Friday, July 31, 2009

Good business or cutting off our nose to spite our face?

I discovered this week that Veronica was part of the layoff last week. I hadn't particularly noticed her absence because she does spend a lot of time meeting with the partners and sometimes keeps erratic hours, but I realized that she was gone as I was looking across the office while a colleague told me of her dismissal late on Friday afternoon. I suppose Veronica's layoff was obvious enough to do--she was likely well paid and the partners needed to cut costs. Before she arrived about 18 months to 2 years ago, they did their own marketing and wrote their own proposals, so they'd just have to go back to doing it again. But...people, you laid. off. the. head. of. marketing. Seriously?

Ingrid and Liz and I mulled over the decision this week. Liz evidently was never a fan, due to the fact that no work was coming in, and it's kinda her job to get work in the office. Plus, Veronica appeared to send out lots of emails about events coming up in the community and articles or slide shows relating to architecture and culture from the New York Times and other media sources. I countered with the fact that I felt she'd been behind the 8-ball to start with, having to try to get eight partners to talk to each other and agree on ANYTHING for the first time in 40 years. I mentioned that Bosley, under her advice, began taking chances with his interviews and proposals and was winning some small projects. Liz's rebuttal was, "Yeah, but we need some big work to keep up afloat, and we keep coming in second."

Fair enough, but the sendoff of Veronica leaves me feeling the same way when I see a sports team fire the manager or coach. The manager may be in charge of putting people in and out of the game or setting up training and practice and writing plays, but at some point the players have to go out there and play and win. I don't fully agree that it was Veronica's job to get work (though to be fair I may be misquoting Liz a bit on this). Her job was to help us make good, solid presentations and to convey ourselves in a way that appeals to potential clients and makes them take a second look. It's just that when they've taken a second look at us, after they toured our offices and saw our elaborate presentations and amazing models (real and digital) and we've built and heard all that we've had to say, they decided they liked another firm more. And ultimately, that's out of Veronica's--and perhaps everyone's--hands.

I emailed Veronica to see what was up, and she said that the decision to lay her off was not unanimous, so at least there was that. However, she seemed glad to be free of being set up for failure and having to repress aspects of her leadership and guidance methods, and I can certainly understand that. I'll be keeping in touch with her. I just hope DA hasn't cut off its nose to spite its face on this.


Anonymous said...

In this architectural malaise that we are experiencing I'm not sure if letting go the one person dedicated to the office's marketing strategy was the best idea. If the partners have failed to agree on anything in the past it definitely seems as though Veronica was set up for failure.

And in case Liz hadn't noticed, a lot of firms around the country are coming in second. To blame Veronica on the lack of business during the worst recession since The Great Depression is a little ridiculous.

Obviously the partners feel that letting go the person in charge of marketing was in the best interest of the firm. I would argue that if they thought hiring a marketing director when times were good was a smart move then how could you possibly think that firing your marketing director during bad times will pay off for the firm? It comes across like a desperate move to save money in the short term.

Miss Kitty said...

It really does seem like the team's GM firing the coach when the league is tough and the players are underperforming.

Shitty situation for everyone. [sigh]

Wilderness Gina said...

What does a marketing person do? I see people trying to sell things all the time. Salesmen trying to get a store owner to buy advertising on their radio station, or news paper. "The HomeToen Daily Fish Wrap is the premier paper in this part of (pick your state). You'd do well to advertise with us!" How do you advertise an archetecture firm? "We did the Twin Tower rebuild (translate: we got saddled with the ports authority)" "Our hospitals win awards, taste great and are less filling" "Acme Archetects Mommas wear combat boots. You don't wanna work with them." What ever works, eh?

Mile High Pixie said...

Bluearch: True dat. I hadn't thought about your last point there--why was it a good idea to hire her when things were good but a bad idea to keep her when things are bad and we need more than ever to sharpen our presentation skills and set ourselves apart, what with so many other firms suddenly going after our types of projects?

Kitteh: It does suck. In our efforts to reduce overhead, it seems like we're throwing out babies with bathwater from every window. Someone in our office commented recently: "If the higher-ups are supposed to manage, and there are very few projects in the office, then what are they managing? What are they doing? If the work suddenly comes back, are they going to draw everything? They don't draw, and they don't get work like the partners why have only two of them been let go so far?"

WG: Veronica's job responsibilities was a combo of marketing and strategic development. She would edit things that the partners wrote up for publication as well as create press releases for stuff we'd done and were about to do. She would help us think through and plan out presentations and RFPs to potential clients to make sure we were presenting ourselves in the best way and in a way that non-architects understand. No easy task, for sure.