 9½-week-old beagle-hound mix* from Tails of Hope in Cincinnati. She was one of four females in a litter of seven from a beagle-hound mix mother named Cinnamon. All of the puppies were named after spices, and this one was named Ginger. Charissa and Don tried out the name Ginger for the weekend but decided that Ziti suited her, and she responded better to it. Ziti had never been outside before and had never seen grass, so persuading her to do her business outside has been quite a challenge.

Ziti looking stoic on her first day outside.
Six weeks later, Ziti climbs walls like a pro at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

*Ziti’s DNA test reveals that she is only 37.5% beagle, with 12.5% being American Staffordshire Terrier and 12.5% being Australian Cattle Dog. The remaining 37.5% is considered “other.” What will the puppy be? Ziti’s ears tell the whole story:

Will she be a Beagle?
Or a Terrier?
Maybe a Cattle Dog?
Probably, just Confused and Undecided!

Researching Historic Buildings with Sanborn Maps

If you’re interested in researching the history of an older building, you might be happy to find that quite a few free resources are available to you, both online and at local public libraries and government offices. Although free to the public, some of these resources are not well known. One important source of information that may be overlooked is the Sanborn Fire Insurance map collection.

Partial Sanborn map image for Columbus in 1887 (left) and 1922 (right)

First produced in 1867 by the Sanborn Insurance Company to assess the risks of buildings, Sanborn maps provide a snapshot of the overall character of a building or neighborhood. If you’re researching the history of your house or business and are interested in information on when the property was built, what modifications have been made to it, and when different parts of the building were constructed, Sanborn maps may be quite useful to you. Or, if you’re studying the history and development of a particular city, town, or neighborhood, these maps can provide some good evidence related to the history of the community and how its buildings evolved. The maps have long been useful to surveyors in the cultural resources business, but they are also available to individuals who are interested in knowing more about the history of the property or community where they work or live.

Based on our extensive use of these maps for projects, the staff at Hardlines Design Company has prepared a free, downloadable guide on using the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) to access online Sanborn maps. This document is the first in a series of guides that will give detailed information on researching historic properties.

Click HERE for a copy of our Sanborn Map guide.

German Village Pride Parade Float

HDC employee Cathie Senter is leading the charge and working late with her crew to get the first-ever German Village float ready for the June 16 parade! Click here for the article. Below are photos from the parade:

View of the float getting ready for the parade.

View of the float in the parade.

Neil and Shiloh in full costume.

Cathie with a COA granted by Nancy Kotting.

Fall 2017

HDC Welcomes Cathie Senter!

Cathie worked with HDC on the Woodward Opera House in 2007, where she assessed the condition of the wooden windows and prepared drawings and specifications for their repair. Cathie noticed that the second floor windows were originally 6-over-6, but the muntins had been cut out and they were reglazed as 1-over-1 windows. Because of the alteration, we were able to replace the windows with new insulated 6-over-6 windows that matched the other multi-pane windows on the building. In 2011, we worked with Cathie on implementing the first phase of the Historic Structure Report she had prepared for Five Oaks Historic Home in Massillon. After 7 years teaching at the Building Preservation & Restoration program at Belmont College in St. Clairsville, Cathie was ready to get back into designing and managing projects. When she contacted HDC, we snapped her up immediately! While moving to Columbus from Wheeling in late summer, we had her work on projects in nearby Belmont and Noble Counties, and she also conducted assessments of historic stone buildings at the St. Louis Arsenal.

HDC Receives Praise for Eielson Air Force Base Documentation

Cover sheet with maps and front elevation

Floor plan and building section sheet

The final version of the Level I HABS Documentation of Building 1190 at Eielson Air Force Base was reviewed and approved in July 2017 by Ms. Sylvia Elliott, Architectural Historian with Alaska’s Review & Compliance Office of History & Archaeology, who commented that “It was an excellent report.” The MOA required that the documentation drawings include floor plan, section, and the front and side elevations. However, HDC thought a drawing of the side elevation would not convey any more information than a photograph, and focused on adding a plan of a B-29 aircraft, for which the hangar was designed.

