Small Firm Roundtable

Thriving through Challenging Times Mission Statement

Did you miss the conference?  Recorded sessions are availble for purchase for a limited time.  

Click here for more information 




The conference will educate and inform architects on tools and strategies to navigate the current global crisis and anticipate the new normal beyond.


Earn up to 5 LU credits for the day!

Register today and check back for more information regarding sessions and speakers. Information regarding online event access will be emailed to registered participants May 26th.

Conference Schedule

Thursday, May 28

  • 8:15 – 8:30 Opening Comments
  • 8:30 – 9:30 Resources for Thriving Through and Beyond COVID-19 
  • 9:45 – 10:45 Architecture in Times of Recession
  • 11:00 – 12:00 The New Work/Life Balance: Creating Healthy Boundaries
  • 12:00 – 1:30 Lunch Break
  • 1:30 – 2:30 Business as Unusual
  • 2:45 – 4:15 Leading Your Team Through a Crisis 
  • 4:15 – 4:30 Closing Remarks

Friday, May 29

  • 8:15 – 8:30 Opening Comments
  • 8:30 – 9:30 The Future of Practice 
  • 9:45 – 10:45 How to Sell in Difficult Times
  • 11:00 – 12:00 Evolution of Tech
  • 12:00 – 1:30 Lunch Break
  • 1:30 – 2:30 Adjusting to the New Standards of Practice
  • 2:45 – 4:15 Business DevelopmentStrategies During and After a Pandemic
  • 4:15 – 4:30 Closing Remarks

*This schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Thursday Session Descriptions

Thursday, 8:30 – 9:30 AM
Resources for Thriving Through and Beyond COVID-19 (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Dan Hart, co-chair of AIA COVID-19 Business Task Force

  • Architects have the ability to influence the business success of their clients, their own practices, and society in general. Drastic downturn creates a need and opportunity for architects to encourage clients to move forward with design and approval phases, enabling them to have shovel-ready projects that can hit the ground running when communities begin to exit challenging times and move into recovery. Those who are able to keep project design moving forward will come out of this time more strongly and help us all recover more quickly.

Thursday, 9:45 – 10:45 AM
Architecture in Times of Recession Panel Discussion (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Tom Diehl, Moderator; Michele Russo, Pete Ed Garrett, and James Petty, Panelist

  • This panel will study the relationship between financial recessions and architecture. We will look at how the market influences the capital used for construction, how architects’ solutions address the limitations of a downturn, and how both of these factors influence the “style” of the time. We will breakdown the differences between several of the more recent recessions to determine whether the nature of a recession changes the impact it has on the practice of architecture, and ultimately to project how the current recession will influence architecture. Speakers will discuss how different firms responded to the different recessions and analyze what strategies worked and what didn’t.

Thursday, 11:00 - 12:00 Noon
The New Work / Life Balance: Creating Healthy Boundaries (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Karen Compton, Moderator; Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA, Heather Kyle AIA and John Fraser PhD AIA, Panelist

  • As working from home becomes the new normal, how do we create healthy boundaries, both mentally and emotionally, among work, spouses, children, pets, chores, and ourselves? Take part in a panel discussion to discover how our new work/life setting affects the health, safety, and welfare of Individuals, families, and architecture firms.

Thursday, 1:30 – 2:30 PM
Business as Unusual - Panel Discussion (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Melanie Meeks; Moderator, Jim O'Neill, Maija Kreishman, Philip Keil, and Amanda Richardson; Panelist

  • When there’s a global pandemic coupled with an energy crisis, your tried and true business development plan isn’t going to cut it. Hear from a diverse group of firm owners on how they’ve adjusted their business development strategies to maintain and strengthen client relationships, develop new business, distinguish their firm and brand, and find outside the box ways to connect and engage with existing and new clients.

Thursday, 2:45 – 4:15 PM
Leading Your Team Through a Crisis (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Simon Goodhead, a Principal Consultant with The Coxe Group

  • In times of calamity, your team needs timely and decisive leadership. This session illustrates the importance of making a decision today to benefit tomorrow. It will explore strategies to assess options, make judgments, and examine lessons learned during other crises.



Friday Session Descriptions

Friday, 8:30 – 9:30 AM
The Evolution of Practice (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Phillip G Bernstein, Associate Dean and Senior Lecturer, Yale School of Architecture

  • The conversation will discuss previous architectural business models, along with their challenges and short-comings. Within the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and forthcoming economic uncertainty, how can we maximize this opportunity? The session will propose alternative business solutions to redefine and strengthen our profession.

Friday, 9:45 – 10:45 AM
How to Sell in Difficult Times (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Rob Thompson

  • Sales will be difficult for the foreseeable future, but we have been here before, and we know what it takes to be successful during a difficult sales cycle. This session will cover three points to help you be successful and help you come out of this challenging time better than when it started.

Friday, 11:00 - 12:00 Noon
Evolution of Tech (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Danny Rigg AIA, Matt Diehl, and Corryn Williams

  • The new reality of the pandemic has challenged each of us and our firms in many different ways. This session, led by an architect, building material specialist, and a creative consultant, will provide an overview of the latest hardware & software, solutions for a contact-free built environment, and best practices for maximizing your digital presence. Join us to gather insights into using this technology to improve business operations, redefine capabilities, and expand practice methods.

Friday, 1:30 - 2:30 PM
Adjusting to the New Standards of Practice (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Mike Bomba, Moderator, John Hawkins, Roxanne Cox, and Brandon Liming, Panelists

  • How do business practices and standards need to adapt in the current climate? Join a panel to discuss how our standard operating procedures need to evolve to meet the law, protect our employees, and maintain client standard of care.

Friday, 2:45 – 4:15 PM 
Business Development Strategies During and After a Pandemic (1.0 AIA LU)
Presented by Enoch Sears, founder of the Architect Business Institute and the Business of Architecture Podcast

  • In the new normal, how will the business of architecture change? How do our offices and daily practices need to evolve to survive and thrive? The session will provide tools and strategies to help architects protect and cultivate their firms and income in both the short and long-term.



Kevin Barden, AIA is a founding principal of Rivers Barden Architects, a small Houston-based architectural practice with a focus on residential, small commercial and civic projects.  Prior to Rivers Barden, Kevin worked for Atelier Peter Zumthor and Partner, Olson Kundig Architects as well as bespoke residential firms in Minnesota, San Francisco, and Houston.  Beyond the professional realm, Kevin serves as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Houston and previously taught at Prairie View A&M University, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and The School of Architecture at Taliesin.  Kevin received a Master of Architecture from the Chur Institute of Architecture in association with the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau, Germany and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture with a Minor in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota.  Prior to completing his undergraduate studies, he was an apprentice at Taliesin, The Frank Lloyd School of Architecture in Scottsdale, Arizona and Spring Green, Wisconsin.  He is a licensed architect in the states of California, Texas, and Louisiana.

Phil Bernstein is an architect, technologist and educator who is Associate Dean and Professor Adjunct at the Yale School of Architecture, where he received his B.A (honors) and  M.Arch and has taught since 1988.  He was formerly a Vice President at Autodesk where he was responsible for setting the company’s future vision and strategy for BIM technology as well as cultivating and sustaining the firm's relationships with strategic industry leaders and associations.  Prior to Autodesk Phil was a principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects where he managed many of the firm’s most complex commissions.  He is the author Architecture | Design | Data – Practice Competency in the Era of Computation (2018) and co-editor of Building (In) The Future:  Recasting Labor in Architecture (2010 with Peggy Deamer), and speaks and writes extensively on technology, practice and project delivery.  He is a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council and former Chair of the AIA National Contract Documents Committee.

Michael Bomba serves as Senior Director and Counsel on the AIA Contract Documents team at the American Institute of Architects and he works actively in the creation and revision of AIA Contract Documents.  In addition to his work with the Documents Committee, Mike is actively involved in the management of the AIA’s Risk Management Committee.  He joined the American Institute of Architects in August 2006.  Mike obtained his J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law in 2002.  Prior to joining the AIA, Mike worked at a private law firm in Washington, DC, representing design professionals in corporate and litigation matters.  Mike is a member of the bar in both the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Karen Compton has more than 20 years of experience in the architecture/engineering and construction (A/E/C) industry.  She has served as Director of Business Development and Director of Marketing for small, mid-sized, multi-office firms, and national and international corporations.  Ms. Compton’s approach to business—its structures and rewards, exposures and risks—is based on a thorough understanding of the A/E/C environment and balanced against the needs and expectations of clients.  Her ability to incorporate strategy into business management has resulted in increased revenues of as much as 20%, and the alignment of long- and short-term business goals and objectives for a variety of firms.