Click here for a copy of the final report: Bldg1190 HABS Report Final

Indian Mound Recreation Center Getting Ready to Bid

REVIT rendering of the proposed Indian Mound Recreation Center

HDC’s first major project with the City of Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks is the design of the new Indian Mound Recreation Center to replace an existing one constructed in 1970. The existing rec center was built during the energy crisis and has low ceilings and no windows, which is a major complaint by the staff. As the design progressed with multiple neighborhood meetings, it became clear that the new building would be larger than the $7 million budget. This prompted HDC Project Architect Brad Curtis to recommend that the City retain the gym from the 1970 building, which is still in good condition, and put storage and other less public functions into the existing building, thereby shrinking the size of the addition and meeting the budget. The project is scheduled to bid at the end of December.

HDC President Visits Taiwan and Japan

Taiwan’s Pacific coast on the one sunny day of the trip

Gassho (praying hands) thatch roof buildings in the Shokawa Valley, Japan

HDC President Charissa W. Durst spent 14 days in October accompanying her mother on an overseas trip. Charissa’s uncle had arranged a college reunion trip to Japan, but was two people short of getting a group rate, so her mom volunteered the last two people. Since her uncle’s college is in Taiwan, the group trip originated and ended in Taiwan. Charissa’s last trip to Taiwan was in 1983 when she attended a summer language school with her brother. During the last week of that 2-month trip the class toured Taiwan but was unable to make it to the east coast since monsoons washed out the road. The rainy season typically ends at the end of September and October is normally sunny and dry. Unfortunately, global warming extended typhoon season well into October this year and it pretty much rained every day in Taiwan and Japan. They made it to the east coast of Taiwan, but were unable to access the national parks due to dangerous road conditions from the constant rain.

Donut Gets Marooned!

Donut the Beagle made multiple trips to Prairie Oaks Metro Park this summer, and she frolicked in Big Darby Creek a record number of times. During one trip after a heavy rain, Big Darby Creek was higher than normal and the usual center islands were underwater. Donut had to make do (unhappily) with a rock.

HDC says Goodbye to Office Manager Mej Stokes

HDC’s office manager for the past 11 years passed away on August 7 after a long illness. Since 2006, Mej took care of bookkeeping, human resources issues, filing, and just about anything and everything to support the office. Mej will be fondly remembered by current and former coworkers for listening to our personal and office issues, bringing in home-made treats or getting the best caterers for office events, remembering everyone’s birthday, and giving Donut a morning treat. We will all miss her, and Donut will especially miss napping under Mej’s long skirts during the winter months.

Hardlines Design Company President on Women’s Radio Network

(originally posted by Andy Sewell on October 2, 2014)

Women’s Radio Network ( is an online broadcasting company dedicated to giving female professionals a voice online. Women’s Radio Network provides women with an avenue for communicating their professional knowledge to a wider audience and with a forum for networking with other professionals. On September 23, Hardlines Design Company owner and President, Charissa Durst, was interviewed by Lisa Singer for Ms. Singer’s program Open Forum. In this eight minute interview, Charissa discusses how her interest in both history and architecture led to the creation of HDC, how she blends the two disciplines in her work, and what it takes to become an architect.

Click here for Charissa Durst Interview on Open Forum

The 2012 American Cultural Resources Association Conference: Takeaways

(by Anne Lee, originally posted October 11, 2012)

I recently attended the American Cultural Resources Association’s (ACRA) annual conference in Seattle, held September 6-8 – three days packed with educational sessions full of useful information. I learned that I can take a lot of notes very quickly – which is good since my brain has a limited capacity for remembering all the facts and tips I learned during the conference! If you are in the field of cultural resources management, attending an ACRA conference is a must.