Roxanne Cox is the Vice President of Human Resources for Hanover Company, one of the most active private real estate companies in the US, specializing in the development of high-quality multi-family residential properties nationwide.  Leading the HR organization. Roxanne oversees initiatives targeted at attracting, developing and retaining employees.  Prior to joining Hanover, Roxanne was the Vice President of Human Capital for several global real estate operating companies, including Verde Realty and Security Capital Group.  In these positions, she provided strategic oversight of the HR function, led the development of organizational leaders, and implemented innovative compensation and benefits solutions which significantly improved employee retention.  Roxanne earned her BA, MBA and PhD in Business with a specialization in Human Resource Management from New Mexico State University and currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of Houston- Downtown.  She holds the SPHR and SHRM-SCP professional designations.

Tom Diehl is an Associate Professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston.  In addition to his teaching responsibilities he was a co-investigator in the development of PowerLots, a prototype parking shade structure providing renewable energy through wind and solar power generation along with water harvesting.  Recent research activities include incorporating coursework into the architectural curriculum focusing on virtual reality programs and writing a book on the development of architectural languages.  He maintains an architectural practice in Houston.

John Fraser is a conservation psychologist, architect, and educator.  As President and CEO of Knology, his research focuses on how our experience with media and community influences learning, attitudes, and motivations for engaging with complex social challenges.  He is the past president of the American Psychological Association’s Division 34; Society for Environment, Population, and Conservation Psychology.  John is also Editor of Curator: The Museum Journal, a founding editorial board member for Museums & Social Issues, and the Series Editor for Springer Nature’s Psychology and Our Planet.

Pete Ed Garrett, FAIA, Founding Partner of Studio RED Architects, has over 40 years of award-winning architecture and design experience.  His work has been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally with awards for design excellence.  Pete Ed has designed over 50 performing arts and assembly spaces, mentored over 200 students, won over 30 design awards, volunteered with 10 non-profit organizations and created one award-winning company, honored with the local AIA chapter’s Firm of the Year Award and the AIA National Diversity Award.  Pete Ed is

Simon Goodhead is a Principal Consultant with The Coxe Group, a management and business consulting firm that focuses on the architectural and engineering community. He has extensive knowledge and background in operational leadership, strategic planning, and mergers & acquisitions. Having led a regional engineering office through significant growth and enhanced profitability, Simon moved to internal strategy development and deployment, while actively seeking new acquisitions before joining The Coxe Group. His consulting assignments have included leadership development, project management enhancement, strategy and business plan development, performance analytics, and buy side and sell side M&A. Simon graduated from the University of Leeds with a BS in Fire Science and the University of Georgia with an MBA through the Executive Program. Simon consults internationally and lives in Atlanta.

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA is an architect at Arrowstreet in Boston with experience on a broad range of academic, cultural, and commercial projects.  Her leadership includes serving as 2018-2020 Director At-large for the AIA Board of Directors, 2014 president of the Boston Society of Architects, and chairing the AIA Equity in Architecture Commission.  As a frequent speaker and writer on the future of architectural practice, Emily is fascinated by how technology, the social economy, and environmental urgency are addressed in practice.

Dan Hart, FAIA, PE is the Executive Vice President of Architecture for Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, a 380- person firm. Based in Austin, Dan has been the Texas Society of Architects President, AIA Strategic Council Moderator and was the 2017 Texas Tech University College of Architecture Distinguished Alumnus and the founding President of the College’s Design Leadership Alliance. Both architect and engineer, Dan taught architectural engineering at Texas Tech University. Dan currently serves on the AIA Board of Directors (2018-2020), Chairs the Public Outreach Committee and is Co-chair of the AIA COVID-19 Business Task Force.

John Hawkins represents businesses in complex commercial disputes in federal and state court and in arbitration, in litigation avoidance, and in related transactional and non-litigation matters. His experience includes, generally:

  • Litigation, including construction, design professional, distressed real estate litigation for lenders and investors, patent and copyright infringement, homeowner association litigation, and general commercial
  • Preparing, reviewing, and negotiating design, construction, EPC, and energy infrastructure contracts
  • Defending design professionals in disciplinary proceedings

John practiced architecture for ten years before attending law school. As an architect, his experience encompassed a broad range of commercial and institutional projects, including (at 3D/International, Inc.) high-rise office, laboratory, museum, and hospital projects

Philip Keil, AIA worked with Gary Furman Architects for five years before joining as a partner to form Furman + Keil Architects in 2005.  He had prior experience working for Santiago Calatrava in Paris, Perkins + Will in Chicago, and Austin-based firms Paul Lamb Architects and The Austin Collaborative.  He holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan.  Philip received the John V. Nyfeler Community Service Award at the 2016 AIA Austin Honor Awards for his contributions to the local Austin Community.  He served as AIA Austin chapter President in 2014.  His firm received the AIA Austin Firm Achievement Award in 2010.  Furman + Keil Architects has been widely published in local and national media, including ArchDaily, Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Texas Architect, Luxe Interiors + Design, Interiors, Home Design & Décor, Austin Home, Urban Home, Custom Home, Fine Homebuilding, Better Homes, Modern Luxury Interiors, The Architect’s Newspaper, Design Bureau, New American Luxury, Luxury Homes Quarterly, Residential Architect, Western Interiors, and Tribeza, and the books “Home by Design,” “Spectacular Outdoor Living of Texas,” “Hill Country Houses,” “The American House: 100 Contemporary Homes, and “Texas Modern.”

Maija Kreishman, AIA, is Managing Partner at Michael Hsu Office of Architecture (MHOA), where she has been a critical member of the firm since 2007.  In addition to managing a broad range of architecture and interior projects, Maija oversees strategic visioning, studio culture, operations, marketing and business development.  She is leading MHOA’s growth into Houston, where the firm established a second office in 2019.  Maija’s notable Houston projects include Heights Mercantile, La Lucha and Superica, Understory as well as MKT and Montrose Collective, both mixed use developments currently under construction.

Heather Kyle, AIA, is the Projector Director at Dillon Kyle Architects, where she focuses on managing staffing for the 30-person firm, coordinating project proposals and acquisition, and providing support to streamline design and production.  Heather has a passion for client relationships and service, as well as a love of residential architecture, detailing, and design.  A Colorado native, Heather moved to Houston to attend Rice University.  Before completing her Bachelor of Architecture, she spent a year traveling solo through Europe on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, researching natural light in religious architecture.  On a daily basis, Heather currently juggles a busy carpool schedule and motherhood with the demands of an engaged career.

Brandon Liming, a General Superintendent with DPR Construction, is a 6-year industry veteran with expertise spanning a vast number of core markets, including healthcare, higher education and commercial spaces.  A Texas State graduate, Brandon is a heavily regarded by his teammates for his passion for project excellence given any condition or unexpected barrier by ensuring consistent communication with partners and unrelenting quality.  He looks forward to sharing his wealth of experience and insights with industry peers as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances together.

Bonny McLoud, AIA, NCARB, LEED BD&C recently retired as Principal and Co-Managing Director of Gensler’s Toronto office.  Bonny brings over three decades of experience in commercial design leadership.  A passion for integrating interior and base building architecture, Bonny brings a deep understanding of Corporate Headquarters and was a veteran leader within the Gensler’s Energy and Financial Services practices.  A registered architect, she excels in successfully leading the workplace strategy and design of large, complex projects.  Bonny has served in senior leadership roles, including directing the Gensler’s Project Management Steering Committee for 15 years and shaping policy on Gensler’s Management Committee.  Committed to supporting her community, Bonny served on the Board of Directors of AIA and CREW in Houston, the Corporate Guild for Dress for Success; a while in Canada, served on Toronto CREW, and was appointed to the Women’s Leadership Initiative of ULI Toronto.

Melanie Meeks, CPSM has 17 years of experience in the A/E/C industry, specializing in the development of marketing strategy, client development, project pursuits, and public relations.  She graduated from Texas A&M University, is a Certified Professional Services Marketer, and recently served as President of SMPS Houston.  She was previously Director of Client Development at Kirksey Architecture in Houston, and launched Meeks Marketing in 2013.  Melanie enjoys working side by side with clients, helping them win work and achieve their marketing goals.  A wife and mom of three, she can often be found running carpool to baseball and play practice, chasing her toddler around, or relaxing with a good book.