Workshops and sessions fell into one of three topical groups: the Business of Business, Developments in the Technical Aspects of Cultural Resources Management, and Trade Association topics. For a technical specialist like myself, the topics covered in the business of business sessions were those most outside my comfort zone, and the ones I found the most thought provoking. Here are some of the highlights of the business sessions I attended, as well as a few of the useful tips and reminders I came away with:

  • Workshop: What Wins and Why? – The Art and Science of Winning Proposals. Presented by Joanmarie Eggert, LG, CPSM, Pacific Northwest Marketing Manager, Kennedy/Jenks
    • Highlight: Being introduced to how the concept of “bug dust” can be applied to proposals. While the term “bug dust” refers to the very fine dust created from the boring of a mining machine, the concept as applied to your proposal efforts refers to those proposal elements that have little influence on the award selection committee, which are ones that you should pay as much attention to as miners do to “bug dust” – very little, in comparison to the big things that matter.
    • Useful tips and reminders:
      • Do internal proposal debriefings to improve the process on future endeavors.
      • Do quality control reviews of proposals – for content and appearance.
      • Clients care about their project, not what we as consultants do, so focus your proposal content on the project you are going after.
      • Questions to keep in mind as you develop proposal content: Why do you want THIS project? What value do you bring to the project?
      • Don’t “we we” on the client – Emphasize the client and the project, not your firm ( “You,” not “We”).
      • Debriefings for winning proposals may be more useful than debriefings for losing proposals in identifying what to focus on in future proposals.
  • Workshop: Business Development – Uncovered/Proven Methods and Tools for Successful Client Development. Presented by Jon Davies, Vice President and Director of Client Services at BHC Consultants, LLC, and Traci Nolan, CPSM, Business Development Manager at GeoDesign, Inc.
    • Highlights: Recommendation to look up Ford Harding’s Rainmaking series.
    • Useful tips and reminders:
      • Learning the difference between marketing and business development
      • Assign people to business development that WANT to do it; your business development efforts will fail if the people assigned to carry them out have no interest in them.
      • Tailor business development efforts to a person’s style
      • Every employee plays a part in the business development cycle – you just have to figure out what someone is good at and utilize them in that aspect of your business development strategy.
      • Remember – business development is a numbers game – if you want more clients, make more contacts.
      • Clients are people just like you.
      • In a face-to-face meeting, your job is to listen.
      • Social media is good for recruiting employees and getting your name out there, but is unlikely to land you a job. Relationships win you jobs.
  • Marketing: Business Development Live! – 3, 2, 1 and ACTION – are you ready?Presentation consisted of three real life marketing professionals meeting with Scott Williams, Manager of the Cultural Resources Program at the Washington Department of Transportation, feedback from the potential client, and a Q&A session.
    • Highlight:
      • Seeing Kenda Salisbury’s brilliant portrayal of a really bad business development professional acting inappropriately during the first meeting with a potential client.
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • Client relationships drive the professional service industry.
        • Don’t worry about bothering a potential client – pick up the phone and call. The person on the other end can choose not to take the call.
        • Make sure multiple people in a firm have contact with a client so you don’t lose contact with the client if a staff member leaves your firm. Vice versa, make sure you have contact with multiple people in a client’s firm so you don’t lose the client if your only contact gets a job elsewhere.
        •  Do not send literature to private clients. Instead, identify common clients and meet with the private firm to discuss how your company can help the private client win a project with mutual clients.
    • Marketing: It’s What You Don’t Say That Counts – How to Project Your Best Non-Verbal Self. Presented by Kenda Salisbury, CPSM, Director of Marketing at Historical Research Associates, Inc.
      • Highlight: Experiencing the limp handshake…
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • Humans communicate in all kinds of ways that are unspoken and being aware of what those non-verbal cues mean will help you be more successful at business development.
    • Management: Strategies to Address Critical Leadership and Ownership Challenges. Presented by Ed Edelstein
      • Highlight: Definition of a leader as the person who is most contagious, whether positive or negative.
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • There is a difference between explicit and implicit drivers in a company.
        • Company culture is heavily influenced by the implicit drivers of the leaders within a company.
        • You can become a “positive contagion” – your attitude is your choice.
    • Finance and Accounting: Key Financial Indicators – Building a Performance Dashboard. Presented by David James, CPA, CMA, Clark Nuber P.S.
      • Useful tips and reminders:
        • There is more to understanding a company’s financial health than accounts payable, accounts receivable, and the dollar amount of contracts awarded.
        • Hire a professional to calculate the benchmarks and interpret them for you.