James W. O’Neill  is a creative powerhouse with 38 years of experience, who leads with a people-first approach.  Jim founded Inventure in 1997 as a firm that solves complex problems across a range of disciplines while emphasizing elevated design, collaboration, and an injection of fun every step of the way. While staying connected to the original mission and values of the firm, he keeps Inventure on the leading edge of a fast-paced, increasingly automated industry by looking for ways to enhance the value of the designs his firm produces, fostering team development and infusing new technology whenever possible. Jim continues to challenge industry standards through his unwavering belief in the power of great design and innovation. Jim is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and a licensed architect in three states. He is additionally licensed through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and a member of Rice Design Alliance. He graduated from Harvard University, where he received his Master of Architecture in Urban Design (MAUD) and the University of Notre Dame, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Architecture.

James Petty, AIA is an architect at GLUCK+ Architecture, the founder of Postscript Studio, an architecture and development company in New York City, and the author of Architect & Developer: A Guide to Self-Initiating Projects.  James has worked professionally in New York City, New Haven, London, and Munich on projects around the world.  He has previously lectured at the AIA Conference on Architecture, Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and the Yale School of Architecture.  James holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston and a Master of Architecture from Yale University.

Amanda Richardson is the owner of AWR Designs, LLC, a full-service landscape architecture firm located near Fort Worth, Texas. Amanda has a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture with a minor in horticulture from Texas Tech University. Amanda is licensed to practice landscape architecture in ten states: Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Indiana, and Missouri. She holds certification by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards and the certification of AWR Designs as a Women-Owned Business Enterprise. She has professional affiliations with the American Society of Landscape Architects and has served as State Conference Co-Chair, DFW Section Treasurer, Austin Section Chair-Elect, and the Austin Section Secretary. She is also a Texas Licensed Irrigator and a member of the Lone Star Irrigation Association. Amanda is a versatile landscape architect with a focus on site development. AWR Designs has provided services to over five hundred site development-type projects to date. She offers a unique skill set that blends analysis, planning, and design. She has a diverse range of project experiences, including parks, trails, master-planned communities, health-care facilities, commercial/retail spaces, restaurants, and offices, as well as hospitality, religious, multifamily, single-family, industrial, municipal, and institutional projects. Her projects are located throughout the South and Southwest. Amanda is an excellent communicator and project manager. She has unmatched responsiveness, and she strives to deliver quality designs in the most efficient, effective manner possible. As a business owner, Amanda focuses on client goals and makes certain AWR Designs delivers high-quality projects.

Danny Rigg, AIA founded RIGG Studio to explore the intersection of architecture, design, and technology.  Current projects include residential new construction & renovations, affordable housing prototypes, and historic restoration.  The studio utilizes BIM workflows and virtual reality experiences while exploring new digital fabrication methods and technology.  Danny graduated from the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and he is currently volunteering on the UH CoAD Alumni Board.

Joe Rivers, AIA is a founding principal at Rivers Barden Architects.  He has previously worked at Gensler and other boutique firms in both Houston and North Carolina.  He also serves as Adjunct Faculty for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco as well as the University of Houston.  Now, a licensed architect, Joe began as a laborer for a general contractor, working his way up to carpenter, before returning to school and finishing his architectural studies.  He holds a Master of Architecture from North Carolina State in Raleigh, a Master of Construction Management from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, and a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University in College Station.  He apprenticed at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture for a year, and studied at the Prague Institute for a semester.

Michele Russo is the Managing Director of Research and Practice at the American Institute of Architects where she is responsible for advancing architectural research and practice prosperity, providing insights on disruptive trends and overseeing AIA's business intelligence and economic work.  Michele previously worked for McGraw Hill Construction (now Dodge Data & Analytics) where she ran its SmartMarket market research program providing data and intelligence on AEC industry trends, most notably sustainable design and construction.

Enoch Bartlett Sears, AIA is a highly sought-after expert on marketing and business systems for architects.  He's famous for helping architects get recognition and business success using a strategic approach to client attraction.  He’s the author of two books, The Architect's Marketing Field Guide, and Social Media for Architects.   The Business of Architecture podcast has more than 1 million downloads, and Enoch's YouTube channel has over 15,000 subscribers.  He's frequently invited to speak around the world on the topic of the business of architecture.

Rob Thompson is a sales expert with twenty years' experience in business development, sales operations, and sales team leadership.  He is the founder of TruCore, a sales consulting and training company located in Houston, TX.  TruCore's mission is to help companies increase revenue and grow their business through their sales.  Prior to founding TruCore Rob was a sales director for a global investment firm.  He holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island and an MBA from the University of Houston.  He is a Client Builder Sales Trainer offering Objective Management Group's award-winning sales assessments, an Authorized Partner with Everything DiSC, and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.